Midterm Guide: Fall, 2011

Although I've been asked to provide a study guide for the Midterm Exam, I'm reluctant to do so. Not because I'm unwilling to help, but rather because what I have to offer will probably not be what was hoped for. Nevertheless, I'll give it a try.


  1. You are still in CS050 because you are willing to try learning something;
  2. Whether you recognize it or not, the grade I assign for you has no intrinsic value;
  3. Any instrumental value in a grade from this class is far outweighed by the intrinsic value of what you might possibly learn;
  4. By reading papers that stretch your mind, by discussing the ideas encountered therein, and by asking questions arising from the material you maximize your likelihood of learning something valuable;
  5. You have read the papers, thereby allowing your mind to be stretched, and you have voiced your thoughts and questions during class discussion.


  1. Based on Premises 1, 2 and 3, you should not worry about what grade you get on the Midterm or in the class as a whole;
  2. Based on Premises 4 and 5, you will be able to answer any questions I ask about the material we have read or the class discussions;
  3. Based on Conclusions 1 and 2, you should focus on arriving in class on Wednesday physically rested and mentally alert.


  1. Premise 5 allows varying levels of stretching and understanding. If in your case, the premise is either (a) not valid, or (b) having read carefully, wrote questions in your reading journal and asked them in class yet you still do not understand things, then you might benefit from going back and reviewing the relevant portions of the corresponding readings.
  2. Conclusion 2, likewise allows better and worse answers.


Perhaps closer to the kind of guidance that some may have hoped for, I offer these suggestions:

  1. When you answer a question, do not add words in an attempt to compensate for fuzzy understanding. Write to the level of your understanding as clearly and concisely as you can.
  2. Bring a blank blue-book and two writing utensils.
  3. I will evaluate your answers based on how well they provide evidence that you (a) are thinking well about the question, (b) have read and understood the reading relevant to the question, (c) have made mental connections bringing together multiple relevant ideas (where appropriate), and (d) are able to articulate your thoughts using efficient language.