Sunday, 14 October 2012

MS324 Past Exams and Revision Strategy

Well there aren't that many past papers here only 4 But even within those papers there appears to be quite a strong variation.

Question 1 in earlier years seemed to be 3 part questions on First order differential equations.
This seems to have crystallised to a longish question on 1 differential equation. I was caught out by
a part question in 2005 covering a technique which I had forgotten

Question 2 is usually on Fourier Transforms and the translation theorem the later part of this question tends to be a bit tricky so probably best avoided

but again 2005 differed as it had a question on D'Alembert's solution to the Wave equation

Queston 3 is on probability alternating between a continuous probability distribution or a recurrence relation type question for random variables (One of my weak points)

Question 4 is on Euler Lagrange equations for a given Functional

Then Question 5 is on the Wave equation for a rectangular membrane, This type of question has occurred in all 4 papers and should be a banker question but it is actually quite time consuming

Question 6 is on the heat equation usually this is in cylindrical coordinates and reduces to 1 dimensional form
However in 2005 there was an exception as it asked for a Fourier Series type solution

Question 7 is on Lagrangian mechanics involving usually a pendulum with a variable support. (I think the past papers have exhausted all the possibilities ) so they might decide to give a completely different type of problem here.

We can get our marks from any part of the paper and those people who are quick could probably get over 100% However my practice seems to be showing that I'm quite slow. Some of the latter parts are really ludicrous for just a few marks.

So my strengths are
a) Differential Equations, Lagrangian Mechanics and the Euler Lagrange equation, The wave equation and the Heat Equation

So I'll do the part 1  questions on differential equations and the Euler Lagrange equation first. If I work quickly I should be able to do most of these questions  in the first 3/4 hour

Then the Lagrangian Mechanics Question, the 2 dimensional Wave equation and the Heat equation again 3 questions in hopefully no more than half hour per question, leaving 3/4 hour to tackle the other two questions. As it is easier to pick up marks in the earlier part of the questions If I find I'm getting stuck I'll move on. The Fourier Transform question is usually quite straightforward in the first part but gets trickier afterwards again similarly with the probability question. If it's a recurrence relation I'll probably leave it.

My first attempt this morning got me borderline grade 3 grade 2 as I mucked up the Equations of motion and made the mistake of getting bogged down with the Fourier transform question and made some stupid mistakes. I must admit this harum scarum test of ones ability is a bit unfair. It all hangs on whether you can do enough in the exam. I appreciate that one must have some guarantee that one has worked independently but the move away from taking the average of one's TMA score and the Exam when I first started my OU life 12 years ago to basing it on your worst score of the two is quite unfair.

I predict borderline grade 2 grade 3 for this one simply because I just cannot work quickly enough to answer the questions accurately enough.

Why do we put ourselves through this torment  ?


  1. Sounds tough. It does seem unfair that one has to be a fast writer, to be considered worthy of a Grade 1 pass with the OU.

    Apart from the difficulties, do you feel that it has been an enjoyable course to take? It certainly looks fascinating, yet insanely difficult at the same time.


  2. Fast writing is certainly called for. To be honest, I don't know how you can get a grade 1 without scribbling.

  3. No I don't know how you can get grade 1 without distinction either. As for Daniel yes the course is tough but it covers essental techniques for any one wanting to be a physicist. A knowledge of Partial Differential equations and how to solve them is essential. This course detailed as it was only scratches the surface. I just wish that there was a better way of assessing the material rather than how much you can scribble down in three hours without getting flustered.
    My experience for both this course and topology has shown that I'm not particularly good at exams. Perhaps I should add failed mathematician to by blog titie.