Tuesday 6 July 2010

MAstron update: A dollar short and a day late - close but no cigar

The results for last semester's MAstron subject 'Modern Astrophysics' came out yesterday - I got a Distinction but missed out on the High Distinction I was aiming for. My raw scores for tutorial and prac assignments were sufficient for an HD grade, and the lecturer has confirmed that I got around 80%-85% in the final exam, so apparently I ended up missing out on an HD because so many of the students doing the course performed at a very high standard that the raw marks had to be scaled down to conform with the JCU policy regarding grade distribution (ie. only ~10% of students are awarded a High Distinction, another 15% get a Distinction, etc.).

I now regret emailing my final exam in at 5am and going to bed, rather than staying up until the exam deadline at 10am to double check my calculations as much as possible. Even though I wasn't alert enough at 5am to solve the final question, I could have slowly checked through the working of the first nine questions to look for 'silly mistakes' (for example, in one of the tutorials I'd lost several easy marks by using the area of a circle formula instead of the volume of a sphere when calculating a density). A couple of extra marks in the final exam might have been enough to get an HD. Although I probably also needed to pick up some extra marks in the weekly tutorial assignments, and the prac report that only scored 7/10.

To qualify for a university medal at the end of the MAstron course I'll have to get at least half HD and half D grades (in order to acheive the minimum required GPA of 6.5) - so there's a big difference between getting a D or HD. This first course was apparently quite easy compared to the rest of the courses - which could be a good or a bad thing. On the one hand I may struggle to get top marks in the harder courses, but on the positive side the other students may get lower grades and remove the need for adjusting raw marks to 'the curve'. In the final (third) year it may also be harder to get an HD in the literature review and project subjects, as the grades for those subjects will depend more on the talent and originality shown in the reports, than just putting in enough hours of effort.

The subject next semester, 'Astronomy Instrumentation', is a bit more mathematical, so I'd better spend some time brushing up on my differential calculus and intergration (I have three weeks left before next semester commences). It's been thirty years since I last studied calculus, and I haven't used it much since then, so I need to spend some time working through the revision material available from http://www.mathcentre.ac.uk/

I also want to have a first read through the textbook 'Astrophysical Techniques' during the "holiday break".

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Unknown said...

Hi! I am also a student in the MAstron program studying Modern Astrophysics. I searched the Internet for comments on the MAstron program and found your site. How's the Instrumentation course? Is calculus required to solve the problems? I also learnt calculus over ten years ago!

enoughwealth@yahoo.com said...

No calculus required so far for the AIN course. As an instrumentation course the emphasis is more on applied techniques rather than theoretical astrophysics.