A review of first year as a CSE student...
I wanted to review my first year to hopefully help out any newcomers to the University of Warwick who happen to find my website. I’m going to go through each module individually, providing:
- An overview
- The main merits of the module
- The main downfalls of the module
- My advice for doing well in it
As a Computer Systems Engineer I take a mix of modules from both the Computer Science and the Engineering deparments. The course is not particularly popular (there are about 30 of us in my year), but we will hopefully develop a much wider range of skills that employers will value. Our course is often forgetten about and it is likely you will experience timetabling issues if you take this course, but there have not been any major issues yet for me.
If you have any questions or want any additional information, feel free to contact me on any of my listed socials!
This is your introduction to programming where you will complete a couple of courseworks to make a robot navigate a maze. At the end of the year you then get to enjoy writing some Java code on paper as fast as humanly possible. See the module webpage for more details.
- The coursework is very visual and hence rewarding (when it works)
- The guide for the coursework is very expansive but also very informative - read the guide!
- The first coursework is easy, even for people with minimal programming experience
- If you have not programmed before, do not think this module is going to make you a good programmer
- The exam is notoriously rushed for time, their reasoning being that it would be too easy otherwise
If you are lucky enough to be reading this before starting CS118, then learn Java. This can be done through YouTube tutorials or online courses, just make sure you understand all the basics of coding (selection statements, conditional statement, loops, and functions). Then to prepare even more start reseraching and practicing object-oriented programming (OOP).
If you are now in the middle of the coursework panicking that you do not understand much at all (like I was) try to get as much help as you can from both the module organiser as well as fellow students. You get quite a lot of time for each coursework so you can take your time (provided you do not leave it until the last week) and try and actually understand what you are doing and the problems that you are trying to solve.
As said already, you will be rushed massively in the exam. Allegedly 50% of people in my year did not reach the last question (contributing 20 out of the 100 possible marks). As such people will advise you to get through the questions as quickly as possible. Although that is fairly sound advice, it is not very useful for students like myself that do not have years of programming experience before even entering university. This is because it took me a while to even understand what some of the questions were asking for, since I had not yet developed my problem solving skills as much as others. My advice would be to take more time on each question, ensuring you first understand what it is asking for before writing anything. This is basic advice, I know, but it is especially relevant for this paper in my opinion. When you have about 15 minutes left of the exam, then you can try and rush any of the remaining questions you have as some questions may only require a line or two of code for a couple of marks.
In my exam I tried rushing every question, which caused me to panic more when I did not instantly understand what a question wanted. As a result my answer booklet became full of gaps and by the end I was trying to cram everything into places I had not left enough lines for. Although I still did well, the way I approached the exam caused a lot of stress and I would have been much better off if I had taken a second to breathe and then try to answer each question more methodically.
Here you are going to learn all about the things that make your computer work (with some C programming on the side). Matthew Leeke was the module organiser of the module for some time, however he has now left so my view of the module may no longer be as relevant. See the module webpage for more details.
- Engaging, well-organised (but is dependent on the organiser)
- A fair amount of content is repeated from GCSE and A-level computer science
- The previous module organiser left (they were excellent)
- There is a fair amount of content you just have to remember (and diagrams)
Provided the marking stays consistent with a change in organiser, focus on your documentation for your coursework assignments. Even if you have outstanding code, if you do not have the documentation to back it up you will not do nearly as well as you would have thought. Additionally, provided you have really extensive and well-developed documentation, your code does not even have to be anything too amazing. Ideally you practice doing some basic code in C, and from there the courseworks should be a breeze.
For the exam there are lots of past papers available. Go through each of them and do not take any shortcuts with them. From the papers you will see there is quite a bit of consistency, so you can get a really good idea of how your exam will be (note again the module organiser will be changing so that may changes things slightly). Although you do not get a markscheme you should be able to find the answers to all the questions within the lectures (the questions stay true to the content you are taught).
It is time for data structures! Here you will learn about various structures and algorithms, and then create your own in Java. Please note my views on this module are highly skewed due to the module organiser. See the module webpage for more details.
- There are some really good books for this module
- The teaching and organisation was lackluster
- The coursework has been complained about for multiple years now
If you are unlucky enough to get the WAFFLES coursework, start it as early as possible and make use of anything you did in the labs to help you.
For the exam, complete the exercises from the book as there is a high chance you will find an exact replica of the question in your exam. As always, complete all the past papers and cope with the lack of markscheme by talking to as many peers as possible about your solutions.
This module is all about the laws and ethics related to computer science. Try not to fall asleep. See the module webpage for more details.
- This is the easiest module provided you put in just a bit of effort
- It is not engaging at all
Although I attended almost every lecture, it was almost completely unnecessary because I would instantly forget everything afterwards. This is because you would get bombarded by about 40 slides of pure text on topics that are not particularly interesting to the majority of people (simply because it is taught in such a draining manner).
For the class test, spend a week or so going through the quiz available to you until you have answered all the questions. It will be slow to start off with since you are unlikely to know any of the answers (even after attending every lecture). There will be questions that are not on the quiz, so if you are motivated enough you can work through all of the slides and create flashcards on any key ideas or terms.
For the presentation, you will get into a small group and will have to present to 10-30 people. We were given some articles to choose from, although I believe some groups were allowed to pick whatever they wanted. You do not have to do too much for this, just make sure you have a well formatted and organised presentation and that everyone contributes (if someone is not contributing feel free to snitch on them).
For the essay, do not leave it until the last day. Similarly you do not really need to do it months in advance either. It took me about a week on and off, it was awful at first but once I got into it there was a slight amount of enjoyment. Think of a topic that is not too broad, find a couple of main resources to
steal cite that are from reputable sources. You can then bulk up your bibliogtaphy with a few more websites that give definitions and other small arguments in your essay.
And finally, for the PDP, you really do not have to do much to get full marks (from what I have heard anyway). There are 3 sections, you just need to write a few paragraphs for the first 2 sections. Then for the final section you should come up with 5 detailed goals with evidence of completion. Common goals include: writing a CV, completing an online course, any relevant personal project, attending academic events, working on mental health (like walking, going to the gym), and basically anything else provided you can justify it.
This is a maths module which follows a very similar format to A-level Maths/Further Maths. See the module webpage for more details.
- No tricks. Just maths.
- If you have done A-level further maths you will already know ~80% of the content
- Organised and taught well in our year
- Plenty of good resources provided
- Small class tutorials!
- Could be seen as a bit dull since you will not be doing anything practical
- The effectiveness of the tutorial varies wildly depending on the teacher you get
You will get advised to use a textbook to complete some problems before working on a worksheet that will be used in the tutorial. Just do as many practice questions from the book as you can and then do all the tutorial questions (even if you will not have to answer it in the tutorial session).
The exam does not give any questions that are harder than the tutorial questions, so your revision will pay off massively.
Time for some system analysis. Here you will work with diagrams, graphs and MATLAB. See the module webpage for more details.
- Very well organised
- Plenty of useful resources provided
- Fairly engaging group project
- Lots of labs to get stuck into
- The exam may test your knowledge in a way that is not directly copying the worksheets - so prepare well
This was one of my favourite modules because there was a lot to do in it. You will be given worksheets, revision quizzes, labs, and a group project at the end. It sounds like a lot but it was organised well and the assessment of the module is spread out well between MATLAB quizzes, the exam, and the group project.
For the quizzes just make sure you have prepared well by completing all the labs fully. Additionally, ask the lab tutors as many questions as you can whenever you get confused to ensure you are understanding it all properly. When it comes to the quizzes themselves there was 1 strictly timed quiz for us and then the rest we had multiple days to complete. For the strictly timed quiz make sure you have some notes handy in case your mind goes blank. For the other quizzes just take your time on them and check your answers multiple times to avoid disappointment.
As stated the exam does actually try and test your understanding so the questions may not be exactly what you are expecting (there will be little twists). If you are able to complete the worksheet questions comfortably you should be able to deal with these twists just fine.
Finally, for the group project, there are multiple ones to choose from for normal engineers. If you are on the CSE course you will get assigned the balancing robot project no matter what (at least that is how the past 2 years have gone). You only get a week for this project so essentially start working on it straight away and ask the teaching assisstants for as much help as possible. There is a large focus on the documentation for this project with lots of mini deadlines to meet, so make sure your team are organised so you stay on track.
Here you will find lots of circuits. See the module webpage for more details.
- A surprisingly pleasant exam
- Loads of practice quizzes to revise with
- Was poorly organised and rushed at the end
Personally I thought this was a great module (excluding the downfall). In the first lecture the first module organiser (we had 3) rushed through 5 hours of content but we will ignore that since none of it was examined anyway (if you did not do A-level Physics I would still take the time to learn it properly though for the future).
The key to this module is completing every single quiz available. Once you are able to get 100% in every single one by working through them on your own, you will absolutely be ready for the exam.
ES192 (Optional for CSE)#
Time to get practical with CAD and group projects. See the module webpage for more details.
- The labs are engaging
- Group projects can actually be very fun!
- But sometimes group projects are bad!
During the first few weeks you will basically only be doing CAD work. Try to keep up with it and also complete all the tasks, it is going to be a vital skill that you want to start working on as soon as possible.
You will have a few labs to complete which will go towards your portfolio. Don’t take any shortcuts while doing these labs! You will get a few hours for each lab and that will be it, so if you miss any details from them you will be forced to frantically ask people in the group chats - try not to be that person. The portfolio can feel quite overwhelming since there is a lot to do for it, but it is also not worth much of the module so it acts as a low risk way to try and combine all the skills you have learnt together.
There was also a strictly timed quiz about soldering, just pay attention in the soldering lab and have some notes handy during the quiz.
Personally the group projects have been the highlight of my university experience so far. I was lucky enough to have fairly practive teams on both occasions, and overall it was just a lot of fun.
For these projects you get a few weeks. Use them. Organise your team and plan out what you need to get done. In addition to that, do not leave your report to the last few days either, continuously work on it throughout the entire duration of the project, and then spend the last few days formatting it (make it pretty). The success of your project (in terms of the grade you get) is more dependent on the documentation rather than the product itself, so keep that in mind if the practical side starts to go wrong.