Learning OS

Degree level learning is not a matter of memorizing material, but of learning to think a particular way. In particular, learning to become a science graduate is not a matter of learning a list of scientific facts, but mostly of these two things:

  1. becoming able to think like a graduate scientist
  2. understanding the subject

This ``learning to think a particular way'' is itself not a matter of learning a set way of thinking, but of acquiring a set of skills, tools and techniques which you integrate into own way of thinking.

``Understanding the subject'' generally means that you should not only know all the facts in their context, but actually understand what each of them means, and be able to reason about it. You should also be able to fit them together into an overall view of the subject.

Students often appear prepared to put more effort into memorizing material than into learning the subject. This seems strange, since understanding the subject is less work. Perhaps the students expect that they will not understand the subject? Which seems odd, if they expect to graduate in it.


These things imply that exams at university level should not test whether you have learnt a list of facts, but of whether you have understood the material, and can reason about it.

To do this, they will typically not just ask for facts, but be set to such that you have to reason using the facts and techniques you have learned.

If the answers you give in an exam are obviously memorised ones (and it is generally obvious, because the questions are designed not to be answerable correctly that way, and so it is a bit of a giveaway when you answer, not the question that was asked, but the question using some of the same words, which can be answered by a memorised passage), this will give the examiner the impression that you do not understand the topic, but have only memorised things.

What employers expect

When an employer is looking for graduates in a subject, they are looking for people who are able to solve problems in that area, using the skills mentioned above. People who have memorized descriptions, and can remember them when words in them are said, do not fit this description.

Much the same goes (but more so) for universities taking on people as postgraduate students.

[Operating Systems] To me Last modified: Tue Oct 21 10:11:09 GMT Standard Time 2003