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October 23, 2019, 11:51:24 pm

Author Topic: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State  (Read 2490 times)  Share 

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JTrudeau

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A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« on: April 14, 2018, 11:50:47 am »
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If youíre reading this, youíre probably a Software Design and Development student. Or a friend of mine trying to find typos in this guide. Either way, hello and welcome! : )

Software is such a great course (and increasingly relevant!), but itís definitely tough at times. I topped the state in SDD in 2017; here are some of my tips and tricks to the class of 2018 and beyond.


General Class Time

1. Have an Organised Set of Notes   

You hear this with every class. But with Software, youíll have a much easier time if yours is organised according to the syllabus. Exam questions tend to refer to a very specific dot point. If you know what theory you have under that dot point, you know youíre writing exactly what the markers are looking for.

E.g. Last year they asked about how cloud computing can be used-- this actually refers to the ďTrends in Software DevĒ and ďthe changing nature of applicationsĒ, even though it wasnít mentioned in the question. (That was one of the questions that stumped me initially because- huh? Cloud computing?)


2. Taking Notes

I had two main documents: my ďinfo-dumpĒ notes (essentially copying all of the stuff on the board) and a refined set of detailed notes. After school/during frees, I would go through and transfer key information to the other document, reword things, simplify examples, and consult with the syllabus to see what content was extra and what was necessary. Sometimes your teacher might not go in the exact order of the syllabus, and thatís okay!

Just a thing about Software notes: take them digitally. Youíre going to be coding, writing algorithms, and taking notes. Itís easier to have them all in one folder.

Also, if youíre using Google Docs, thereís an add-on called ďCode BlockĒ which takes a piece of text and colour codes it based on key elements in the programming language. Makes it easier to separate blocks of code from your theory notes (and it looks nicer).


3. Paying Attention in Class

One of the unique things about Software (and tech classes in general) is that you have access to computers! And the internet! Which youíre allowed to use! During class!!

Make sure youíre actually listening to the lesson. One of the routines I started was to write down any funny moments/quotes we had during the period. It helped strengthen my memory of the theory, and by the end of the year, I had a huge list of great memories in that class! One of my favourite quotes was ďLetís say we have 2562.9. (Thatís my IQ)Ē.


Studying

How does one study for Software?

Well, pretty much how youíd study for other subjects: Practice. Especially the sections youíre not good at. Software is about computers, and computers operate on a very logical basis. So if the theory/answer doesnít have common sense, you might wanna double check.


1. Knowing your Content

Now that you have an amazing set of notes, use them to study for your exams! By the time this guide goes up, half yearlies are over (oops), so your next exam should be trials. This is a method that I used a lot:

Make a digital copy of your notes, and go through it, deleting whatever information you know already. Whatever remains is what you should concentrate on studying. Use flashcards, teach a friend or rubber duck, whatever techniques that work for you! Keep deleting stuff as you grow more confident with the content, and hopefully by the time you get to your exam, youíll only have a few pages of finer details to review right before the exam.


2. HSC/Trial Papers

Practice papers are great, but thereís only so many you can do before the questions get outdated. Do them all anyway, but be prepared to disagree with the answers (and see some truly horrifying interface designs *cough* 2004 hsc paper *cough*).

The suggested answers for past HSCs can be a good indicator for how much detail you need to know about a certain topic. I had a lot of extra information for Data Streams in Option 2, so this was a good way to prioritise the most important pieces.


For the HSC

1. Algorithms

Use Pseudocode. No question. It takes up less space, questions usually give you lined spaces, and itís much easier to follow the flow of logic.

When youíre doing these questions, plan out the kinds of subprograms/constructs you might need in the margins (it usually aligns with the bullet points they give you in the question). Please donít forget that subprograms exist and that you can use them to simplify your code, make it more readable, and write less lines overall.

Now, if you can afford the time, write your first drafts in pencil. That way you can correct mistakes before going over them in pen-- You donít want to write the first draft in ink and then realise you needed to declare 5 variables at the beginning, and are now faced with the choice of squeezing 5 lines of pseudocode in the tiny space between two lines, or stuffing them at the bottom/side and hoping the message gets across.
And indent your lines if it should be indented. Please.

Algorithms are always in the exam, and they usually add up to a lot of marks. Do as many algorithms questions as you can, and look at sample answers to see if there was a better way you could have done it. E.g. For one practice question I used three arrays, when I could have used a multidimensional array with varying lengths. Thereís always a way to improve your algorithm.


2. System Modelling Tools

Context diagrams, DFDs, structure charts, system flowcharts, IPOs, you know the drill. At least one of these will be tested in the HSC. DFDs seem to be the most tested, but make sure youíre comfortable with all the rest. (Hint, they havenít tested data dictionaries or system flowcharts in a while)

Same deal as with algorithms. Try and plan out the inputs/outputs/data flows before you start, especially if itís more complex like a DFD or structure chart. Use pencil first if possible, but otherwise these questions tend to give a little more space, so you have some flexibility.

System flowcharts are grossly outdated itís not even funny. But they can still test you on it. As a rule of thumb, youíre never going to need to draw the symbols for punched card, magnetic tape, or input/output thatís not the online input/output (because everythingís online nowadays). Itís helpful to know what they are, but Iíd be surprised if a question included them.


Major Project

Alright, I know what youíre thinking for this section: I get to make a game!! And itís only internally marked, so I can make anything I want without fear of the NESA judges criticising it!

Itís a once in a lifetime opportunity-- make sure you do it well. Time management is so important, because we usually pursue a super ambitious goal that we donít have enough time to do. Use the Gantt Chart you made, or another calendar to plan out deadlines for your project. I divided my major project into subprograms (e.g. mainline, function1, function2, etc) and aimed to get one of those parts done every week (use stubs as a placeholder for the unwritten sections).

If youíre working in teams/pairs, please back up your work. Use github if youíre tech-savvy, or upload zipped and named versions of your code to google drive/dropbox (thatís what I did because I didnít realise github was a thing hahaha).

Testing will be a chore at times. You get tired of seeing the same screen over and over (and wHY is everything breaking I only changed the colour of this box whAT HAVE I DONE-). Get other people to test it, because you never know what parts they might get stuck on. My project was an adventure game, and a lot of people stayed on a screen that said ď...Ē because they thought it was loading more dialogue.

You also donít have to stick with the programming language that you learn in class. My partner and I asked to use a different language because the one we learnt was not cut out for the kind of game we were looking for. We had so much more fun coding, the program looked a lot better, and we learnt one new programming language out of the whole experience.


Final Remarks

Software was easily one of my favourite subjects, and it is so worth the effort. Youíre doing a great job, and know that youíre always welcome on the SDD forum (Iíll be around to answer any technical questions you may have throughout the year!).

To post a question, log into your account or register an account!

And remember, Artificial Intelligence will probably control us all in a few years so consider this course your defense against our future overlords : D



« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 02:22:48 pm by JTrudeau »
Data Science, Finance || University of Sydney
== First in State for Software Design and Development 2017 ==
Advanced English | Maths Extension 1 | Maths Extension 2 | Economics | Software Design & Development | Chemistry

Squear Pirrel

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Re: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2018, 06:50:45 pm »
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Hey congrats on coming first!
If you don't mind me asking, do you know what your hsc mark and raw mark were for software so I can get an idea of how well the top students perform? Thanks!

JTrudeau

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Re: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2018, 07:07:57 pm »
+4
Hey congrats on coming first!
If you don't mind me asking, do you know what your hsc mark and raw mark were for software so I can get an idea of how well the top students perform? Thanks!

Hi Squear Pirrel! Welcome to AN :D Many thanks!
I'm not sure what my raw mark for the HSC was, but I got a scaled 99 in the HSC and 99 as my internal mark. For trials (I think we used the cssa one), I got 98 raw. Keep in mind that's to get first in state though-- there's still time to improve and do well in Software!
Good luck x
Data Science, Finance || University of Sydney
== First in State for Software Design and Development 2017 ==
Advanced English | Maths Extension 1 | Maths Extension 2 | Economics | Software Design & Development | Chemistry

SpanishPear

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Re: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2018, 09:29:45 am »
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Great Post! I would also add that you should do lots of practice questions ( not necessarily past paper questions) in order to consolidate the knowledge you have gained as you go. One of the worst mistakes I see people doing in this course is saying something along the lines of "This doesnt make sense but I'll just write notes about it and come back to it later", and they never do. I myself attempt the chapter reviews/sets at the back of every chapter in Sam Davis' textbook, but there are also plenty of online resources ( Past HSC questions if you're really desperate).

JTrudeau

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Re: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2018, 09:44:42 am »
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Great Post! I would also add that you should do lots of practice questions ( not necessarily past paper questions) in order to consolidate the knowledge you have gained as you go. One of the worst mistakes I see people doing in this course is saying something along the lines of "This doesnt make sense but I'll just write notes about it and come back to it later", and they never do. I myself attempt the chapter reviews/sets at the back of every chapter in Sam Davis' textbook, but there are also plenty of online resources ( Past HSC questions if you're really desperate).

^ This is super important!! Ask your teacher for past trial papers, or look up "3 Unit Computing Studies" questions (that's the old course pre-2000) for extra questions on logic gates, system modelling tools, those kinds of things that aren't time-sensitive :)
Data Science, Finance || University of Sydney
== First in State for Software Design and Development 2017 ==
Advanced English | Maths Extension 1 | Maths Extension 2 | Economics | Software Design & Development | Chemistry

cthulu

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Re: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2018, 08:42:53 pm »
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I find it very difficult to pay attention in class because we don't take any notes and just do the exercises from our textbook or our teacher just tells us to summarise a few pages, also having computers around everywhere is super distracting and I just work on my major or waste time on youtube. Do you think it is fine if I am just making summarised notes from the textbook and revising them regularly (haven't started yet).

JTrudeau

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Re: A Detailed Array of Tips and Tricks from First in State
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2018, 11:03:21 am »
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I find it very difficult to pay attention in class because we don't take any notes and just do the exercises from our textbook or our teacher just tells us to summarise a few pages, also having computers around everywhere is super distracting and I just work on my major or waste time on youtube. Do you think it is fine if I am just making summarised notes from the textbook and revising them regularly (haven't started yet).

Hey cthulu! I totally get you with the computers being a distraction. Summarising and reviewing the textbook should give you the information you need, but be aware that the textbook tends to go into too much detail at some points. Do a lot of practice questions and start thinking about which pieces of information you really need to know (e.g. is knowing the function of every bit of the data stream for a PS2 mouse really necessary?), or alternatively ask us here!
Looking at the sample answers for HSC papers really helped me with extra content too! Good luck.
Data Science, Finance || University of Sydney
== First in State for Software Design and Development 2017 ==
Advanced English | Maths Extension 1 | Maths Extension 2 | Economics | Software Design & Development | Chemistry