Friday, February 23

Purpose of the QE

UUU AAAA!!! I have mentioned the Q and the E! For those not PhD savvy, the qe is some form of examination that graduate students have to pass in order to further pursue their quest for higher knowledge and ... [bla bla bla bla bla].

Now, many a times i have wondered, especially through those empty humid nights (would have said "empty cold nights", but it's not the case here) when i was studying for my first qe, what is the purpose of the QE? My supervisor politely answered that the purpose of the QE is to bring everybody in SoC to a common level of knowledge (through their independent study for the QE) and to test that knowledge through the examination itself, which contains two exams: CS5201 and CS5202. CS5201 will test you in Logics and AI, Algorithms, theory of computation and programming languages, whereas CS5202 will test you in what's left: operating systems, computer architectures, databases and networks. For each of these domains you get ONE question (although it can have smaller questions inside), and for each question you have about an hour to answer. Cool, right??

Problems, anyone? Well ... first of all, as most engineers will know by know, the bottleneck lies in the specification (if you want) of the "common level of knowledge" which depends, in the end, on what the examiner that proposes the question thinks about that "level of knowledge" and what you think is that "common level of knowledge". For example, for this year's computer architecture question, the examiner thought appropriate a question that involved a circuit (and a big one, might i say) and pipeline questions on it. Too bad that what i thought is common level of knowledge (i.e the more general parts of the 883 pages (without appendices) of the Hennessy book ) and what he thought was common knowledge did not interlap. Second of all, how in God's name are you going to bring everybody to the same level of knowledge when some (almost half) of the phd students here don't speak english properly or at least at some level which would allow them to present their "level of knowledge"?

Which led me to the conclusion that the purpose of the qe is purely to prove to the graduate student that IT is the amoeba of the academia food chain. That the graduate student should have no personal life before the qe and loose all form of self respect after the qe. Students that pass the QE will also loose all form of self respect by the act of proclaiming their unprecedented victory (see PhD. Progress). Students that fail, well ... no need to talk about them, is there? The QE should prove to the student that NUS and SoC (or other enforcing faculties, as is the case) have the ultimate say, albeit whimsical, in the student's life and career.

The thing that really really bothers me the most is that if it weren't for aconcagua (for which i need to raise moneys, so i need to stay in soc) and my supervisor, i would just forget about it, fail the qe, convert the phd to masters, pack up and go home to my mountains, my dog and my mom. Not that the moneys are great, mind you, the scholarships in europe are much bigger!! Rent and cost of living is also going up here, but the scholarships are going down ... Amoebas don't need much to live anyhow... And what is also really annoying is that soc is not harvard or yale or whatever to say that their filtering process should be harsh.

Viva la revolucion!

No comments: