3704 exam

I’ve received recently several queries about the correlation of this year’s exam with those of previous years. I think I’ve discussed already the rather complex issues surrounding this query, and hence, do not believe further attempt at prediction will be helpful. On the other hand, I would strongly recommend against preparing just by passively going through the past exams.

If you’re somewhat following the discussion about 2201, you’ve probably gathered that the differences have been exaggerated. Furthermore, even though I’ve expressed my sympathy many times about the travails of the students, that sympathy hasn’t been primarily about such differences, which you could interpret as big or small depending upon your grasp of the material. Some students have perhaps done themselves a disservice by reading prior advice out of context and just in comforting portions. For 3704 as well, one email reads:

“It is stated in your Practical Summary that our exam will be the same pattern of previous years.[sic]”

The actual sentence in the practical summary says:

“Even though the material emphasized in the exam will follow the pattern of previous exams, make sure you understand examples that illustrate the general theorems.”

If you look at the 2201 examination, even the most critical reading would not conclude that the “material emphasized” was significantly different from previous years. Another possibility for a convenient misreading might be to draw an inference: “Therefore, you don’t need to know proofs. Just learn computation.” Nothing of the sort is being stated.

As I’ve said in relation to the 2201 exam, a good deal of my advice evolved from a need to counter a tendency to *memorize* proofs without absorbing the material properly. In fact, the method of learning proofs that I was actually recommending is to grasp what is “really going on” so thoroughly as to render it pointless to memorize.

If there’s one assurance I can give in relation to the past exams, it’s the same one I gave in class and, I think, in several communications with students: If you have a thorough understanding of the material necessary to solve the past problems efficiently and with confidence, you won’t have trouble this year.


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