MS221 was a grade 4 pass. From the breakdown of the MS221 exam, it looks like most were in the same boat, with 79% scoring under 54%. I’m happy with the result (it’s free choice on my degree path) but it was a valuable examination experience.

I did several past papers (I downloaded eight) but did not concentrate on time management. Looking at the exam breakdown, it’s clear that I was strong on blocks one and two (mathematical exploration and iteration), less so on block three (continuous models) and weak on block four (structure in mathematics). The exam is in two sections – the first had three questions on each section and the second just one on each. The paper and most of the tutors advise doing as much of the first part as possible. A better strategy for me would have been to do the block one and two questions in both parts of the paper then doing the block three and four questions in part one and finally in part two.

Well you live and learn. I enjoyed MS221 and would recommend it. For now this is the end of my study of mathematics, unless I do a second degree in the future.

MT264 held no surprises and I’m happy with a grade 2 pass. My biggest issue was life getting in the way – I skipped the final TMA when I had to deploy overseas at short notice.

TT284 starts at the end of January and I’m on leave from the end of next week. I’m only registered on the one module just now because I’m doing French language training for work (they need French speakers, the course is free and learning a language is on my bucket list).

I hope the OU continues to use IP-City Centre as an examination venue. Until recently exams were in Colchester, where unless you want to be three hours early parking is ridiculously expensive. The new venue has better facilities and free parking plus its only a fifteen minute drive.


I completed the MS221 exam yesterday, the last level two module (hopefully) on my degree, if I was to sum it up in one word it would be “time”.

The paper was split in two – the first worth 72% had twelve questions, covering each section; the second 28% had four questions in greater depth. The problem was time. The paper says:

In the examiners’ opinion, most candidates would make best use  of their time by finishing as much as they can of Part 1 before starting Part 2.

I’d completed ten of the first twelve in part one when the invigilator announced there was fifteen minutes remaining of the three hours allocated. Questions eleven and twelve were on Euclid’s Algorithm and Cayley Tables respectively. I don’t understand Euclid’s Algorithm if I’m honest so I skipped it and tried to get as many points as I could in the last few minutes from the first question on part two on conic sections.

The best I can hope for is 60% but I think around 50% is more realistic. Fortunately, although the MS221 result calculator is now offline, reading the assessment handbook (OU) it appears that as long as you have over 40% OCAS (which I do) then you require 40% from the examinable component.

I was never much good at mathematics when I was at school, so it came as a surprise that I’d enjoy it later. It would have been nice to have been able to attend tutorials (I’ve been out of the country) too but I’d definitely recommend this module. This module counts as my free choice so its as far as my adventures in mathematics go for now.

Fingers crossed.


MT264 Exam

I did the MT264 exam yesterday. I should have sat it two months ago but deferred the date as I was “unavoidably sent to another country at short notice”.

The exam was damn near identical to the past papers I’d done – even the order of the questions was the same. Part one (64%) covered everything taught and part two (36%) went into a little more depth – with questions on OOP, text handling and databases. I went straight through the from question one to eleven. As you only needed to do two of the last three I didn’t attempt question twelve.

As is often the case with exams, some of the questions were ambiguous. I didn’t care for the naming convention of the subclass properties in question eleven – that confused me.

Anyway, one down and one to go – MS221 tomorrow.

Windows XP SP3 in Virtual Box

This post is more to jog my memory than anything else but as I mentioned in an earlier post the OU’s MCT department has a Microsoft DreamSpark Academic subscription.

Most modules requires some software. There are most always issues with Windows 7 or Linux and there are often licensing issues – Mathcad for example is only valid for the duration of the module.

So I use a virtual machine (VirtualBox) running Windows XP.

  • Create a new machine and install Windows XP.
  • Back up the machine to removable media.
  • Clone the machine for each module and install the relevant OU software.
  • Destroy the machine when the module is complete.

The version of Windows XP Professional on DreamSpark doesn’t have any Service Pack installed (there are three for Windows XP). Installing SP3 requires SP2, you can get all three from Microsoft.

Small steps

Back in October I started to develop some serious shin pain and began the Army’s rehabilitation process. A better process than people give credit for – put in effort, take it seriously and it has results. It just takes time. Today I got upgraded to a run/walk program – as long as I remain pain free I could be running in three weeks. I’ve missed doing a few miles after work.

Speaking of small steps, that’s how MS221 TMA 2 feels. I enjoyed Chapter B3 (eigenvalues) but there’s only one question on it. Iteration is half the paper! I’ve still to catch up with block C!

MT264 TMA 3 is due at the start of March – so I think I’ve another week where I’ve time only to train, study and sleep.

Thankfully I’m a couple of weeks ahead on TT284. I’ve kept off the PlayStation but MW3’s first map pack is out at the end of the month.

TMA results for Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, whatever your faith (you get the sentiment)!

MS221’s first TMA was returned yesterday. My tutor has a sense of humour – she gave me an extension, acknowledged receipt and within a day emailed me to tell me she’d given me a week’s extension on TMA 2 so I could “catch up more gradually”. I spent a few days thinking I’d totally screwed up the assessment but I actually got 93% – which I’m pretty damn pleased with (especially as I didn’t answer one part).

MS221 TMA01

I’ve had nothing but problems with this TMA, the latest being Word refusing to open my solution document. Last time I bother with that, its a lot easier just to write it all out by hand.

I hope I can remember the material for the exam. Being allowed the handbook and working through past papers will probably be enough but I’ve found MS221 a big jump from MST121, frankly it’s put me off level three but you never know.

My problem is that I just can’t spot patterns so have great difficulty making conjectures. There’s a conjecture question in the first TMA and although I’ve got the Mathcad sheet all set up, I can see an approximate connection but can’t think of a way to formalise it.

Certificate in Information Technology and Computing

I finally realised how you link qualifications together “on the way” to a degree with the Open University. So I’ve now achieved the Certificate in Information Technology and Computing. Which was nice (as they say on The Fast Show).

Apparently, that makes my name Dougie Richardson, Cert IT & Comp (Open). I think I’ll skip that.

Next stop is the Diploma of Higher Education in Computing and IT, which is 240 credits (currently I have 120 points completed and 60 in progress, with another 30 point module starting in February if I get a place). I can link MS221 to this qualification as my free choice at level 2.

Its encouraging but it still seems like a mountain to climb – I only hope that the government doesn’t do a Darth Vader and alter the bargain further.