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Past Questions

  1. Hi. Would you please tell me what optional modules are available on the conversion program? Also, how many hours a week do you need to put in to do well? Thanks :)

    In my year we had two optional modules, one for each semester (though we had to do at least one Software Engineering module, so it was more like one optional module really). It looks as though the course has changed now to have no optional modules, though I expect it would still be possible to attend lectures for other modules (for example ones on the Advanced Computing course) without doing the exams if you wanted some extra choice. The hours per week needed will vary a lot per person and depending on the time of year; I think that about 15 hours of contact time would be fairly usual, and then maybe the same amount of time again for your own work. Some people would spend longer, but I wouldn't be surprised if you needed to spend 30-40 hours per week on work both in and out of uni.

  2. Thanks a lot for answering my question, it helped a lot. I also wanted to ask how many hours/classes do we have in a week and do we get to choose our timetable or is it set in advance? Also what is the level of Maths required for this course? Thanks.

    Each semester we do 5 modules, 4 of which are compulsory and one which we choose ourselves. Each module will generally have 2 hours of lectures per week, and then may have an hour of tutorials (some of which are optional, some of which aren't). In semester 1, there was also lab time each week (about 3 hours). So a typical week might have around 15 hours of contact time depending on the modules. There is also the option to attend lectures for extra modules without doing the exams (auditing), which can be really interesting and in my case has helped me to choose my summer project.

    I don't think the maths for the compulsory modules is too complex; you could probably understand most of it with GCSE-level knowledge. If you struggle with any of the maths, you can go to the tutorials or help desks to get help with it. If you like maths, some of the optional modules are more mathematical: I wouldn't advise doing Cryptography, Machine Learning or Data Analysis optional modules unless you are comfortable with probability, matrices and modular arithmetic. But they are optional modules!

  3. Hi Eva, I am planning to join the Masters in Computer Science program at the University of Birmingham. It would be very helpful if you could tell me what level of programming do we need for the program? Although I am from a Computer Science background and have worked on different languages, I have no idea of how things work around there, and apart from this what do we do in the research project and what is the time frame that we have to complete it in? Thank you.

    Lots of people join the course with no programming experience at all, so you'll be ahead of the game if you're from a Computer Science background. I had done programming in C#, R and some Python before I started the course, and I found the first few weeks quite slow. By about week 4, the main programming module had got a lot more interesting.

    The course is almost entirely run in Java, though some of the modules use Python and a little bit of C.

    The research project starts in the summer, after exams. I think that we get 3 months to complete it in; there's an information session later today which should give me more detail of that. There will be suggested projects to choose from, or you can make up your own. I'm hoping to do a machine learning project to do with text analysis, but I haven't yet decided on the exact area to study.

  4. Can I take this program without any programming experience? What do you think is the most challenging thing for a student who has no background in Computer Science?

    The course doesn't assume any programming knowledge, so you'd be fine starting the course without any. It does get more challenging after a few weeks, but most people seem to have got used to the programming without too many problems. I'd advise having a look at some online tutorials for a programming language before you start if possible, perhaps Python. It would also be a good idea to get used to some of the terms used in programming, such as knowing what variables, loops, and if statements are.

    As I say, the Java programming gets complicated after a few weeks, but the lab sessions can be helpful as you can talk to the demonstrators about anything you are struggling with.

  5. What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

    My first degree was in Biology, but after a year working in research labs I decided that scientific research wasn't for me. I wanted something with more concrete outcomes, and I had always enjoyed programming. I decided that I should get a formal qualification in the subject in order to have more chance of getting jobs in software engineering, so the conversion Masters looked like a perfect option for me.

  6. What, for you, are the best things about the course?

    I've particularly enjoyed the optional modules so far - I'm doing Cryptography as my optional choice, and also am auditing Machine Learning (attending lectures, but not doing the exam). It's really interesting to do something a little more advanced than the main course, though the assignments can be challenging as they require more programming knowledge than the other modules.

  7. What piece of advice would you give to anyone considering postgraduate study in your field?

    If you are thinking of doing a conversion MSc in Computer Science, and have not programmed before, I would advise trying some tutorials in programming. This will give you some idea of whether you will enjoy the course, and will also give you a head-start on the programme. Some students come to the course having never programmed before, and tend to find the first few weeks harder as a result! If you are coming to Birmingham, the lecturers tend to advise that you don't learn any Java before starting the course. Instead, maybe try Python or C#. There are good tutorials on