ETH D-INFK Ersti Exam FAQ

23. December 2021  ‐ 6 min read

Note: This is not an official resource. The content here is tailored for the semester HS21 and might not be up-to-date for other years. Also, lots of the points raised here are common sense, but maybe it still helps someone.

In which subjects am I allowed to bring cheatsheets?

You may bring a handwritten (that is, either on paper or digitally with a tablet) cheatsheet of 6 pages in Discrete Mathematics and 12 pages in Linear Algebra. For Algorithms & Datastructures and Introduction to Programming, no cheatsheet is allowed.

I haven’t started writing my cheatsheets yet. Am I in trouble?

If you’re reading this before New Year’s Eve, no. Writing the cheatsheets takes quite a lot of time, especially in Discrete Mathematics. But since it can also serve as a repetition, you should be fine - the majority of students only starts writing cheatsheets in Lernphase. Don’t begin writing just the week before the exams though!

Can I copy another cheatsheet and save some time?

In Discrete Mathematics the requirement is explicitly “selbstverfasst”, whereas in Linear Algebra there is no such requirement. Honestly, it’s basically impossible for the examiners to control that. Still, the main value you get from a cheatsheet is not looking up lemmas during the test, but being forced to condense your knowledge of the subject onto a limited amount of paper. As such, copying a cheatsheet won’t be very effective.

The eProg and A&D exams are incredibly long on myStudies. Why?

These exams will most likely have to be conducted in two separate groups. The first group will write the exam, then have to go another room and wait there for a while, whilst the second group starts to take the exam. This is due to the large number of registered students, and the limited capacity of computers available for examination at ETH.

How much should I study per day in Lernphase?

An exact number of hours is hard to give, since the level of knowledge of students varies widely. Instead, the author prefers to give an upper bound: He believes that studying more than 6 hours a day is a bad idea; for the following reasons:

  • The Lernphase is quite long. Overworking yourself will likely lead to a burnout.
  • It is much more effective to distribute your study time over multiple days than to cram more on a single day.
  • Very few students can learn in a concentrated, focused way for 6h (that means no distractions, no daydreaming, etc.). If you are such a student, you really don’t need any of my advice.

Do I need to study every day?

No. Quite the opposite - do not study every day, take a day per week off! Try to relax as much as possible on that day, so that you can recharge your batteries and be ready for another week of studying.

Should I rewatch all lectures?

That’s a bad idea. It will take up a lot of time and you will probably not benefit that much.

Okay, what should I do then instead?

(This is only one of multiple possible approaches.) Focus on solving old exams. You can find lots of them on exams.vis.ethz.ch. When you realize you can’t solve an exam task because you just don’t understand the topic, reread the script and/or rewatch the relevant lecture. In addition, try re-solving the exercises from that topic.

If you’re stuck, ask for help, in the respective Discord channel, in your study group if you have one or mail your TA. On the other hand, if you feel comfortable in a subject, try answering these questions. Being able to explain content to others means you really understood it.

What should I do on the day of the exam?

Relax. You won’t suddenly learn everything you didn’t have time to understand on the day of the exam. Go to sleep early the day before; being well rested is crucial for delivering your best possible performance. Make sure you have all necessary things with you:

  • pens (not just one, in case a pen breaks)
  • your Legi
  • the cheatsheet (if applicable)
  • water
  • some small snacks

At the risk of stating the obvious: Be there early enough.

Where can I find summaries from other people?

Will I pass?

I don’t know, but I hope so! The Basisprüfung at ETH is tough, and Computer Science isn’t the easiest study program either. With that in mind, let me remind you of two things:

  1. If you made it until here, you already accomplished a lot. Of course this is easy to say as someone that passed, but it really is true. Be proud that you didn’t already quit.
  2. Your BP grade does not define you as a person. First, after you completed your studies and start working somewhere, nobody cares about your Basisprüfung anymore (much earlier than that already, probably). Second, you are not your grades.

I feel really overwhelmed or I am in a bad spot mentally. What to do?

It’s super important that you get help. You don’t have to and shouldn’t go through a difficult time alone. ETH offers various ways to support you. One great option is the Nightline. You can call or chat with them most of the time throughout the week, and it’s fully anonymous. They aren’t professionals though. If you feel professional help is needed, do not hesitate to contact the Psychologische Beratungsstelle. There are also further options listed on this page. Again, please take care of yourself and do not wait for too long until you seek external help & advice.

(This paragraph was taken from the Erstis FAQ.)

Good luck with your exams!