1D04 Labs: Common Mistakes

With the first major lab closing in, I thought it was appropriate to do a quick post on the most common mistakes I see during the lab. Hopefully knowing what can go wrong will help you avoid making the same mistakes during the major labs.

Before I begin, I’d like to remind you all that you cannot ask TA’s any questions during the major lab. The only exception to this is questions clarifying what the lab requires of you. We will also not be permitted to tell you if you have submitted your lab incorrectly.

  1. Read The Lab Description!
    This should go without saying, but all of the problems below, and most of the problems students run in to can be avoided by reading the assignment in its entirety. I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure you have read every single line. This is where you can ask questions if something is unclear. If you get stuck with your code, go back and read the lab again. There is usually information that will help guide you.

  2. Type Errors (int vs. float)
    This is one of the most basic and also most difficult to find errors that you will stumble across. Many students forget that dividing two integers will not give you the correct result if the result is not an integer. Make sure you are using float types for any and all mathematical equations or calculations. The int type is only necessary for things like loop and array indexing. Failure to follow this requirement can lead to slightly different results, which may look fine, but will fail in AutoMarker with no errors.

  3. Printing
    By far, this is the most common mistake that students make when in the lab. Automarker uses a very specific method for marking your work, and requires that you print or return values appropriately. Each assignment will specifically state what you must print and how you must print it.** Do not** print anything that the assignment did not ask for. Automarker aside, the TA’s mark things such as the appropriateness of your labels (if the assignment asks for one). Ensure that you name variables properly. Do not use variable names like “x” and “y” with the exception of “i” inside the FOR loop.

  4. Variable Names
    Many students are using generic labels like “x” and “y”, and accidentally writing over them, or using the wrong variable in parts of an equation as a result. If the assignment has a name for a number (ie. p, r, t, n, A1, A2, etc.), you should be using that name. If it does not, make sure your label accurately describes the value (ie. interest, e_approximation, etc.).

  5. **Submission
    **I am still seeing students submitting .py files for submission instead of the required .zip package from Automarker. In the major lab, you will not be told how to submit, or warned if your submission is incorrect. Make sure you are submitting the correct .zip file generated by Automarker and nothing else. You will receive a grade of zero for incorrect submissions. During the minor and major labs, make sure you are signing out with a TA before leaving!

  6. Design/Testing Questions
    Make sure you’re answering your design questions! Many students fail to read the whole assignment and are missing these sections. You will receive a grade of zero for any missing section. Also make sure you are documenting your test cases in comments below. There should be a minimum of three test cases, but more is always better.

If you’re concerned about any aspect of the lab, or confused about its content, seek help before the lab date. See my post on extra help for options.