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How I Prepared for Launch School’s 109 Oral Assessment

Juliette Siny
Aug 12, 2019 · 4 min read

A couple of weeks ago, I took Launch School’s first oral exam (RB 109). Since I’m now somewhat stuck on the next lesson, I thought it’d be best to reflect on the road taken thus far.

You’ll find here my time logs and general advice regarding this Launch School exam.

Disclaimer: the timelogs included are entirely personal, and should not impact your own study flow.

Getting through Launch School’s 101 course

First, let’s answer the big question, the one that tormented my days in the Preparatory course: How long does it take to get through course 101?

Of course the answer is: it varies. On your time commitment, on your previous coding experience, on how easily you can grasp the difficult concepts, on how much repetition your memory needs, etc.

Therefore, the answer provided here is nothing but the time it took me to pass this course.


It took me 156 hours of active learning to pass Launch School’s first course. I studied for approximately 2 months and a half (72 days), with an average of more than 2 hours per day. The daily effort varied greatly, from 30 min to more than 5h per day — as I had other commitments, like my day job 😒

However, I tried to study every single day (even during my week-long holiday). I wanted programming to become one of my natural routines, and I felt that daily practice probably helped my memorization.

Proof: my Github commit history 💚

Time breakdown

Without further ado, here’s my time breakdown per topic:

My study timelogs for course 101, sorted by topic
My study timelogs for course 101, sorted by topic

And per lesson:

My study timelogs for course 101, sorted by lessons
My study timelogs for course 101, sorted by lessons
Have you noticed how some lessons took me significantly more time than others? 🔍

Key Take-Aways

What to make of these tables?

1. ⌛ Almost 50% of my time was spent working after the end of Lesson 6

When I prepared this article, this is the first thing that struck me: 44% of my time on 101 was spent in the Assessment preparation part, where my “only job” was to make sure I had indeed fully understood the material.

Within this period, I’ve spent my 68 hours doing the following:

Timelog of my Assessment preparation
Timelog of my Assessment preparation
+70% of my time in Assessment Preparation was spent practicing 🤓

Going through the lessons was not enough for me: I needed to practice for dozens of hours afterwards before feeling ready to tackle the exams.

You may have noticed that I spent a significant time live-coding, either during TA sessions or with another fellow Launch School student (Hello Dimitri!) This was by far the most important part of my preparation, and I think what was decisive for my good exam grades.

I cannot recommend this enough: if you’re currently preparing for the 109 exam, please register to a TA study session, and practice on 1-to-1 with another student!

Solving a code problem and explaining out loud your thought process are two difficult and different skills. My first live coding attempts were disastrous: I misread the instructions, kept getting errors on my method implementations, and was half-panicked.

But fortunately, with a bit of practice, solving problems in front of a peer becomes much easier. And it’s fun to have a study buddy!

2. 👩‍💻 Practice, practice, practice

If you do the math, I’ve actually spent 60% of my overall time practicing code. The Ruby Small Problems, the Practice Problems, the Code Wars katas and the Assignments amounted to more than 90 hours.

The reason behind this is simple: as with any skill, you need to build your muscle memory. And the secret ingredients are: 1) practice, and 2) practice.

How my interview went

My interview was with Srdjan and lasted for about 20 minutes; I received two exercises.

During the first one, as usual, I misread the instructions, and only realised my mistake once my code was written and half of my test cases refused to pass. Oops. 🤦‍♀️

At that point, I was fairly sure that I’d blown my interview. What (probably) ‘saved’ me was: going back to the algorithm part of the PEDAC process and solving the actual exercise there before attempting another line of code. And this time, it worked!

Turns out that reading the exercise was a crucial part, who could have guessed?!

The second exercise went quite smoothly.

During the interview, Srdjan was pretty silent, which can be intimidating. I received my grades less than 2 hours afterwards, and I had actually passed the exam 🎉

If you’re currently preparing the 109 Launch School exams, I wish you the best of luck for your journey! 🤞 Additionally, you might want to check out those two other posts:

Originally published at https://jsinibardy.com on August 12, 2019.

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Juliette Siny

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