Heejae Chang
Apr 26, 2020 · 5 min read

Launch School’s First Assessment for JavaScript Track (JS109)

Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

I recently took JS109: Assessment of JavaScript and General Programming in Launch School’s JavaScript track, both a written test and an interview. I am happy that I have passed with quite good grades for both portions, but what excites me truly is the sense of confidence that I acquired through this experience. I feel I am ready to deal with more advanced materials on my journey for continuous learning.

What is it all about?

If you have never heard about Launch School, visit their website to understand what it is all about. I chose this program, after going through multiple tries on self-studies, books, online videos, and even halfway through one of the expensive online coding boot camps, because the catch of this program is to give you the mastery of the fundamental concepts of programming, instead of giving you the fastest ‘need-to-know’ packages. Not much of the quick hack-and-slash style of learning so far really stick to me and the assessment was the first moment-of-truth for me to see if the program is living up to what it stands for.

And without explaining bits and pieces, I will just right away state my working verdict. While this is still really too early to assess the whole course, so far it DOES live up to what it stands for. I strongly feel that it is totally worth investing your time and effort.

Photo by Thais Cordeiro on Unsplash

Here is a list of reasons:

  1. The course material introduces the basic concepts you need to know about JavaScript and programming in general. A very good read with a lot of example codes. Especially good on explaining the tricky part of JavaScript basics so that you will construct a solid mental model from the beginning.
  2. In addition to great explanations and examples, you have practice problems, a lot of practice problems. By going through the problems, the concepts are grounding to your brain (and to your fingertips.)
  3. At the end of each lesson, you have a quiz, with questions that have multiple choices as the answer. But you have to choose ALL CHOICES that are correct. If you do not know the concept well enough, you cannot just guesswork on these quizzes, as the answer is in most times, not just one, but many of the choices.
  4. After you went through the course material, you have the assessment. The preparation for the assessment, I would say, is the real thing about this program, because the preparation for it makes you really digest what you have gone through with the course material.
  5. You need to check if you can explain the core concepts that you learned because they are all essay questions. By the time you take the assessment, you feel quite confident about why things are working this way.
  6. Taking a written assessment is (at least for me) a kind of liberating experience. Validation that all the work I put into really can help me writing clearly on what is happening in the code.
  7. Then it comes to the live-coding interview assessment. You are guided to prepare it by going through the extra exercises. Similar to the written exam part, you would know, after going through those exercises at least twice or three times, that you will be doing good at the interview.
  8. The interview was held in quite a friendly mood. Problems are straight-forward. No hidden surprises other than you get quite nervous as someone else is watching you solving a problem.
  9. While going through all these, (again at least for me,) there grows eagerness of going forward to the next course materials, because you feel you are ready to take up more advanced concepts. It was a completely different experience from other studies where I continuously have doubts about my readiness on going forward to the next concept, next video, next walkthrough, etc.
  10. To sum up, the course will check, check, and recheck that you get it by the heart. It will not allow you to proceed until you prove that you get it. This foundation immediately helps you to understand some of the more advanced materials you encountered previously on other occasions but did not really understand at that time.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Let me finish with some tips that I think would be beneficial to share with other students who are preparing JS109:

  1. Read the study guide. Read it twice. Read it three times. Everything you need to know and prepare is there for you.
  2. Do not assume that you can explain something until you actually try to do so. I was quite surprised that I could not for some of the concepts I took for granted. Simulate the written test by writing down the explanation of the bullet points from the study guide.
  3. You should be able to solve all the Easy exercises. Go through the exercises multiple times with different approaches, preferably with a few days’ gap between each try. Try to solve them without looking at the answer. Go through the answers to steal all the better ways of handling the problems. Try to bring the algorithms as quickly as possible.
  4. For both the written test and the live-coding interview, there was no ‘trap’ kind of questions. If you study hard, you will have no much problem handling them.
  5. Do not jump right into writing the code, even when you feel like you can solve it right away. Try to apply PEDAC methodology to make it a habit for you.

Good luck to all the colleagues who chose to walk the slow path of mastery in Launch Shool!! :)

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