My General Tips and Learning from JS101 and JS109

Vincent Bundage II
May 26, 2020 · 5 min read

Learning anything new can feel daunting and at times frustrating. In this article, I am taking a slightly different approach than telling you exactly what to do when traversing JS101 and onto the assessments of JS109.

Note: Callie’s article and William’s article are excellent and you should check them out if you haven’t.

I am someone that enjoys learning from failure and missteps as it seems to help me bounce back stronger. I want you to learn from some of my blunders on this journey to mastery and give some tips along the way. In doing this maybe I can give to someone else who struggles staying on the bucking horse that can be continuous learning.

On that note let us begin!

What I Did Wrong

So I am going to start off by telling you I put 239 hours and 28 minutes into JS101 and JS109 from January to April of 2020 part-time.

How I felt at the realization of the number of hours.

How could this be? This is 2x some numbers seen in this post of student estimations on time spent during the first paid course. There were multiple factors that lead to this outcome but the main ones were lack of studying with intention and fear of the assessment.

Let me elaborate. I come from a Computer Science background and thought that gave me some kind of edge. I was so wrong. I spent the last 5 years working in IT and only programming when the need came up to write some scripts for fun. Also, I tend to get up to speed with my jobs really quickly (I jump ship out of boredom 6–12 months in usually). I somehow thought this would translate into my ability to study as well. I had grown ‘soft’ in my study habits. I did not initially put the effort in when it came to figuring out studying methods that would work best for me or produce desirable results.

For example, I used Anki and made a bunch of flashcards but I was not using it to my advantage. I was using it just because other students said I should use it when reading through their articles. I needed to figure out my own methods of Anki that worked for me. That required research into the topic. Do not use a tool for the sake of it. Learn the why of a tool as well as effective utilization of it.

My recommendation is to take the time to figure out what will work for you. Your future self will thank you.

Here are some flashcard links I found helpful on the subject:

I still struggle with this one. It also makes it a little harder that there is less students (at least when I started) taking the JavaScript track.

If you take away anything when it comes to studying for the assessments it’s this. Do the study sessions. Even if you do only one it is well worth it. There is a reason this gets reiterated so much in other student articles. I waited out for the longest time on this when I really should have just done it towards the end of JS101. I fool-heartedly waited until I had already done the written assessment. It would have saved me many moons. You will get some practice written assessment questions and practice interview assessment problems as well. It gives you a better idea of how to point out your weak areas when prepping for these. The TAs are really helpful with any questions you may have.

During one of the study sessions we did a mock interview assessment. I floundered embarrassingly! I got through the PEDA steps very nervously and completely froze when it came time to code. I could not believe it. I spent multiple hours recording and listening to myself practice coding problems and felt ‘confident’ about it. It was not enough. From this bombshell of an epiphany I Slacked the other student that was in my session and requested to practice live coding with them. If you get really anxious about being put on the spot like I do then practice live coding with a study buddy. Get those nerves out and fail gracefully!

Another thing I want to add here is do not be afraid of the Launch School Slack. Everyone in there wants to help and I see it everyday. It is inspiring. If someone has a question you think you might know then try and help them out. If you are wrong or missing pieces then someone else with more experience will come along to assist. In this way everyone gets to learn or brush up on their skills.

Remember what I said about using a tool just because? I definitely did that with PEDAC. I wrote only what I thought needed to be there to satisfy a requirement rather than using it for myself. It was only until later that I realized it’s a tool like any other to help you organize your thoughts. Think of the scientific method you did in school. The same concepts apply here. It does not have to be exactly the way you see it when reading through the Introduction to the PEDAC Process assignment. Make it your own and remember it is meant for you.

I set my PEDAC up like this:

Problem:
Mental Model:
Examples / Test Cases:
Data Structure:
Algorithm:
Code:

The mental model step is really a scratch pad for wrapping my head around the problem. Adding that extra step helped a lot in structuring the rest of the process for me.

Final Thoughts

You can practice all you want but some day you are going to have to take this thing. The best advice I was given was you won’ know if you are ready unless you do the interview. Get to where you feel comfortable and just go for it. If you receive a ‘Not Yet’ it will not be the end of the world. The best thing you can get is feedback and that is something the Launch School staff does very well. Take the feedback to heart and improve yourself.

Do I regret spending as much time as I did? Not at all. We all go at different paces, so I encourage you to not get dismayed if you seemingly take longer than others. Do not feel the need to rush, it’s only going to hurt the endgame if you put unrealistic expectations on yourself. You will have days where nothing makes sense, others where it all makes sense, or somewhere in-between.

Thanks for reading!

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