Computer Linguistics, 2012-03-21

Computer Linguistics
Peter Bosch
Stefan Hinterwimmer
Wed, 2012-03-21


What did you use to prepare?

What was helpful, what not?

When applying for a CL module examination you have to choose about which four topics you want the exam to be about and on basis of what literature. The CL site ( talks about 50 page material and gives some examples. Not all my topics had this length but were approved nevertheless and the CL site itself gives examples of topics which are not 50 page long in the text books. I think a better orientation is whether the topic covers a whole book chapter or a main lecture topic. You are expected to give a 5-8 minute presentation on the topic.

Therefore my preparations included reading the literature and making sure that I understand all of it and can answer questions about it. Additionally I also looked at the slides of the corresponding courses. Depending on whether the slides or the book were better I picked the most important information out of both sources and prepared a presentation which would introduce the topic as best as possible within 8 minutes to an imaginary someone who has basic linguistic knowledge but not necessarily about the specific topic. You are not allowed to bring any material with you, so instead of projecting a presentation with the main points I memorized the most important points I want to talk about and depending on the flow I added spontaneously more or less information to it during the exam.

Additionally I had met with two others who also had the module examination on the same date and similar topics. We talked the topics which we all had together through and we did a simulated module examinations.

All of this was helpful.


Second try? No
Grade: A (1.3)
Topics I prepared: First Language Acquisition, Brain and Language, Quantifiers, Binding Theory
Topics actually examined: First Language Acquisition, Quantifiers, Binding Theory
Time per topic: ca. 10 min

Collection of Questions: Which questions were asked specifically?

No direct questions actually if I remember correctly... I could choose the first topic which was first language acquisition. I gave my presentation and the examiners were happy with it and we moved on with the next topic: quantifiers, which Dr. Bosch chose.

I also gave my presentation and messed up by writing an 'e' instead of a 't' on the board. Dr. Hinterwimmer noticed that and tried to point it out without giving away directly what I did wrong. I first did not get at all what was wrong but after several moments discussing whether what I wrote down could work or not I noticed “myself” that it has to be a t.

Binding Theory, the next topic, was also chosen by the examiners. I explained the two binding principles on a not trivial example (due to the presence of a case-marking PP). Bosch mentioned that it is not always so clear whether the PP is case-marking or independent, which indirectly led to a small discussion on the limitations of binding theory.

Were there any written tasks?

I chose to explain quantifiers and binding theory on the board because it is easier and more comfortable when talking about more formal descriptions.

Which examples did you have to provide?

I do not remember being asked to provide examples, but I gave examples on my own whenever appropriate. My presentation on Binding Theory was based on one example on which I tried to explain all principles. In my case it was sufficient to give a single example to a claim. E.g. I talked about that quantifying determiner phrases cannot be entities and provided one example why.

Personal Comment, What was great? What was stupid? What else did you notice?

I loved that the examination focused on the areas I myself focused on during the presentations.

What were the introduction, examination, grading and justification like?


Introduction was very brief, all I can remember was being asked whether the exam will be in English or German. (I chose English)


See above in the questions section.


Not sure what I could write about the end...

Grading and Justification:

The examiners were generally happy with my exam. They liked that I did not just retell the book chapters and thus they had the feeling that I really understood the topics and had prepared myself well. My advice is therefore to not just shorten a book chapter in your presentation but to find a personal way to explain the topics in a limited time.

After confusing e and t I feared that I would not get a grade better than B because it was a crucial mistake. However, it seems that the examiners understood that it was not a mistake which stemmed from me not understanding the topic but rather from not having been careful enough at that point.

Is the examiner being led by the answers?

Since the exam revolves around your presentation, yes. (I'm not sure whether I understood this question correctly)

Concerning the behavior of the examiner:

I am not sure what to write here. I do not have anything to complain about, the atmosphere was good, and I also liked that they did not directly point out my mistake but helped me to notice it myself.