Current Engineering Student Ambassador Ciara Giles Doran explains what studying Engineering is like for a student in UCD

Studying engineering is an incredible learning experience – at its core, you are educated in how things fundamentally work, and how to apply mathematical and physics principles to solve real world problems. It is fascinating and exciting, but that being said, it’s not the easiest degree. It is probably one of the most intensive degrees available and you must be prepared for a lot of hard work and challenging material. Here’s an exact breakdown of the workload on a typical week:

First up, lectures. For each module, you will typically have about 3-4 hours of lectures a week. Most days start at 09:00, so be prepared for the early starts! Lectures are 50 mins long and the presentations can vary a lot – for more mathematically-based modules, the lecturer may often write everything out on the whiteboards or else make use of the overhead projector when performing calculations and working out problems by hand. Typically for more theory-based modules, the lecturer will just use PowerPoint slides, although these are often supplemented with a course booklet containing further notes and problems. Some lecturers like to give you half and half, meaning the course notes are provided, but there are gaps in the information, so you must come to lectures to fill them out! Other lecturers do not provide booklets at all, but usually the notes from class will be available on Blackboard after the lecture.


Next up, tutorials. For every module, you will most likely have at least 1 hour of tutorials a week. Typically, the lecturer will provide the class with a worksheet based on the recent lecture material and the idea is for students to attempt the problems at home and then address questions or problems in tutorials. Tutorials can often be where you learn the most about a given subject and are a great opportunity to engage with the course material and gain greater insight.


Then we have Labs. These guys are the reason you don’t finish college until 19:00 some evenings! Every module will have lab sessions of some kind, but their duration ranges from 1-4 hours (excluding pre-lab assignments!). Some of the more extensive labs can even span several lab sessions! Labs are an opportunity to apply lecture material to more real-world problems and are an excellent way to gain greater understanding. Most of the time, the lab co-ordinator will upload the lab guidelines at least a week before a lab and it is of great benefit to read through everything and prepare before going in! Sometimes you will have a few days afterwards to write up a lab report, but a lot of the time you must complete everything in the lab and hand up your report at the end. This can mean that labs are often time pressured and it can be difficult to complete a lab if you make any serious mistakes. In terms of frequency, this also depends on the module – some labs you will have weekly and others fortnightly, depending on the class size and lab availability.


Lastly, assessment. Most modules will have some form of continuous assessment – labs can sometime count for up to 25% of your grade and midterm exams are usually another 10-20%. Weeks 5-8 are very busy in Engineering as every module will have a midterm exam of some sort in addition to assignments due around that time also. Assignments, are essentially homework questions or problems geared towards helping you understand the material better. It would be typical to have up to 4 assignments per module each semester and they can be worth from 5-50% of your overall grade for a module. Between labs, midterms and assignments, the final exam at the end of the semester can be worth from 40-80% of your overall grade, which does relieve the pressure a bit if you’ve worked hard during the semester!

I know it seems like there is just always work to be done, and it is definitely a very busy week, but one of the great things about Engineering is the class spirit and the keenness of fellow students to help each other out. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Engineering and the skills and knowledge I have gained are excellent qualities for any career. If you’re not afraid to push yourself, Engineering could be the course for you.

Discover more about the Engineering Courses in UCD here. 

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