Suggestions for Computer Science books to read to put on PS Watch

Awkwardness101
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I'm looking for some CS books to read, that would demonstrate my interest in computer science on my PS. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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alleycat393
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(Original post by Awkwardness101)
I'm looking for some CS books to read, that would demonstrate my interest in computer science on my PS. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Start with your course structure and read around the topics that will be taught.
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Acsel
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(Original post by Awkwardness101)
I'm looking for some CS books to read, that would demonstrate my interest in computer science on my PS. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Don't read books. Get experience.

CompSci themed books aren't usually books you'd read from end to end. They're reference books that you'd usually look up what you need when you need it. You can look into topics related to your degree but reading an entire book on programming or computer architecture is a waste of your time.

Instead start getting involved in things. CompSci has a heavy emphasis on programming. If you want to demonstrate your interest, start a github and get programming. By all means, get a book on Python and follow along. But don't simply read a book on Python and pretend that's a good point on your PS.

Of course if there are other things you are interested in, look for ways to involve them. Maybe you're really interested in security, or encryption algorithms, or graphics processing. Do detailed research into those things and learn about them. But don't just buy a book and read it.

While I'm never opposed to reading books, there's a certain irony in being a Computer Science applicant and turning to books as your way of learning.
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alleycat393
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(Original post by Acsel)
Don't read books. Get experience.

CompSci themed books aren't usually books you'd read from end to end. They're reference books that you'd usually look up what you need when you need it. You can look into topics related to your degree but reading an entire book on programming or computer architecture is a waste of your time.

Instead start getting involved in things. CompSci has a heavy emphasis on programming. If you want to demonstrate your interest, start a github and get programming. By all means, get a book on Python and follow along. But don't simply read a book on Python and pretend that's a good point on your PS.

Of course if there are other things you are interested in, look for ways to involve them. Maybe you're really interested in security, or encryption algorithms, or graphics processing. Do detailed research into those things and learn about them. But don't just buy a book and read it.

While I'm never opposed to reading books, there's a certain irony in being a Computer Science applicant and turning to books as your way of learning.
PQ would you agree with the above?

This certainly isn't advice we would give out from the PS help team which I don't think you're a member of?

Experience isn't necessary though it won't hurt. Things like projects help yes but you can write a PS based just on your reading and be fine. And programming is just one aspect of compsci so we don't suggest that you focus on just that.
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Good bloke
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(Original post by Awkwardness101)
I'm looking for some CS books to read, that would demonstrate my interest in computer science on my PS. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
The things you do can be used to demonstrate your interest. Presumably you have done things, otherwise how would you know you had an interest?

Nobody should ever read things so as to be able to name check them on a PS. They should use what they have already done in their PS.
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PQ
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https://www.cs.ox.ac.uk/admissions/u...d_reading.html

Books aren’t a bad idea but they’re less use than actually trying to approach different problems to come up with solutions.

The link above is for Oxford but they’re all excellent suggestions for anyone interested in computer science.
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Acsel
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(Original post by alleycat393)
PQ would you agree with the above?

This certainly isn't advice we would give out from the PS help team which I don't think you're a member of?

Experience isn't necessary though it won't hurt. Things like projects help yes but you can write a PS based just on your reading and be fine. And programming is just one aspect of compsci so we don't suggest that you focus on just that.
I'm speaking as an existing student. If the PS team are recommending that CompSci students read books and do nothing else then with all due respect, that's subpar advice.

I'm not saying that experience is necessary, nor that programming is the only aspect of CompSci that an applicant should focus on. There are plenty of students who go on to study CompSci with absolutely no prior experience, especially since it isn't offered at all colleges. In my experience, the strongest students (and therefore the strongest applicants) are the ones that get stuck in, not the ones who say they've read around the subject.

It doesn't matter what facet of CompSci an applicant is interested in, the subject as a whole is largely practical. It involves a lot of "doing". As a result, students who can demonstrate things they have done appear more favourably than students who can only say they've read. Because at the end of the day, the things you do are an application of the things you know. Reading it in a book is the first stage, applying it in a project is the second. Students who do are quite simply a stage higher than those who only read. And while programming isn't the only part of CompSci, it is one of the main focuses. An programmer worth their salt will tell you that you can only learn to program by doing, not by reading. As PQ says, books aren't bad, but they're not match for actually getting stuck in. It's also worth noting that the link provided by PQ provides a mix of books, practical activities and news sources. A good applicant will have a mix.

As you say, many students will be fine based purely on doing some reading. A lot of degrees expect no prior experience and will build experience from the ground up. But equally CompSci is highly focused on being able to do your own research and solve problems. Reading books will only get you so far. While not necessary, an applicant with practical experience is undeniably stronger than one who only has book knowledge. Many students will also find it easier to do something than to sit and read a book.

On a side note, there's a growing issue with books. They're becoming increasingly outdated. Some of my recommend reading is from 10-15 years ago. While many of the core concepts have not changed, the industry has continued to evolve. It is still evolving. Books are fine if you want to learn about FAT32 and NTFS, they're older file systems with plenty of documentation. But want a book on APFS, which is only 2 years old and in use across Apple devices? Good luck. Books on Computer Architecture? Easy to find. But will they mention Spectre and Meltdown, which are modern issues? Unlikely.

Books are fine for core underlying concepts that haven't changed much. But they fail massively when it comes to addressing modern technologies and in many cases, outright don't offer a modern approach. I have a book on Forensic Analysis of File Systems, it's part of my recommended reading. It's a really good book, but it's from 2005. It doesn't even address ext4, a filesystem from 2006 that I'm interacting with on a daily basis. As a result, books will only take a student so far and need to be supplemented with knowledge from elsewhere.

Reading books is fine. But it is not the most effective way to get experience with CompSci. There are other ways to make your application stand out that also help you grow as an applicant. Not to mention, if a student said they had read a book on the PS, I'd immediately have some questions about that. Can you demonstrate that you read the books? Anyone can say they've read something. How much of the book did you take in and understand? Reading a book is a waste of time if you don't get something out of it. And in all honesty, if someone tried to impress me by saying that they'd read a 500 page CompSci book from end to end, I'd think they're an idiot. I'd know for sure that they won't have taken it all in, assuming they read it at all, and that there would be better things they could have done with their time.

Quite simply, sitting down to read a reference book from end to end is a terrible approach to learning Computer Science.
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alleycat393
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(Original post by Acsel)
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Oh dear hun! I don't have the time to read through all of that, sorry! We have a team on here for a reason and have offered some good advice above including some from unis and some very experienced reviewers (some of us work for unis). If you disagree, sorry but we do have to make sure that students get the best advice possible and correct any misconceptions from people who may not be as experienced

PS:- if a well reputed uni recommends something then I'd hardly call that sub-par advice!
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Acsel
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(Original post by alleycat393)
Oh dear hun! I don't have the time to read through all of that, sorry! We have a team on here for a reason and have offered some good advice above including some from unis and some very experienced reviewers. If you disagree, sorry but we do have to make sure that students get the best advice possible and correct any misconceptions from people who may not be as experienced

PS:- if a well reputed uni recommends something then I'd hardly call that sub-par advice!

So when someone with experience calls you out for offering poor advice, you just insult them and pretend they're wrong? You requested PQs opinion, which basically lines up with what I'm suggesting, but still consider me wrong? And you think "Start with your course structure and read around the topics that will be taught." is good advice? I'm sorry if you feel offended but it's pretty clear which one of us has actually given good advice here.

And if you read the advice given from Oxford, it recommends a mix of reading, practical experience, looking at modern news, etc. All things I suggested rather than just "read around your topic"
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alleycat393
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(Original post by Acsel)
So when someone with experience calls you out for offering poor advice, you just insult them and pretend they're wrong? You requested PQs opinion, which basically lines up with what I'm suggesting, but still consider me wrong? And you think "Start with your course structure and read around the topics that will be taught." is good advice? I'm sorry if you feel offended but it's pretty clear which one of us has actually given good advice here.
Yes I tagged in PQ because she is our comp sci expert. I too have been reviewing statements for a long time and have plenty of experience so stand by what I said. Have you actually read through the link that PQ provided? Or read what she wrote? Or what I wrote for that matter?

Reading around the subject doesn’t necessarily = only books. PQ started by saying that books aren’t a bad idea but practical activities help which is the same as what I said in my second post. That doesn’t = your advice of don’t read get experience which will only send applicants into a panic about getting work experience they don’t need. Funnily enough the PS help team is on the same page. Oxford’s advice is about background reading. All you’ve served to do is rant about books which you clearly have an agenda against or don’t like. Please don’t project that as ‘advice’. You’ve then talked yourself round to a mix of reading and practical activities thus contradicting yourself. Honestly it appears that even you’re not sure what you’re advising!

Anyway, I'd strongly suggest just sticking to what you know hun, leaving people with experience to talk about PSs and getting on with it as I really don't have the time to argue with you. Good luck!
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Acsel
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(Original post by alleycat393)
Yes I tagged in PQ because she is our comp sci expert. I too have been reviewing statements for a long time and have plenty of experience so stand by what I said. Have you actually read through the link that PQ provided? Or read what she wrote? Or what I wrote for that matter? I'd strongly suggest just sticking to what you know hun, leaving people with experience to talk about PSs and getting on with it as I really don't have the time to argue with you. Good luck!
I'd very much appreciate you drop the "hun". It comes across as condescending. I appreciate that being told you are wrong doesn't feel nice but there's really no need to try and throw your weight around. I'll point out that you are the one who started this, I simply gave the OP my opinion.

I'm not questioning your experience and I've already said before that plenty of students get in based on reading alone. It's funny that you should ask whether I've read either post (how do you think I replied) when you yourself say you don't have time to read mine. If you haven't read my post, how exactly do you know that I'm so "inexperienced" or giving bad advice?

You have experience with personal statements. Great. I have experience in the subject itself. Ask any Computer Science and they'll tell you that purely reading around the subject is not enough. As I've said before (not that you'd know if you don't read my post), reading around is fine but practical experience is more useful.

But there's really no need to debate this.
Your advice: Read around the topics in your course structure
My advice: Get practical experience where possible and supplement that by reading around relevant topics and keeping up with modern news developments
One of these is clearly better advice and I even went so far as to justify why (in PQs words) "Books aren’t a bad idea but they’re less use than actually trying to approach different problems to come up with solution"

Maybe next time, when you see some advice that conflicts with what you'd give out, don't attack the other person for not being on the PS team, or call them inexperienced.
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alleycat393
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(Original post by Acsel)
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I've already said what I had to above and that I won't read through rants or respond to arguments that don't really help the OP. Please move on and stop quoting me
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Acsel
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(Original post by alleycat393)
I've already said what I had to above and that I won't read through rants or respond to arguments that don't really help the OP. Please move on and stop quoting me
If you're not willing to have a conversation, don't try and call people out for giving good advice. If you don't have time or are unwilling to reply, then don't quote me in the first place. Like I said before, you started this by trying to call me out. But my "rant" has given the OP some good advice that isn't "read your course material", so at least they've gotten something useful out of this thread. Unless you have something useful to discuss, there's no reason to continue this further.
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Acsel
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(Original post by PjdeP)
He basically destroyed you "hun", just admit defeat and move on.
While I appreciate the support, let's focus on getting the thread back on track and providing advice for the OP
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