CORS (Centralised Online Registration System) and you

I start with the acronym because in Singapore, there are so many acronyms that people tend to forget the original name. To NUS students it is the dreaded twice yearly module bidding process.

The system is used to bid for all your non-core modules. Arts students I understand bid for all their modules. We lucky few get to have our core modules pre-allocated. You get to know about it during the faculty talks and orientation camps. I did not attend an orientation camp (you do not have to) so I figured it out myself.

Every student (except those special courses like law) has 1000 points allocated to his/her account every semester. For CEG students it is 750 to Programme and 250 to General. This is always a contention among us. Since most of our programme is pre-allocated why is there 750 programme account points? Unless you take engineering faculty serviced ULR breadth modules like ACC1002x or EC1301 in semester 1, 2, 3 or 4, you will not be touching the programme account until Year 3 at least. Instead you have the paltry 250 general account points to fight for your breadth modules in which it is likely you will be easily out-bidded. However, since most students have the same division of points the programme account is used for the high bidding war when you choose our technical electives. You keep the nukes to fight among your coursemates and keep pistols to fight the arts and computing students who have sub-machine guns (400/350 pts).

How CORS work

Its a mechanism of pure evil. No. Our sister university’s system is fastest finger first (pure evil…no).
Its a system to allocate modules. Modules do not have unlimited places, many want that no exam module, many want easy breadths, the system puts a cost to modules, a virtual cost that is in the form of points. Every one has the same amount of points at start and the points will roll over.
Essentially, you get a bunch of points and you throw it at a module that you want. The lowest bid that wins is the amount you pay. Any addition points you threw in is refunded. If you lost the bid, your points are refunded. If the subscription is less than vacancies everyone pays 1 point. If you had bid the lowest bid but did not win, then you lost at the system ballot. (Say the winning bid is 100 and 10 students put in 100 points each for 5 vacancies then the system will select bids on a FIRST-COME-FIRST-SERVED basis. The 5 fellas who put in their equal bids earlier will win. conduct a random ballot and 5 will lose)
My friend joking says that its to train you as a future adult citizen: ballot for primary school place, HDB flat, NDP ticket, 4D, TOTO.

Please read the site for the detailed information, information here might change. http://www.nus.edu.sg/cors/using-cors.html

Choosing breadth modules

  1. Be unafraid of level 2000 and above modules.
    Frankly, the higher the level the more specialised the module. If you do not like studying a wide range of topics, then take higher leveled modules as modules at level 1000 have a large topic scope. If you dont like depth, then you’ll suffer through all your technical electives. Heck why are you even in university in the first place? Anyway, you cannot take more than 60MCs of lvl-1000 modules towards your degree requirement.
  2. Be unafraid of exams. Non-exam modules have a high CA component and hence it requires that you attend your classes, hand in assignments, do projects and keep attention throughout the semester. Its either that, or some exam in which you can mug for. Those modules that have no exam and a low CA component have many mini-tests instead.
  3. Bother not with looking for open-book exams only. By semester 3, you will probably realise that open-book exams are a lie because the stack of textbooks and notes you brought is completely useless. Open-book exams are designed to make you crack your head and think.
  4. Read the module description carefully and check the workload for projects. Some nice sounding module names can turn out to be nasty and some not so nice module names can turn out really great.
  5. Be unafraid of the highest bid points as these are seniors showing hand. Look at the subscription level and the minimum bid points. The points spent will be the lowest amount that secures the module. Any extra points you put in will be refunded.

Steps to sucessful bidding:

  1. Plan that your breadth module you want fits into your schedule.
    Not just that the lecture and exams do no clash but also that there are enough avaliable tutorial slots.
  2. Backup with at least 1 to 2 more modules should the first fail. (Especially for sem 1 and 2)
    Since we have so little general account points it is likely that in semester 1 and 2, the bidding will fail for very popular modules. Backup with 1 or 2 more acceptable modules to bid in later rounds or when you see the minimum bid points skyrocketing and you need to cut your losses.
    During open bidding, the minimum bid points will increase as the modules becomes over subscribed. Sometimes the minimum bid points will go past what you can afford or what you are willing to afford. Once this happens, quickly switch to another module.
    As open bidding happens, also check that your backup modules are not being over subscribed or else you have to replan the backup modules.
  3. Cut losses when appropriate
    You need to change module if you are going to expend too many points on one module. The best solution is to take a serviced ULR module during sem 1 and keep the 250 general account points for sem 2 so that you turn your pistol into a sub machine gun at least. Or if you are lucky like me, I got both my breadth modules for sem 1 and 2 at one general account point only.
  4. Try to win early, don’t wait
    Some students might have that die die want to take because of xxx reasons, but breadth modules open at round 2A. Try to secure your modules by the end of Round 2B. At Round 3, all remaining vacancies merge and it is unlikely that you’ll even see the module you want. Even if you can, the vacancies are probably at 1 or 2 slots from people who decided to drop the module. The resulting fight will be an ugly show-hand fight. (Show-hand: Senior year students who are going to graduate can afford to die die want to take that module as they can show-hand or throw in all their remaining points for a last remaining module) You’ll likely have to appeal or even end up with less MCs than the 20MCs per semester or end up with funny modules that you’ll not normally take.
  5. Don’t waste points unnecessarily
    Try to win modules for as little points as possible. This keeps your points so that you can “show-hand” in senior years. Also it allows you to have more points per module in year 4 when you need to clean up your degree by fulfilling the remaining UEMs that you need to take.  Then again don’t be afraid to spend if you know you can win a fight but I will not spend more points than I gain per semester on a module at year 2.
  6. (UPDATE) Put in that round number plus one
    Instead of putting 100 points, put in 101. That one extra point can help save you if you are near the lowest bid. Now that this secret is out, you know what to do.

Open and Closed Bidding (For popular modules)
Open bidding is where you can see the minimum gun (points) that you will need to secure the module. Here you can see if you should cut your losses.
Closed bidding is a blind war. You know the minumum bid points at the end of the open bidding, you are now blind folded but only know the subscription level of the module. That means you know that more people come into the room but dont know what guns they bring or if the current folks in the room upgrade their guns. At the end of open bidding you should have put in more than the minimum amount and have at least 100 points spare to throw in during closed bidding. At closed bidding if the subscription level increases, then some people might throw in more points, you have to as well. The minimum bid points at the end of open bidding does not mean you will secure the module at the amount of points. All this will not matter if the subscription is lower than the vacancies.

(FURTHER UPDATES) Bidding for Technical Electives
I am now in my final year and have started to bid for technical electives. I will give some of the experience I have examined about bidding for technical electives.

Technical electives are another barrel of fish as compared to breadth modules. Advice number 3, 4 and 5 from the preceding tips may not apply. Technical electives are found in the list of CEG technical electives on the CEG website (Duh). Technical electives change from year to year; you need to check for the list that is applicable for your intake. However, many electives may disappear from the list that you have to follow and the department may say that the new list is also applicable depending on circumstances. You need to check this with the course manager. Then they may also say that any EE or CS technical elective is valid as a CEG technical elective with the general rule that level 3000 is mapped as breadth and level 4000 as depth.

You need 12MCs of depths out of 24MCs of technical electives to pass the requirements.

  1. Plan your technical elective pre-requisites properly
    Many depths require breadths and other pre-requisites. You need to plan this very carefully. Also, most technical electives may not appear every semester and somehow the nice ones like to appear only in semester 2. Plan which pre-requisites you need and take them as early as possible to avoid clash.
  2. Be flexible with your technical electives
    In today’s job market, it is better to know more about everything than too much of a single thing. This comes from the perspective of being job marketable and flexible. Of course there are jobs that require deep expertise but you need to seek them out. You can then take a masters to go deeper later.
  3. Cut losses when appropriate but don’t be afraid to go all out.
    You are in the final year and you have accumulated 5000 over programme points. That is a lot and enough to ‘nuke’ a popular technical elective. However, don’t use it all in Year 4 Sem 1 and have nothing in reserve for Year 4 Sem 2. Remember, the key thing about mutually assured destruction is the ability to retaliate even if you spent some nukes. Your general account should have lots of points as well. You can finally throw it all into that GEM you really like.
  4. Secure early or wait till the end.
    This is really an either or situation. Let me explain. Technical electives are opened to bidding in round 1A and 1B but in round 1, you are fighting only with CEG people (Joint-Multidisciplinary Programme). Therefore the department is going to open only like 5 slots for some of the popular TEs to CEG students. We are just killing each other here. Check the CORS module bidding list and see how many slots Joint-Multidisciplinary Programme has. Then check how many slots Computing students have. They should have more. During open bidding you can see how many CEG subscribers there are only. If it is over subscribed and you don’t want to pay too many points, wait till open bidding closes and check the end of open bidding report. Check how many computing students subscribed. If its over subscribed on both queues, be prepared to pay points or find another module. If the computing queue is very poorly subscribed (e.g. less than 40%). You could attempt to wait until round 3 where the queues merged and get the module for 1 point! To be better assured, you could also check the bidding history for the module in that semester for previous years. If it is usually poorly subscribed but the spaces remain the same, you could believe that you can get it cheap in round 3. If its a new module… too bad. Also notice whether that module did change in MCs. An example is CG3204L – Network Lab. It was poorly subscribed in the first few semesters it was offered when it was only 3 MCs. When it became 4 MCs, everyone was grabbing it like it was in a bargain bin (no exam, 4MC). I say ‘could’ for each sentence because there is no sure way to know you will get it. Computing side requirements could have changed and now they want to take that module. Sentiments for that module increased and now everyone wants to take it. It unpredictable with the lack of information you have.
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One Response to CORS (Centralised Online Registration System) and you

  1. claree says:

    thanks for sharing! 🙂

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