Civil Engineer’s Guide

 Civil engineers design, construct, operate and maintain buildings, transport infrastructure, water supply and sewage systems.

Civil engineers design, construct, operate and maintain buildings, transport infrastructure, water supply and sewage systems.

When I started my Bachelor’s, I remember not knowing which subjects to devote most of my time to. This is my subjective guide to the civil engineering course at Uni Stuttgart that will hopefully prove to be of some use to prospective civil engineers.

Caveat: One mistake that I made was to take the word of those in higher semesters as iron-clad truths. As mentioned above, this is a subjective guide to the course. I also took into account the opinions of fellow students and the subjects with the highest failure rates.

You will probably have a different experience, but in my opinion if you concentrate on the highlighted subjects, it will make your life easier. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.

 

 

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Subjects marked in red are “highest priority” subjects or “Tier One” on the importance scale, while those marked in black are “Tier Two”.

All engineering degrees at the Uni have a Math course. For civil engineers (and most other engineering courses as well), Math 1 and 2 are bundled into one exam and accounts for 18 credit points (CPs), which is ten percent of your Bachelor’s grade. A good grade here goes a long way, since it is weighted three times as much as a “normal” subject, which usually account for 6 CPs.

Credit points are a reliable way to tell which subjects you should pay extra attention to, except in the case of engineering mechanics one and two, which despite only having 6 CPs each are pretty much the basis for the whole course. The trick to engineering mechanics is constant practice and keeping up with the material.

The last two “highest priority” subjects would be “Werkstoffübergreifendes Konstruieren & Entwerfen” (“Weko” in short and involves design, construction, dimensioning etc. with different materials) and “Baustatik” (a rough translation would be “Structural Mechanics”).

Tier two subjects would be “Bauphysik & Baukonstruktion” (rough translation “Building Physics”) which is not particularly hard, but is one of the two “Orientierungsprüfungen”.1

The other two second tier subjects would be “Werkstoffe” (“Building Materials”) and “Geotechnik” (“Geotechnical Engineering”) that are doable but require a fair amount of work for a good grade.

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Tips:

a) Go to class!

This might sound obvious, but German Unis do not have mandatory attendance. There are generally three types of classes that you will have (see below) and the hardest to show up to are lectures. In the worst case scenario, show up to the other two but make sure you read the material from the lecture and have a good summary.  img003

 

b) Find and form a study group

Although group work has never been a strength of mine, I noticed quickly that it was essential to pass some courses. Most courses allow you to do the PVL2 (exam qualification) in groups, which reduces the work load. Having a tight-knit group of study buddies helps because you can motivate each other as well as explain concepts that one might be struggling with alone, but someone in the group is well-versed in.

c) Do the PVL

Having a tight-knit group of study buddies helps

Having a tight-knit group of study buddies helps

Again, might sound obvious, but I (and a vast majority of my fellow students) copied all the PVL in my first semester (and I still see people doing it for some final modules!).

PVL are quite difficult, but they serve as a good prep for the exam.

d) Use the “Sprechstunde” and contact the teaching assistants

Unis (and Professors/teaching assistants) sometimes come off as aloof, disinterested and impersonal. This impression could not be further from the truth. The “Sprechstunde” is sort of an open hour when they field questions from students in their offices and you should use the opportunity in case you do not understand some material. Usually they also arrange extra “Sprechstunden” for the PVL and instead of copying it, fight through, and go ask for help if you are unable to get any further. They are usually quite happy to see someone taking their time to go through the assignment instead of just copying it.

 

Feel free to contact me for any tips when it comes to the Civil Eng. degree or contact the “Fachschaft” (a group of students in higher semesters that are there to assist).

Put your best foot forward and good luck!

 

1 “Orientierungsprüfungen” are exams that you have to pass by the end of the third semester (including a resit in case you fail it the first go around) to show that you will be able to handle the course (load). The other orientation exam is Engineering Mechanics 1, which as I mentioned above is challenging, but when compounded with the fact that you have a deadline on when you have to sit the paper means you should spend more time on it.

2 PVL (“Prüfungsvorleistung”) is a requirement to write the exam. Most are only offered once a year so make sure to do it when you have the opportunity even if you do not write the exam in the same semester

Civil Engineering student at the University of Stuttgart

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