Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

While attempting to make a list programming subjects/topics that were unclear to me, I was unable to come up with anything.

I know I can't be clear on everything. What steps can I take to get an accurate self-assessment of my knowledge and "know what I don't know"?

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by gnat, MichaelT, Kilian Foth, durron597, Dan Pichelman Jun 24 '15 at 17:34

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking career or education advice are off topic on Programmers. They are only meaningful to the asker and do not generate lasting value for the broader programming community. Furthermore, in most cases, any answer is going to be a subjective opinion that may not take into account all the nuances of a (your) particular circumstance." – gnat, Community, Kilian Foth, durron597, Dan Pichelman
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I do not understand what your questions is. – Job Feb 24 '11 at 16:17
The answer to your question is that your question is unclear to me. – Adam Crossland Feb 24 '11 at 16:18
You need to make your question clearer. What do you want to know? – glenatron Feb 24 '11 at 16:18
@Margus - If you cannot go back to the material after 24 hours after it first being explained or learning about it, and understand what you read, then you don't understand the topic. – Ramhound Feb 24 '11 at 16:26
How are you supposed to know what you don't know? – Joel Etherton Feb 24 '11 at 16:38
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I find the best way to find holes in your own knowledge is to try and explain the topic to someone else.

Find a classmate who admits they don't fully understand topic X, and attempt to explain topic X to them.

If you are successful (it clicks for you, it clicks for them), then you probably understand it fine.

If it's a struggle then you probably need to review the material yourself.

share|improve this answer
Good answer, but I found writing a wiki more practical. – Margus Feb 26 '11 at 1:14
I'll add the old Albert Einstein quote: "If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself." – Panzercrisis Jun 23 '15 at 14:37
If one is not aware of one's own ignorance, how can one come up with a list of topics to test one's ignorance against? Your answer works for a given topic but doesn't answer the OP's need of creating a list of topics. – Tulains Córdova Jun 23 '15 at 18:34

Try from the other direction: What do feel you know well?

Make that list. Write down the topic and a blurb describing what you know about it.

Go and look up what you should know for your class. If you missed something on your list, you are unclear on that topic. If your description about what you know about that topic is incorrect or too vague, you are unclear on that topic too.

share|improve this answer

Raise your hand and say "I really got lost when you said [insert something he said earlier that you sort of understood]".

I've done this a few times. The professor can see the confused look on everyone's faces. He doesn't know where he lost y'all. Give him a little help. You probably aren't the only one who in the class who is lost.

**I'm just assuming that I understand your question. Please add a little more detail to explain it further.

share|improve this answer
question was edited. – Ben L Feb 24 '11 at 16:41

Read. Read a lot.

The information that you need to know about programming is inevitably out there, all over the internet, so if you want to fill the gaps in your knowledge you need to have a sincere curiosity about the field. The key distinction is that you're not going to know what you don't know or need to know until you find it, so the only way to find it is to look for it.

When I was getting started in the field I was in awe at the breadth of material there was out there to learn, but I was incredibly ignorant. Luckily, I had the curiosity to do a lot of googling, question asking, and searching for classic books in the field. When I first started reading not everything made sense, but with time all of the puzzle pieces came together into a greater understanding.

Eventually, once you've read and understood enough, you will make the shift from 'what don't I know' to 'I want to know about [x]'.

share|improve this answer

First things first, that is not truly a random question. Now to tackle your real question here, why don't you make a list of the things you do know and append them to your question. Then give a brief one-two sentence overview of what you actually think those topics are. This will help us evaulate your understanding and give you better feedback. My guess is you do not have a full understanding of pointer recursion as a starting point.

share|improve this answer

I browse the questions on Slashdot, Stack Exchange, Hacker News, and Digg regularly. If you understand all of these topics, congratulation, you understand it all.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.