Grading Overview

There are four broad intellectual themes in the course:

  • Java Programmming
  • Data Structures
  • Testing
  • Program Design

Course grades are based on how well you master the themes, not on your performance on individual assessments. On each assignment, you will earn points towards some of the themes (most assignments will touch multiple themes). When we compute course grades, we will look your grades across the themes, not a single course average.

The four themes have roughly equal weight in overall course grades, but we will expect different distributions across the themes for different grades.

  • A will require a solid performance in all four themes.
  • B will require a good performance in all four themes. You can be weaker (but still above baseline) in one theme and still earn a B.
  • C will require a baseline of performance in all four themes. You can be just below baseline in one theme and still earn a C, but you must be above baseline in Java Programming.

Throughout the term, you will have access to a summary of your performance to date on each theme. There is no predetermined cutoff number for "solid" and "baseline" performance; that number evolves as we see how everyone is doing. As a general rule, however, the cutoffs are designed to give you room to make some mistakes early on. In past offerings, for example, the "solid" performance line has fallen in the 83-84% range, with the "baseline" cutoff in the upper 50s. I do NOT grade on a curve.

Why this Unusual Grading System?

I grade this way because you are here to master certain topics and skills, not to produce scores on the collection of questions known as an exam. I believe that breaking down grades by content rather than individual assignments provides more useful feedback to both of us as to your mastery of course material.

How much are Exams Worth?

Roughly, the exams will be worth 25% each and the homeworks worth 50%. Participation in clickers and surveys does count, in that if you end up on a final grade boundary, low participation in these could result in you getting the lower grade.

How are Labs and Surveys Graded?

Labs are primarily places for you to get practice and feedback (with the exception of the one lab near the end that we may use for a programming exam). You will submit lab work, but it will not be graded.

Surveys will be given at the start of the course and at the end of some homework assignments. Your answers will indicate how you approached parts of the assignment. We will use these to give you immediate feedback on straightforward details about your work (then get back to you with comments on more subtle issues and an actual grade a few days later).

Repeated failure to attend lab or submit labs and surveys may result in a penalty of up to 10% when we compute your course grades. We understand that you might miss one during the term for various reasons. Multiple misses will start to count against your course grade. This impact is usually most significant for those falling near the boundary between two course grades at the end of the term.