CS 374 A

Grading Policies

If you have any questions or concerns, please ask in lecture, during office hours, or on Piazza.

Graded work

Extension Requests

We are experimenting with a new automatic extension policy this semester. (In past semesters, we didn't accept late homework for any reason.)

Short version: Students can request a 24-hour extension for each week's coursework. For each student, three no-fault extensions will be approved automatically; additional extensions require extraordinary circumstances. Coursework can still be submitted up to 24 hours late without an extension, for 50% partial credit.
Post mortem evaluation: Students who respondd to our survey were overhwlemingly supportive of the extension policy. However, technical limitations of Gradescope and PrairieLearn made actual enforcement of the policy more challenging than expected, especially since we allowed for extension requests after the regular deadline. (We erred on the side of generosity.)

Regrade requests

If you believe that your score for any homework or exam problem is inconsistent with the published grading rubric, or that you were graded more harshly than other students for similar work, you can request a regrade.

Overall course grades

We will determine final course grades as follows. (What do you expect from an algorithms course?)
  1. Compute total scores from guided problem sets, homeworks, and exams.
    • Guided Problem Sets and Homework = 35%
      • Each weekly guided problem set and each numbered homework problem is worth 1.4% of your overall grade.
      • We will count a maximum of 9 guided problem sets and a maximum of 16 numbered homework problems, dropping lowest scores if you submit more.
    • Exams = 65%
      • Each midterm has five problems, and the final exam has seven problems. All 17 exam problems have equal weight.
      • Each exam problem is worth approximately 3.8% of your overall grade.
    • Exceptions:
      • Forgiven homework will be treated as if it did not exist; submitted homeworks will have more weight in the overall grade computation. In exceptional cases, we may compute course grades based entirely on exams.
      • Forgiven midterms will be treated as if they did not exist; their other exams will have more weight in the overall grade computation.
      • We will not drop zero grades that result from cheating offenses.

  2. Exceptional cases.
    • We reserve the right to give any student meeting at least one of the following conditions an automatic F:
      • Overall exam average below 25%
      • Submitted less than half of the assigned homework problems
      • Otherwise does not appear to making a good-faith effort
      This rule rarely applies to more than one student out of 400.
    • Anyone who misses both the regular final exam and the conflict final exam will be given an ABS (“absent from final”), which is equivalent to an F, unless they get an Incomplete from their college.

  3. Determine fixed letter grades, according to the following cutoffs. Each possible letter grade above F covers an interval of length 5%. We reserve the right to lower the cutoffs.
    • 95% ≤ A+
    • 90% ≤ A   < 95%
    • 85% ≤ A– < 90%
    • 80% ≤ B+ < 85%
    • 75% ≤ B   < 80%
    • 70% ≤ B– < 75%
    • 65% ≤ C+ < 70%
    • 60% ≤ C   < 65%
    • 55% ≤ C– < 60%
    • 50% ≤ D+ < 55%
    • 45% ≤ D   < 50%
    • 40% ≤ D– < 45%
    •   0% ≤ F   < 40%

  4. As a backup, we will also compute letter grades according to the following curve.
    • The mean is a borderline B–/C+.
    • Each standard deviation is worth one full letter grade.
    For example, the B+/B cutoff is 2/3 standard deviations above the mean, and the D/D– cutoff is 5/3 standard deviations below the mean. The fixed cutoffs are consistent with a mean of 70% and a standard deviation of 15%. The actual mean has been higher than 70% for several years.

  5. Each student's actual letter grade is the maximum of their fixed letter grade and their curved letter grade. In past semesters, 100% of students had higher fixed letter grades than curved letter grades.

Exams matter most

Historically, even when students were graded exclusively on a curve, grades in CS 374 have been almost entirely determined by exam scores. In a typical semester:

The following scatterplot shows the distribution of homework averages (x-coordinate) versus total exam scores (y-coordinate) for Fall 2019. (We are well aware that because of COVID, Fall 2021 is not a typical semester.) Notice especially the outliers: One student had a homework average below 70% but an exam average above 80%; several students had homework average over 90% but exam averages below 40%.

Assuming a total GPS average of 95% and a homework average of 90%, the fixed grade cutoff translate to the following approximate exam averages: