Quizzes are graded automatically by Moodle. Your grade is recorded as soon as you submit each quiz. You may submit each quiz as many times as you like before the deadline, with no penalty, but you must retake the entire quiz each time. Only the last submission of each quiz actually counts, even if you got a higher score in an earlier attempt.
We will return graded homeworks and exams in discussion sections. You can also pick up your graded homeworks and exams during office hours (unless Jeff or the TAs are busy answering questions). Under normal circumstances, all work should graded at most two weeks after submission.
Students can look up their quiz, homework, and exam grades on the course Moodle site. We will also post grades for each exam on the course web page—just a sorted list of numbers, without names—so that students can see their relative standing in the class.
Quiz, homework, and exams solutions will be posted at most a day after the corresponding submission deadline. Homework and exam solutions will include the rubrics used by the graders.
Please check that your grades are tabulated and recorded correctly. If you notice a mistake, please bring your graded work to Jeff or one of the TAs; we will correct it immediately.
If you believe that your work has been graded incorrectly, please request a regrade. Homework will be regraded by the TAs; Jeff will regrade exams. To request a regrade, resubmit the work in question along with a brief written explanation. (For example, "My answer agrees with the posted solution." or "My grade does not match the posted rubric." or "My algorithm does not match the posted solution, but it is still correct." or "The posted solution is incorrect; here's a counterexample.")
We can only grade what you actually wrote. You cannot get a higher grade by explaining what you meant.
Regrade requests must be submitted at most two weeks graded work is returned. Except for arithmetic mistakes, late regrade requests will be ignored.
If you submit a regrade request, we will regrade the submitted problem from scratch. Your grade may go down.
We will readily admit, apologize for, and correct our mistake if you have been graded unfairly. However, please remember that "unfairly" means your grade is inconsistent with the published grading rubric, or that you were graded more harshly than other students, not just that you think the rubric is too harsh. Please also keep in mind that each homework point is worth approximately 0.1% of your final course grade. Frivolous regrade requests will be met with the scorn they deserve.
If any posted solution contains a serious error, all students will receive a perfect score for that problem as extra credit.
We will determine final course grades as follows.
(What do you expect from an algorithms course?)
Compute raw totals from homework and exam scores, excluding extra credit. Course work is weighted as follows:
We assigned 9 online quizzes. We will drop your two lowest quiz scores. Each of the seven remaining quizzes is worth about 0.7% of your raw total.
We assigned 26 homework problems (not counting extra credit problems). We will drop your five lowest problem scores (roughly two complete problem sets). Each of the 21 remaining homework problems is worth about 1.2% of your raw total.
There will be two midterm exams, each with five problems, and a final exam with seven questions, for a total of 17 exam problems. We will drop your 3 lowest exam problem scores.* Each of the remaining 14 exam problems is worth 5% of your raw total.
*Note added Nov 30:
Dropping the lowest exam problems has the counterintuitive effect of lowering a significant fraction of course grades, while raising only a few. Until a few years ago, we announced that we would drop the lowest problem from each exam; the effect of that policy was almost entirely positive. The difference is not statistical, but behavioral; the new policy has apparently led to a change in students' test-taking strategy! In the past, it was quite common for students to deliberately ignore one problem on each exam and concentrate on the others; that strategy is much less common now. On the other hand, average performance on exams has actually improved. (Or maybe my exams have gotten easier.)
I plan to calculate final course grades twice—once dropping the three lowest exam problems and once keeping everything—and then assign each student the higher of the two grades. In future semesters, I expect to stop dropping exam scores entirely.
Exceptions: Any forgiven quizzes, homeworks, and exams will be treated as though they were never assigned; we will drop the same fraction of each student's unforgiven scores. On the other hand, we will not drop zeros that result from cheating offenses.
Compute adjusted totals, which include extra credit points. Extra credit points are not necessarily worth the same as regular points.
Remove outliers at both ends of the curve.
Anyone with an adjusted total over 95% automatically gets an A+. This rule typically applies to the top 2–3% of the class.
Anyone with an adjusted total below 33% or an adjusted homework total below 50%, or who otherwise does not appear to be making a good faith effort, automatically gets an F. This rule typically applies to the bottom 2-3% of the class. This is not the only way to fail!
Determine letter-grade cutoffs from the raw totals. Outliers and graduate students are excluded from the cutoff computation to avoid unfairly skewing the curve. The mean is a borderline B–/C+, and 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.
Compute final letter grades (for non-outliers, including graduate students) from adjusted totals.
Adjust grades upwards at the instructor's whim.
Here are rough statistics from the last four times Jeff taught CS 473.
Mean ± stdev
70% ± 12%
65% ± 11%
66% ± 13%
72% ± 12%
71% ± 13%
We will not compute letter grades for individual homeworks and exams. However, we may occasionally post expected letter grades during the semester, based on the work that has been graded so far. We will compute these estimates by simple averaging, without dropping low homework and exam scores, and without extra credit points. Please keep in mind that these are very rough conservative estimates.