Grading Policies

Grade Breakdown

Your grade is composed of the following components:

Component Contribution Notes
CBTF Quizzes (1,2,3) 15% 3 total (no drops)
Final Exam 30%  
Homework 40% 17 total (one drop of lowest score)
Take-home Quizzes (4,5) 15%  

All grades will be available on Compass2g and will be updated periodically throughout the semester.

Grading Scale

New grade cutoffs (due to transition to online teaching)

Grade Point Range
A >= 87%
B [77%, 87%)
C [60%, 77%)
F < 60%

Extra points

There will be three sources of extra points this semester. You can find more information about each assessments in following sections of the syllabus.

Component Contribution Notes
Complete HW by “early” deadline 105% see notes about how the credit is set in PrairieLearn:
LA Quiz 2% The score of the LA Quiz will be added to the total course score, up to 2%.
Short Questions 1% The overall score from these questions will be added to the total course score, up to 1%.

To earn a A+ in the class, your total score should be greater than 98%.

General Rules

Any questions, concerns, or misgivings regarding a specific grade must be raised within one week of the release of the grade. After one week has passed, the assigned grade is considered accepted and no further complaints will be considered.


Lecture attendance is not required but strongly encouraged. You will be asked to work on small activities during lecture using Jupyter notebooks.

UPDATE: Starting on March 23, all lectures will be delivered online. Check the lecture schedule for more details.

Programming Languages

We will be using Python with the libraries numpy, scipy and matplotlib for in-class work and assignments. No other languages are permitted. Python has a very gentle learning curve, so you should feel at home even if you’ve never done any work in Python.

Which Python should you use?

For the homework assignments and quizzes, the coding can be done directly on PrairieLearn. If you wish to install Python and the Numpy+Scipy+Matplotlib stack, you are free to do so in any way that works. We recommend using Anaconda, which is a (free) Python distribution that includes Numpy+Scipy+Matplotlib.

In addition, you should use Python 3. All demos in class will use Python 3 in a Jupyter notebook.

Optional Python tutorial

The course staff has created a short Python tutorial, for students that have not worked with Python before, or need some brushing up.

CS 357 - Python tutorial


Weekly online homework sets will be assigned via PrairieLearn (PL). The due dates are indicated in the lecture schedule (the schedule may be subjected to changes during the semester). Each homework is due at 8pm on the due date.

The weekly homework assignments will alternate between two types:

  • Machine Problems (labeled with MP inside PL): longer programming assignments
  • “Traditional” HWs (labeled with HW inside PL): mixture of short calculation and coding questions.

Note that all MPs will count towards the HW grade. We will drop the lowest score out of the “traditional” HW.

The short questions place an emphasis on mastery. The idea is to keep doing questions until you master the underlying concept or method. Once you do, you should be able to answer these questions very quickly. The way this works in PrairieLearn is that each question has a value, a point total, and a point maximum. If you answer a question correctly, two things happen:

  1. The point total increases by the value, until you reach the point maximum.
  2. The value increases (2x, 3x, 4x, etc.).

If you answer a question incorrectly, one thing happens:

  1. The value goes back to what it was originally (1x).

This system rewards repeated correct answers, which tend to demonstrate mastery. There is no penalty (other than resetting the value) for answering a question incorrectly, so don’t be afraid to submit an answer. Similarly, don’t be afraid to keep doing a question after you reach the point maximum - your point total will never go down!

If you click on the “?” just to the right of the line about available credit, you’ll see all the dates associated with this homework. In particular, it could say:

* You can receive 105% until Early End Date
* You can receive 100% until Main End Date

The “Early End Date” corresponds to what I believe to be the actual due date of the homework, which happens before the quiz associated with that content. This semester I am trying something different, and setting the actual deadline as the last day of classes. Yes, you can complete ALL the homework assignments in the last week of classes and still get 100% credit. However, I don’t think this is the best way of mastering the course content, and hence I am giving extra credit for students that complete the HW by the early deadline.

Read more about how PrairieLearn credit works here:

Short questions (for extra credit)

In addition to the homework, you will have additional assignments in PL that will count towards extra credit points. These assignments will include short conceptual questions, mostly in the form of multiple-choice and checkboxes. They will appear in a format similar to the quiz, where students cannot generate a different version of the question inside the assessment, and the correct answer is only shown at the end. Students will be able to generate different instances of the assessment, to help practicing the material, and also to give the opportunity to increase the final score. These practice assessments are optional, but very important for the overall understanding of the course content and practice for the quizzes.

If you click on the “?” just to the right of the line about available credit, you’ll see all the dates associated with this assignment. In particular, it could say:

* You can receive 100% until Main End Date
* You can receive 0%, but can keep doing problems as practice
  for the rest of the semester.

Note that there is no “Early deadline” for these short question assignments. You will need to complete the questions by the “Main End Date” in order to receive the points.


Collaboration on Homework Assignments (especially coding questions)

You may discuss your approach (but not your code) with your peers. All parts of each homework set or machine problem must be your own work. You must have typed/written every part of your homework yourself. In some cases, code/pieces of work from elsewhere may be allowed–if so, this will be stated in the instructions. In that case, you must acknowledge the source.

If we notice that your work has considerable overlap with someone else’s (and we do check), the both of you should be ready to have an unpleasant conversation and face penalties as provided by campus rules regarding academic honesty.

Quizzes & Final Exam

Note that this section was heavily modified due to the changes from in-person to online learning.


Throughout the semester, you will take 5 quizzes (50-minute) that will have a mixture of short questions and short coding questions (similar to the questions that appear in your HW and practice assessments). All quizzes are delivered using the PrairieLearn LMS.

The first three quizzes, administered via the Grainger College of Engineering Computer-Based Testing Facility (CBTF), will count towards 15% of your final grade.

The last two quizzes will be taken remotely via PrairieLearn. These quizzes will be open-book, and follow the CS honors code and UIUC Academic Integrity policies.

Check the schedule for all quiz dates.

Final Exam

The final exam will be taken remotely via PrairieLearn. The exam will be open-book, and follow the CS honors code and UIUC Academic Integrity policies.

The final exam is scheduled using the Non-Combined UIUC schedule:

  • Students registered in the N section (TTh 2-3:15pm): Thursday, May 14, 8:00-11:00 a.m.

  • Students registered in the M section (TTh 3:30pm-4:45pm): Tuesday, May 12, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Students will only be able to have access to the online final exam during the slot assigned to the section in which they are registered. If you feel you have a valid reason to request to take the final exam during the other time slot, you need to make your request before April, 3rd. To make the request, please use the portal for excused absence (we will be processing final exam conflict requests using this same portal). Make sure to attach any documentation that validates your request.

Quiz 0 (Linear Algebra Review)

At the end of the first week of the semester, there will be a review quiz over linear algebra topics. You will be able to earn extra points if you decide to take this optional quiz.

There will also be a practice quiz0 that is not for credit. The purpose of the practice quiz0 is for you to review background course material before quiz0 and to learn more about what a PL quiz will look like in the CBTF and how they function.

Note: as there will be homework assignments before later quizzes, there will not be practice quizzes for the other quizzes.

Taking Quizzes / Final Exam

Please familiarize yourself with the policies of the CBTF. The policies of the CBTF are the policies of this course, and academic integrity infractions related to the CBTF are infractions in this course. Any problem with testing in the CBTF must be reported to CBTF staff at the time the problem occurs. If you do not inform a proctor of a problem during the test then you forfeit all rights to redress.

  • You must take your quizzes as scheduled with the CBTF, and only on the scheduled day and time. If you do not take the quiz (e.g. by not scheduling an appointment, by not reporting to the facility at the scheduled time, or by not performing the required work), the quiz will be counted as a zero.

  • There will be no exceptions to this scheduling policy except in cases of severe emergency (e.g., loss of life or limb). Examples of events that do not qualify as emergencies include (but are not limited to): transportation problems, conflict with work schedule, important family vacation, or computer problems. The policies of the facility apply during each quiz for aspects such as late arrival and emergency closures.

  • See the below section for appropriate documentation required for quizzes missed due to university-approved activities.

  • If you miss a quiz for any reason and you realize you missed it while it is still within the quiz period, then you must contact the CBTF proctors immediately. If it is sill within the quiz period, then depending on the circumstances and pending availability, you may be able to reschedule. If you fail to contact the proctors immediately, then you forfeit the opportunity to take the quiz.

  • No aids other than a writing utensil and paper provided by the facility are allowed in the CBTF. In particular: If you are seen near a phone, MP3 player or other digital device (turned on or not–it does not matter) during an quiz/exam, you will receive a grade of zero for the assessment.

  • Extended illnesses or emergencies should follow the policies outlined by the Office of the Dean of Students.

  • Only quizzes taken in accordance with these rules will receive credit. Any deviation from these rules will lead to the quiz in question being assigned a grade of zero.

  • You are not allowed to discuss the quiz with other students during the quiz period. Please refrain from discussing the questions until after the quiz period ends.

Reviewing Quizzes

When you finish your quiz, you will see the correct answers and your score on the quiz. As you are reviewing your quiz at the end, please take a mental note and memorize any questions you have regarding the quiz as you will not have access to the quiz once your assigned quiz period is finished.

After the quiz period has ended, you may come come to office hours the following week (Monday-Friday) and ask specific questions regarding the quiz. After the Friday following the end of a specific quiz period, no additional questions regarding the quiz will be addressed. You will need to bring specific questions about the quiz as the TAs and CAs will not open your quiz and go through it with you.


  1. Excuses from assessments will only be given in the following circumstances:

    A. Illness

    B. Personal crisis (e.g. car accident, required court appearance, death of a close relative).

    C. Required attendance at an official UIUC activity (e.g. varsity athletics, band concert).

  2. In all cases you must fill out the excused absence request form and upload the appropriate documentation.

  3. In cases (A) or (B) an official excuse letter from the (Dean on Duty) must be uploaded with the form within 2 weeks of the due date of the missed assessment, no later than reading day. In cases of extended or unusual illness, late submission of excuse documentation will be considered.

  4. In case (C) an official letter from the designated university official must be uploaded at least one week prior to the due date of the missed assessment.

  5. Notwithstanding the above, at your professor’s discretion you may be required to make up any excused work or attend substitute instruction or assessment.


If you are interested in taking the course, please officially register for the course. If there are no open seats, but you intend to register once seats become available, you can still complete the HW assignments on PrairieLearn. You can also get provisional registration to take quizzes at CBTF during the first 10 days of classes.

If you choose to make use of the provisional registration, you will be held to the same standard as every other student that is officially registered for the class, and, at the discretion of the instructor, work you do as part of this ‘unofficial’ participation may be eligible for class credit if you later become officially registered.

However, please keep the following two things in mind:

  1. While it is quite likely that spots will open up as the semester continues, we are unable to promise that this will happen.

  2. As long as you are not officially signed up (check with the academic office in 1210 Siebel if you’re not sure), you will not receive university credit for the work you are doing.


If you have accommodations identified by the Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services (DRES), please post a private note on Piazza with your DRES LOA.

If you have accommodations for quizzes, please take your Letter of Accomodation (LOA) to the CBTF proctors in person before you make your first quiz reservation. The proctors will advise you as to whether the CBTF provides your accommodations or whether you will need to make other arrangements with your instructor.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity, harassment, and discrimination: Academic integrity infractions, harassment, and discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated. See the University’s Student Code, Article 1, Part 4. Please see the Students’ Quick Reference Guide to Academic Integrity for more details.

Please see the departmental Honor Code for details on integrity and procedures.