School of Computing

A multinational, multi-institutional study of assessment of programming skills of first-year CS students

M. McCracken, V. Almstrum, D. Diaz, M. Guzdial, D. Hagan, Y.B.-D. Kolikant, C. Laxer, L. Thomas, I. Utting, and T. Wilusz

ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 33(4):182-196, December 2001.


In computer science, an expected outcome of a student's education is programming skill. This working group investigated the programming competency students have as they complete their first one or two courses in computer science. In order to explore options for assessing students, the working group developed a trial assessment of whether students can program.

The underlying goal of this work was to initiate dialog in the Computer Science community on how to develop these types of assessments. Several universities participated in our trial assessment and the disappointing results suggest that many students do not know how to program at the conclusion of their introductory courses. For a combined sample of 216 students from four universities, the average score was 22.89 out of 110 points on the general evaluation criteria developed for this study. From this trial assessment we developed a framework of expectations for first-year courses and suggestions for further work to develop more comprehensive assessments.

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Bibtex Record

author = {McCracken, M. and Almstrum, V. and Diaz, D. and Guzdial, M. and Hagan, D. and Kolikant, Y.B.-D. and Laxer, C. and Thomas, L. and Utting, I. and Wilusz, T.},
title = {A multinational, multi-institutional study of assessment of programming skills of first-year {CS} students},
month = {December},
year = {2001},
pages = {182-196},
keywords = {determinacy analysis, Craig interpolants},
note = {},
doi = {},
url = {},
    publication_type = {article},
    submission_id = {17329_1019825612},
    ISSN = {0097-8418},
    journal = {ACM SIGCSE Bulletin},
    volume = {33},
    number = {4},
    publisher = {ACM},

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