Grading Policies

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Our goal in assigning a final grade for 6.101 is to balance learning opportunities with the need for assessment. Our strategy is to assign these grades based on demonstrated performance on both labs and exams, which exercise and test different (but complementary) aspects of the subject matter.

This page describes some of the details of how your grade in 6.101 will be determined.

1) Policy on "Curving" Grades§

We strive to assign grades according to MIT's definitions of what the various letter grades mean. Note that all of these definitions, and hence all of our grading policies, are based on your performance in the subject, not on how you compare against your classmates. We do not curve grades for any class component, nor for overall grades, based on aggregate statistics, and we do not have any limits on the number of students who can receive each letter grade; if we believe that everyone in the class has demonstrated an "A" level of understanding, then everyone in the class will receive an A!

2) Labs§

You will be responsible for several laboratory assignments during the semester, each of which consists of a combination of conceptual questions and a substantial programming task. These assignments are intended primarily as a teaching and learning tool, but they are also used to assess your progress with the course material.

Labs will typically release on Friday afternoons, with the bulk of the lab assignment coming due on the following Friday.

For each lab, you will receive a .zip file containing a code skeleton and a test harness. You are welcome to work offline until you are satisfied and then to submit your code to our server to be tested for correctness and efficiency. We may run additional tests on our server beyond the ones you are given, so it is in your interest to try to make sure your solution works in a general sense, rather than writing specific code to pass the test cases locally.

Each lab also has conceptual questions embedded in the lab's page on the web site. These questions are graded based on effort. You can submit an answer any number of times and still get full credit. But "effort" means you should make a real attempt to get it right the first time, and not just guess randomly.

The first 5 labs of the semester also require a "checkoff" conversation with a staff member, during which you'll discuss your process and the code you submitted. In order to receive any credit for these labs, you must complete this checkoff conversation. A lab's checkoff is due by the following Wednesday at 10pm Eastern, and late checkoffs are not accepted except for serious extenuating personal circumstances with written support from a Dean at Student Support Services.

In general, your score on each lab will be based on a combination of:

  • the conceptual questions answered via the lab's page on the web site,
  • performance against test cases run on the server (which may depend on the correctness and efficiency of your code), and
  • (for the first 5 labs of the semester), the staff checkoff.

In some cases, your score may also depend on the style or complexity of your code, and, upon submission to the server, it may need to pass a basic threshold (for good style, or maximum complexity) before the correctness of the code itself is scored.

2.1) Lateness§

Our policies around lateness are designed to balance several goals, including encouraging healthy life choices (for example, sleeping at reasonable times without worrying about losing points), providing flexibility for when things get busy or unexpected events occur, and providing a regular structure to help you keep up with the class and avoid falling behind.

To this end, lab exercises can be submitted late for partial credit within a limited window. Your score is based on your most recent submission as of the "cutoff" time (normally 10pm the Sunday night following the lab's deadline). Portions of the lab that are complete at the cutoff time and were also complete in your most recent submission before the deadline will receive full credit; and additional portions of the lab that are complete in your most recent submission as of the cutoff time will receive 75% credit. Submissions made after cutoff time will not receive credit.

2.2) Extensions§

To help you manage other obligations and unexpected events, we'll automatically forgive some of the lateness penalties from late submissions for each student. At the end of the semester, we will remove the lateness penalties from the three labs that most benefit each student. This does not move any of the deadlines associated with those labs, but it does mean that work submitted over the weekend for those labs will not receive a reduced score because of lateness.

This built-in flexibility is intended to help you manage events that we expect will come up over the course of a typical semester for many students; they are intended to cover lateness that arose from sports, music, interviews, projects, bad days, busy weeks, computer problems, minor illnesses, or any other reason. You do not have to ask for this flexibility to be applied to any particular lab; we will apply it to the maximally beneficial labs for each student at the end of the semester.

If you are experiencing serious personal or medical difficulties that prevent you from completing the work in 6.101 on time, please talk with a Dean at Student Support Services. With their support, we can consider additional extensions or alternative arrangements, but generally only for serious situations that are impacting you for more than one week; we expect the built-in flexibility to handle other cases. Without written support from Student Support Services, we cannot consider any exceptions to the rules outlined on this page.

3) Exams§

We will also have two two-hour midterm exams and one three-hour final exam. The midterms will be held on two Wednesday evenings during the semester (see the calendar), and the final exam will be held during finals week. We will offer midterm conflict times for students who cannot attend the regular exam time due to a conflict with another scheduled MIT-related obligation (such as other classes or extracurriculars). The MIT Registrar will schedule the conflict final exam.

All 6.101 exams will be given on paper, and they will consist of a variety of questions involving material from the recitations and labs.

For all exams, you will be allowed to use a single letter-sized (8.5"x11") sheet of paper containing handwritten notes. These notes must be written directly on the page, not printed from a digital copy.

Proctors will be available to answer administrative and clarification questions during exams, but you should not expect help from staff on solving the problems.

4) Recitation and Reading Participation§

You are expected to come to recitation and participate, and to do the week's reading (including its exercises) by its deadline early in the week. Recitations and readings are an essential part of your learning in this course, and are designed to prepare you for the week's lab and for the exams.

Coming to recitation and doing the readings constitute your participation grade, which is incorporated into your final grade as described at the end of this page.

Participation for recitations and readings is judged based on effort. You can submit reading exercises any number of times and still get full credit for participation. But "effort" means you should make a real attempt to get it right the first time, and not just guess randomly.

Missing a few recitations or readings will not preclude you from getting full credit for participation. But recitations and readings are not individually excused or waived.

If you have an unavoidable conflict such as a religious holiday or medical issue, it is possible to make up (not waive) participation for a recitation or reading deadline. Please get support from Student Support Services and email

5) Grading Scale§

Assignments (including exams, labs, and participation) are graded in a two-stage process: first, each assignment is assigned some raw number of "points," and then these points are converted to a real number in the range [0, 10] representing a grade on a continuous scale depicted below:

Note that, while this scale looks similar to a typical 90-80-70-60 grading scale, your score on any assignment is not a raw percentage divided by 10; rather, the scaling is based on our assessment of performance according to MIT's letter-grade definitions. The fact that we grade based on MIT's definitions of letter grades, coupled with the fact that every assignment is different, also means that the transformation from raw points to this score will generally be different on a per-assignment basis (i.e., the "boundaries" above will generally be different for the midterm exam, the final exam, and the lab component of the grade).

6) Overall Grade and Grade Components§

Your final grade in 6.101 will be computed as follows: we first take each of the above components (labs, midterm exam, and final exam) and rescale it based on our expectations for the level of performance that corresponds to an A, B, C, D, or F, according to the diagram above. Then, your final grade in 6.101 is a weighted average of these rescaled components, using whichever of the following weightings results in a higher score:

Weighting Option 1:

  • Labs: 40%
  • Midterm 1: 20%
  • Midterm 2: 20%
  • Final: 20%

Weighting Option 2:

  • Labs: 40%
  • Midterm 1: 17%
  • Midterm 2: 17%
  • Final: 17%
  • Class Participation (Readings and Recitation): 9%

Regardless of which weighting scheme is used for your grade, the result will be a number in the same range [0, 10], which we will convert back to a letter grade using roughly the same scale as above.

Additionally, you will not earn a passing grade in 6.101 if your lab average is an F, nor if your exam average is an F, regardless of your grade in the other portion and regardless of which weighting option is chosen for you.