Course Information


This page covers the course policies for CS 61A.

The CS 61 series is an introduction to computer science, with particular emphasis on software and on machines from a programmer's point of view.

  1. CS 61A concentrates on the idea of abstraction, allowing the programmer to think in terms appropriate to the problem rather than in low-level operations dictated by the computer hardware.
  2. CS 61B deals with the more advanced engineering aspects of software, such as constructing and analyzing large programs.
  3. CS 61C focuses on machines and how they execute programs.

In CS 61A, we are interested in teaching you about programming, not about how to use one particular programming language. We consider a series of techniques for controlling program complexity, such as functional programming, data abstraction, and object-oriented programming.

CS 61A primarily uses the Python 3 programming language. Python is a popular language in both industry and academia. It is also particularly well-suited to the task of exploring the topics taught in this course. It is an open-source language developed by a large volunteer community that prides itself on the diversity of its contributors. We will also use two other languages in the latter half of the course: the Scheme programming language and the Structured Query Language (SQL).

Mastery of a particular programming language is a very useful side effect of CS 61A. However, our goal is not to dictate what language you use in your future endeavors. Instead, our hope is that once you have learned the concepts involved in programming, you will find that picking up a new programming language is but a few days' work.


There are no formal programming-related prerequisites for admission to CS 61A, but it's not the right first course for all students. Many CS 61A students have had significant prior programming experience, including prior coursework. Some students take the course without any prior programming experience, but they typically must work substantially harder to master the material, perhaps simply because they have less practice working with programs. If you have limited prior experience and you find it challenging to complete all of the required coursework in the first three weeks, you should seriously consider taking another course first. You'll likely have a better experience taking 61A later, and you won't fall behind in any meaningful way by taking one of the alternatives below prior to taking 61A.


If you want to build programming experience before taking CS 61A, we recommend that you take one of these courses first. Both are offered this summer. You can always take CS 61A in a future semester.

CS 10

CS 10: The Beauty and Joy of Computing provides a bird's-eye view of the field of computer science. The course teaches students how to program using Snap (based on Scratch), one of the friendliest programming languages ever invented, as well as Python, the same language used in 61A. But the course is far more than just learning to program! You'll also learn about some big ideas of computing, such as abstraction, design, recursion, concurrency, simulations, and the limits of computation. You'll also see some beautiful applications of computing that have changed the world, as well as talk about the history of computing and where it will go in the future.

Data 8

Data 8: The Foundations of Data Science is an introduction to data science designed to be accessible and useful for all Berkeley students, and built for students without prior programming experience. The course teaches students to program in Python 3, but covers a much smaller subset of the language than CS 61A. Most of the course focuses on data processing and statistical techniques that are central to using computers to answer questions about the world. The overlap between Data 8 and CS 61A is small (perhaps 25%), but the programming skill you will acquire in Data 8 will help you maintain the faster pace of CS 61A.

Course Format

The course includes many events and opportunities for learning: lecture, discussion, office hours, and group mentoring. We understand that everyone learns differently, so not all of these events are required. However, it is recommended that you at least try everything out to figure out what combination of these events works best for you.


There are four 80-minute lectures per week. Given that the course is online this summer, all lecture content will be released as videos, and the slides will be posted with each lecture. During the regular lecture time, there will be weekly supplementary live lectures that are optional.

This course moves very fast, so you should always watch lecture before your section that day. The TAs will assume that all of their students have watched that day's lecture.


There are two discussion sections each week. These sections are run by an amazing group of teaching assistants who have been carefully selected for their ability, enthusiasm, and dedication to learning. Getting to know your TA is an excellent way to succeed in this course. Participation in discussion determines your discussion participation score for the course. You also may be able to receive points according to the EPA policy

Office Hours

🚧 Office hour schedule will be released during week 1 🚧

Attending office hours is another excellent way to succeed in this course. You can ask questions about the material, receive guidance on assignments, work with peers and course staff in a small group setting, find project partners, and learn about computer science at Berkeley. We will post the office hour schedule here.

In additional to our regular office hours, we will have a limited number of conceptual office hours. We will not take any questions about assignments at these office hours, but they will be chance for you to ask questions about the material in lecture or discussion or to get additional practice with the concepts presented in class.

Group Mentoring Sections

Optional group mentoring sections are held each week. Each section features worksheets that review topics covered in discussion section. These sections of at most 5 or 6 students meet twice a week and are here to create a stronger feeling of community in the class and reinforce conceptual understanding of course material. These will be recurring sections which will have the same group of students, and sign-ups for these sections will open the first week of classes.


Each week, there will be problems assigned for you to work on, most of which will involve writing, debugging, and discussing programs. These assignments come in three categories: lab exercises, homework assignments, and projects.


Lab exercises are designed to introduce a new topic.

Lab exercises are due Wednesdays and Fridays and are scored on correct completion. To receive credit, you must complete all of the problems that are not marked as optional and pass all tests.

We expect for there to be 14 lab exercises, including two ungraded exam review labs. The two lowest lab grades are dropped. As such, You will only have to complete 10 labs to get full credit for lab exercises.


Homeworks are weekly assignments meant to help you apply the concepts learned in lecture and section on more challenging problems. They will usually be released on Wednesday and be due the following Tuesday night.


You are encouraged to discuss the homework with other students, as long as you write your own code and submit your own work. Finding a study group is a great idea. The purpose of homework is for you to learn the course material, not to prove that you already know it. Therefore, you can expect to receive substantial assistance from the course staff. You're welcome to help others once you solve a problem.

If you are stuck on a problem, come get help instead of copying the answer from someone else or the Internet; you'll still get credit and won't be flagged for cheating.

Partial Credit

There is partial credit, with every incorrect answer losing you one point on the homework (up till 0). Usually, homeworks are out of 3.

Homework Recovery Policy

You can recover one incorrect question per homework by going through either of the homework recovery processes:

  1. Attend a group homework recovery session. The schedule will be released by a staff member after each homework. For the duration of the session when the question you wish to recover is being reviewed, you will be required to be present and actively participating.
  2. Make an appointment for Office Hour and go over the solution with a staff member.


Projects are larger assignments intended to combine ideas from the course in interesting ways. Some projects can be completed in pairs. When working in pairs, you should work together to ensure that both of you understand the complete results. We recommend finding a project partner in your section. Your TA will help. You may also work alone on all projects, although partners are recommended for the paired projects. Projects are graded on both correctness and composition.


EPA stands for Effort, Participation and Altruism. This can help boost you over a grade boundary if you’re close to one. Scoring will remain confidential.

  • Effort = {Office hours, doing every single lab, hw, reading Piazza pages, etc.}
  • Participation = {Raising hand in discussion, asking Piazza questions, etc.}
  • Altruism = {Helping other students in lab, answering Piazza or Office Hour questions}


The diagnostic quiz will be held on July 2nd.

The diagnostic quiz is graded on completion. It is meant to be both a basic knowledge check to let you know where you're at with the material as well as a technical check with the new online format of the exams. It should be 1-2 hours.

The first midterm exam will be held on July 16th.

It will be a 3 hour individual exam taken on your computer.

We will allow alternate midterms only for time zone conflicts or conflicts with UC Berkeley exams. For students with another valid excuse for missing a midterm, notify us before the exam in question and we will weight your final to account for the missing exam. Note that missing the midterm will mean that the final will account for about 45% of your grade.

The final exam will be held on August 13th.

It will be a 3 hour individual exam taken on your computer

If you have a direct conflict with another final exam or if you live in a timezone that is far off from PDT, we will allow you to take an alternate final. We will not provide final alternates for any other reason. We will release a form to account for exam conflicts.

This alternate exams will take place at a 12 hour offset from the regular exams.

As long as you do not communicate with anyone other than course staff during the entire duration of the exam, you will be allowed to use any resources you have from the course to complete your exam.

In the case we suspect academic dishonesty, we reserve the right to give an oral exam after the exam.



The online textbook for the course is Composing Programs, which was created specifically for this course. Readings for each lecture appear in the course schedule.


Your course grade is computed using a point system with a total of 300 points.

  • The Diagnostic Quiz, worth 5 points.
  • The midterm, worth 55 points.
  • The final exam, worth 80 points.
  • Homework, worth 24 points.
  • Four projects, worth 106 points.
  • Lab Assignments, worth 20 points.
  • Discussion participation, worth 10 points.

There will be no drops for homework assignments, but of the mandatory (non-review) labs, only 10 contribute to your score.

There are a handful extra credit points available throughout the semester, perhaps around 10, that are available to everyone.

Each letter grade for the course corresponds to a range of scores:

A+  ≥ 300    A  ≥ 285    A-  ≥ 270
B+  ≥ 255    B  ≥ 230    B-  ≥ 215
C+  ≥ 200    C  ≥ 190    C-  ≥ 180
D+  ≥ 175    D  ≥ 170    D-  ≥ 165

Your final score will be rounded to the nearest integer before being converted to a letter grade. 0.5 rounds up to 1, but 0.49 rounds down to 0.

There is no curve; your grade will depend only on how well you do, and not on how well everyone else does. Score thresholds are based on how students performed in previous semesters. It is possible that the instructors will adjust the thresholds in your favor, for example if exam scores are abnormally low, but that scenario is unlikely. More likely, these are the exact thresholds that will be used at the end of the course to assign grades (contrary to popular rumor).

Incomplete grades will be granted only for dire medical or personal emergencies that cause you to miss the final, and only if your work up to that point has been satisfactory. You must complete all coursework before the drop deadline to be considered for an incomplete grade.

Discussion Participation

Attending a discussion section will earn you one discussion participation credit. We expect there to be about 12 discussion sections for points across the semester, and you need to attend at least 10 in order to receive full points.

Class Participation

Class participation does not directly count towards the original 300 points. There will be different opportunities for students to earn class participation credits throughout the summer: filling out weekly surveys, completing practice exams, attending more than 10 discussion sections and so on.

Earning more than 5 class participation credits will contribute to recovery points on the midterm. A total of 10 class participation credits can be used for exam recovery.

We calculate your exam recovery using the following logic, where participation is the number of class participation credits you earn (out of 10):

def exam_recovery(your_exam_score, participation, max_exam_score, recovery_cap=10):
    half_score = max_exam_score / 2
    max_recovery = max(0, (half_score - your_exam_score) / 2)
    recovery_ratio = min(participation, recovery_cap) / recovery_cap
    return max_recovery * recovery_ratio

According to this formula, if you receive more than half the available points on each exam, then you don't recover any points. If you score just below half the points, you will recover a few points. If you score far below half the points, you will recover many points. The more recovery credits you earn, the more exam points will be recovered.

Additionally, what matters for exam recovery is the percentage of the total class class participation credits you receive, not the absolute number of class participation credits.

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that students who continue to invest time in the course througout the semester are able to pass.

Late Policy

If you cannot turn in an assignment on time, contact your TA and partner as early as possible. Depending on the circumstance, we may grant extensions.

  • Labs: We very rarely accept late lab submissions. There is no partial credit.
  • Homework: We very rarely accept late homework submissions. There is no partial credit.
  • Projects: Submissions within 24 hours after the deadline will receive 75% of the earned score. Submissions that are 24 hours or more after the deadline will receive 0 points. Each question is worth some points, so it is possible to earn partial credit on a project.

Learning Cooperatively

With the obvious exception of exams, we encourage you to discuss course activities with your friends and classmates as you are working on them. You will definitely learn more in this class if you work with others than if you do not. Ask questions, answer questions, and share ideas liberally.

Learning cooperatively is different from sharing answers. You shouldn't be showing your code to other students, except to your project partner or to someone who has already submitted the assignment and is helping you finish. If you are helping another student, don't just tell them the answer; they will learn very little and run into trouble on exams. Instead, try to guide them toward discovering the solution on their own. Problem solving practice is the key to progress in computer science.

Since you're working collaboratively, keep your project partner and TA informed. If some medical or personal emergency takes you away from the course for an extended period, or if you decide to drop the course for any reason, please don't just disappear silently! You should inform your project partner, so that nobody is depending on you to do something you can't finish.

Online Forum

If you have any questions, please post them to Piazza, the course discussion forum. Piazza allows you to learn from questions your fellow students have asked. We encourage you to answer each others' questions!

Piazza is the best and most reliable way to contact the course staff. You are also welcome to email, an instructor, or your TA directly.

Academic Honesty

Cooperation has a limit, and in CS 61A that limit is sharing code. You are free to discuss the problems with others beforehand, but you must write your own solutions. The only students with whom you can share code are your project partner and students who have finished the problem you are working on.

Since this may be your first computer science class, exactly what constitutes as cheating might be unclear. If you are unsure if what you are doing is cheating, please clarify with the instructors or TAs. The following is a list of things you should NOT do. This list is not exhaustive, but covers most of the big offenses:

  • Do not copy code from any student who is not your partner for the current assignment. This includes direct verbal walkthroughs.
  • Do not allow any student other than your partner to copy code from you.
  • Do not copy solutions from online sources such as Stack Overflow, Pastebin, and public repositories on GitHub.
  • Do not post your solutions publicly during or after the semester.

If you find a solution online, please submit a link to that solution anonymously. When we find an online solution, we ask the author to remove it. We also record the solution and use it to check for copying. By reporting online solutions, you help keep the course fair for everyone.

In summary, we expect you to hand in your own work, take your own tests, and complete your own projects. The assignments and evaluations are structured to help you learn, which is why you are here. The course staff works hard to put together this course, and we ask in return that you respect the integrity of the course by not misrepresenting your work.

Rather than copying someone else's work, ask for help. You are not alone in this course! The entire staff is here to help you succeed. If you invest the time to learn the material and complete the projects, you won't need to copy any answers.

A Parting Thought

Grades and penalties aren't the purpose of this course. We really just want you to learn. The entire staff is very excited to be teaching CS 61A this semester and we're looking forward to meeting such a large and enthusiastic group of students. We want all of you to be successful here. Welcome to CS 61A!