Mid-quarter assessment

See About Assessments for an overview of our plan for assessments.


  • The mid-quarter assessments will take place from May 13-May 17.
  • During that range of dates, you will sign up for an individual assessment slot. Your section leader will be sending you an email (if they have not already) with instructions on how to sign up.
  • The time slot for each student is 1 hour, consisting of a 30-minute preparation period followed by a 30-minute one-on-one discussion with your section leader.
    • Students with OAE accommodations for extended time should have received an email from us about those arrangements. Please reach out to us ASAP if you did not receive our email.
  • The assessment will be open-note, open-book, and open-Internet. You are prohibited from seeking help from other human beings (students, friends, family, folks on the Internet, discussion forums). You may consult only inanimate sources of information.

Honor Code

  • We expect you to uphold your obligations to the Stanford Honor Code for the assessment, just as with all coursework.
    • You are not to give nor receive unpermitted aid of any form.
    • The work you present to your section leader is expected to be your independent, original work; not jointly developed nor derived from the work of another.
    • You are not to discuss the content of the assessment with anyone other than your section leader. This restriction applies during your assessment and afterwards up until the time period closes for all assessments to be completed.
    • The prohibition against sharing or discussing the assessment applies to the content in any form (verbal description, problem text, solution diagrams or code, and so on) and through any media (private conversation, email, Ed post, internet forum, etc.)


  • The format of the mid-quarter assessment will be a live problem solving session. Two tasks are presented for which you are to design and implement a solution. You will gather your thoughts and draft answers during the prep period and then talk through your thought process and solution during the discussion period. We chose this format because it will help you develop skills that will become useful in many future scenarios: job interviews, team meetings, technical presentations, etc.
  • The mid-quarter assessment is 1 hour total. The first 30 minutes is the prep period. Your section leader will release the problems to you at the start of the prep period and you have 30 minutes to think through the problems and draft your answers. Immediately following is the 30 minute discussion period, where you meet 1-on-1 with your section leader to discuss your answers.
  • At the start of the discussion period, you can present your draft solution if ready, but you can also walk through how you’re thinking about the problem and ask for guidance if you’re stuck.
  • During the discussion period, you will explain your approach and answer questions from your section leader about your work. We want this to be a collaborative, communicative experience where you are able to demonstrate what you have learned so far this quarter.


  • The midquarter assessment will consists of two tasks. Both are released at the start of the prep period.
  • Task #1 will focus on ADTs (Vector, Grid, Stack, Queue, Set, Map). The ADT problem will ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of when these different data structures are most appropriate to use to solve a given problem, and what the different benefits and drawbacks of each of the different container types are. This problem will not explicitly focus on asking you to generate solution code for a specific problem – instead, we will ask you to come prepared to analyze different situations and discuss different design and implementation decisions that you might make to solve a variety of different problems.
  • Task #2 will ask you to implement a recursive function. This problem will follow the structure of many of the section problems we have seen – given a problem description and an expected function prototype, design and write code for a solution to the problem.
  • Assessment questions will be released via the BlueBook digital exam platform. You can type answers and solutions during into the digital exam, without the stress of needing perfectly correct syntax to conform to the demands of a compiler. Most importantly, BlueBook does not allow you to run your code. This is a purposeful restriction, and that we hope leads to less stress and not more - we are more focused on the content and quality of your thoughts and general approach rather than your ability to produce perfect, syntactically valid code in a time-limited setting.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Performance will be graded on a similar bucket system to the assignments, and your section leader will release your score to you a couple of days after the assessment is completed.
  • We want this to be a productive learning experience, and not a stressful experience like traditional exams can be. To that end, we want you to give you an opportunity to review and demonstrate what you’ve learned in the course so far, without the anxiety of feeling like you have to get every last detail correct. We're more interested in holistically checking in on your learning so far in the class. If you're able to make a good effort at answering the problems and you communicate your ideas and thought processes to your section leader, you will be well on the way to doing well in this component of the course.
  • Additionally, if your SL does not assess that you met the passing criteria on the assessment, we will be offering students in that situation the opportunity to meet with one of the course staff (Chris, Julie, or Nick) to have a secondary assessment where we can give you another opportunity to work through some material and demonstrate the skills and knowledge you have gained.

Sample Problems in BlueBook

You will work the problems in the BlueBook exam software, which you will then screen-share with your SL during the Zoom portion of the assessment. You will need the BlueBook software, which you may already have from a previous CS course you have taken. If you don't have the software, please download it for your system:

The sample questions are provided in this .json file BlueBook Sample .json which you can open in BlueBook. The password for the sample is practice.

(Note: on some browsers, to download the .json file, you need to control-click (or right-click) the link above and then select "Save File As")

Be sure to download the BlueBook software and sample and confirm all works correctly on your system. Please do this in advance of your scheduled assessment to give yourself time to resolve any pesky technical issues.

Please note that BlueBook will ask you to check some boxes before taking the exam indicating you won't switch windows and that you have disabled your network connection. Disregard these instructions, but check the boxes anyway. As noted above, the exam is open-internet and open-computer, though you're not allowed to communicate with other humans during the exam.

You can also view the sample problems and solutions online:

Sample Rubric

We want to be transparent about what sorts of knowledge and skills that we will be asking you to demonstrate during the assessment. To that end, we have prepared a sample rubric that shows how you will evaluated for the assessment and what kind of feedback you can expect.

Mock Assessment Recordings

Some of our section leaders have volunteered their time to record a couple of mock assessment sessions, demonstrating what the format of the assessment would look like from a student's perspective, as well as showing off what successful strategies for communicating one's thought process looks like.

Miscellaneous Helpful Resources


  • This is meant to be an interactive time – you can talk to your SL about what you’re thinking, and once you’ve solved a problem your SL might ask you questions about your solution process or various modifications that could be made to the program.
  • Finally, we just want to emphasize that this is a brand new thing that we are trying out this quarter to do the best we can to take these strange circumstances and do something that will be productive and constructive for your learning. We want this to be low stakes for everyone involved, and we are coming into this with a mindset of flexibility that will hopefully allow all students to succeed. If you have any concerns about the assessment structure, please feel free to reach out to the course staff.