How (not) to write an introductory programming exam

Simon, Judy Sheard, Daryl D'Souza, Mike Lopez, Andrew Luxton-Reilly, Iwan Handoyo Putro, Phil Robbins, Donna Teague, Jacqueline Whalley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The computing education literature shows some recent interest in summative assessment in introductory programming, with papers analysing final examinations and other papers proposing small sets of examination questions that might be used in multiple institutions as part of a benchmarking exercise. This paper reports on a project to expand the set of questions suitable for use in benchmarking exercises, and at the same time to identify guidelines for writing good examination questions for introductory programming courses – and, by implication, practices to avoid when writing questions. The paper presents a set of ten questions deemed suitable for use in the exams of multiple courses, and invites readers to use the questions in their own exams. It also presents the guidelines that emerged from the study, in the hope that they will be helpful to computing educators writing
exams for their own courses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 17th Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE 2015)
EditorsKatrina Falkner, Daryl J. D'Souza
Place of PublicationSydney NSW Australia
PublisherAustralian Computer Society Inc
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781921770425
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAustralasian Computing Education Conference 2015 - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 27 Jan 201530 Jan 2015
Conference number: 17th (Proceedings)

Publication series

NameConferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology Series
ISSN (Print)1445-1336


ConferenceAustralasian Computing Education Conference 2015
Abbreviated titleACE 2015
OtherACE is held in conjunction with Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW).
Internet address


  • Assessment
  • Benchmarking
  • CS1
  • Examination
  • Introductory programming

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