This document provides an overview of the policies for this course as taught at UC Berkeley. If you just want to know how to get started on the class, see this getting started guide.
General Background Information #
These course policies are pretty long. With the exception of the collaboration policy we’re not expecting you to read the entire thing in one sitting. However, you’ll hopefully find the answers to any logistics questions you may have somewhere in this document.
Welcome to CS 61B #
The CS 61 series is an introduction to Computer Science, with particular emphasis on software and machines from a programmer’s point of view. CS 61A covered high-level approaches to problem-solving, providing you with a variety of ways to organize solutions to programming problems as compositions of functions, collections of objects, or sets of rules. In CS 61B, we move to a somewhat more detailed (and to some extent, more basic) level of programming by focusing particularly on the efficiency of writing programs (design) and running programs (runtime).
This class assumes you have taken CS 61A, CS 88, or E 7, or have equivalent background to a student who has taken one of these courses. The course is largely built upon the assumption that you have taken CS 61A. CS 88 and E7 students may find the beginning of the course to be a bit scarier, particularly when it comes to object oriented programming. We assume you are coming in with zero Java experience, but we will move through basic Java syntax very quickly.
We recommend all students to complete the optional introductory assignment by the beginning of the semester to get comfortable with Java and practice some of the programming skills expected by this class.
If you already have Java experience, great! We hope that you’ll help out your fellow students in discussion, lab, and on our class forum, particularly in the opening weeks when everyone is catching up on Java.
This is a course about data structures and programming methods. It happens to also teach Java, since it is hard to teach programming without a language. However, it is not intended as an exhaustive course on Java, creating Android apps, user interfaces, graphics, or any of that fun stuff.
Some of you may have already taken a data structures course, and simply want to learn Java or C++. For you, self-study may be a better option.
Finally, the 1-unit self-paced course CS 47B is for students with “sufficient partial credit in 61B,” allowing them (with instructor’s permission) to complete the CS 61B course requirement without taking the full course. The 47B guide is at this link.
Mental Health and Wellness #
As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, depression, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student’s ability to participate in daily activities. UC offers services to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. If you or someone you know are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, consider utilizing the confidential mental health services available on campus. We encourage you to reach out to the Counseling Center for support. An on campus counselor or after-hours clinician is available 24/7.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour number any student or faculty/staff person can call to speak with someone about suicide: (800) 273-TALK (8255).
UC Berkeley is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body including students with disabilities. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning in this course, please feel welcome to discuss your concerns with the instructors.
If you have a disability, or think you may have a disability, you can work with the Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) to request an official accommodation. The Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) is the campus office responsible for authorizing disability-related academic accommodations, in cooperation with the students themselves and their instructors. You can find more information about DSP, including contact information and the application process here. If you have already been approved for accommodations through DSP or are working through the process, please schedule a meeting with course staff so we can develop an implementation plan.
Course Format #
Lecture is scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2 to 3 PM in Dwinelle 155. Since the classroom is not large enough to allow all enrolled students to physically attend, lecture will be simultaneously webcast over Zoom.
Discussion sections are 1 hour long and feature a worksheet with problems reviewing the material learned in the past week. In discussion sections, TAs will help students review the material and solve the problems on the worksheet. Discussion sections will primarily be held in-person, though we may have limited remote options on Zoom.
Information about the staff running each section can be found on the staff page. We will not have section signups this term.
The schedule of all sections and lectures can be found at the bottom of our course website’s main page.
Discussion attendance is not mandatory.
Lab sections are 2 hours long and feature coding assignments that students submit for credit. In these sections, TAs will introduce the assignment, review relevant material, and answer students’ questions. In some weeks, Lab TAs will also go over the staff’s solution to the lab assignment. Lab sections are also supported by academic interns.
Labs will primarily be held in-person, though we may have limited remote options on Zoom.
Lab attendance is not mandatory, with the exception of two labs: Lab 6 (Project 1 Code Review) and Lab 15 (Project 3 Demos). These labs include an assignment for which you will need to get checked-off by a TA to receive credit.
Information about the staff running each section can be found on the staff page. We will not have section signups this term.
If you choose to not sign up for a lab to attend regularly, for the mandatory attendance labs, you will have the following options:
- Lab 6: You will be able to attend any lab that works with your schedule.
- Lab 15: There will be official sign ups for this checkoff, in which you and your partner will present the work you completed for Project 3. The signups will be available shortly before the last week of classes.
Office Hours #
In Office Hours, you can get help from our staff and academic interns with the different assignments, exam preparation, logistical matters, and any advice yo may need. We will hold both in-person and online office hours. You may also use lab sections to ask questions unrelated to lab.
We will hold Office Hours over Zoom. To learn more about how CS 61B Office Hours work, please read our Office Hours Guide. We will use the online Office Hours queue to keep track of students in Office Hours. Staff will always skip tickets on the queue that do not adhere to our Office Hours policies.
The course home page will provide one-stop shopping for course information. The course schedule as well as all handouts, homework, labs, FAQs, etc., will be posted there.
Discussion Forum #
Our discussion forum this semester will be Ed Discussions. For most questions about the course, Ed is the right place to ask them. The course staff reads it regularly, so you will get a quick answer. Furthermore, by posting online as opposed to emailing us directly, other students benefit by seeing the question and the answer. Don’t forget to check Ed before asking your question, just in case someone else has already posted it. If you have a question about something pertaining to your own code that shouldn’t be shared with the class, or if you have a question about a personal matter, you can make a private post on Ed, which will only be seen by Josh and the TAs.
Please read our Ed Guide and Policies. We will only respond to questions that adhere to our policies of using Ed.
Staff Email #
The e-mail address
cs61b (at) berkeley.edu will send a
message to the course staff (Josh and the head TAs). You can use it for
correspondence that you don’t want to seen on our class forum. The head TAs and
Josh all read it, so you will usually get a reply within a few days. If you
send a question that is of general interest, we may post the response on Ed
(we will keep personal information out of it, of course). If you have any
problems that require an exception to course policy (e.g. medical emergencies
or sudden necessary travel that result in extended absences), please contact
cs61b (at) berkeley.edu.
Please do not email Josh or course staff for exceptions. Email
cs61b (at) berkeley.edu.
Rather than using bcourses, we will be using our own custom learning management system called Beacon located at beacon.datastructur.es. You can use Beacon to keep track of your grades and late assignments. You can also read our full guide on Beacon here.
There is no required textbook for the class.
There is an online textbook written by myself and a large team of former TAs. It can be found at https://joshhug.gitbooks.io/hug61b. If you find these notes insufficient, you might consider consulting Paul Hilfinger’s (free) Java Reference or Head First Java, 2nd Edition by Sierra and Bates (O’Reilly, 2005). These are not required for the course. The optional textbook for the weeks 5-14 of the course is Algorithms, 4th Edition by Wayne and Sedgewick.
The official description of the Java core language is available online in The Java Language Specification (Java SE 17 Edition) by James Gosling, Bill Joy, Guy Steele, Gilad Bracha, Alex Buckley, Daniel Smith, and Gavin Bierman. It’s extremely thorough and precise, at the expense of being quite dense and technical. You will find the official Java 17 documentation to be useful as well
This official coding environment and text editor for the course is the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) called IntelliJ. While we will not enforce using IntelliJ, we strongly recommend it. We will not officially support any editing or programming environment other than IntelliJ.
This semester, we will use Java 17 (and therefore require at least IntelliJ 2021.2.1, though we recommend IntelliJ 2022.2).
You will be able to do any work you’d like on any Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux computer. You will set up your own computer in Lab 1.
We’ll be using the version-control system Git this semester with private repositories on GitHub. Version-control systems allow you to maintain a series of “snapshots” of your files at various points in their development. Used properly, this provides you some back-up protection, so that you can recover previous states of your work when something goes wrong. Also for team-oriented projects (as well as in the real world), version-control systems help manage collaborative work.
There are five required aspects of the course for which you earn points:
- Weekly Surveys
- Lab Assignments
Weekly Surveys #
While lecture and section attendance is not required, nor even expected, we do expect you to stay up to date with material. To help us keep track of your progress and sentiment about the course, there will be 13 weekly surveys due on Mondays at 11:59 PM.
Submitting 10 weekly surveys will receive full credit (i.e. you can skip 3). Submitting more will not yield extra credit.
Lab Assignments #
There are 14 weeks of lab in the course.
During Phase I of the course (Weeks 1 through 5), labs will provide you with help getting your computer set up and teach you how to use essential Java programming tools, and will also include a peer code review after we’re done with Project 1.
During Phases II and III of the course (Weeks 6 - 14), labs will usually involve implementation of some data structure or algorithm described in lecture. All labs should take no more than two hours to complete, though some may run slightly longer. You will turn in everything electronically using GitHub, and your results will be available on Gradescope.
Labs are graded according to autograder tests on Gradescope. There are no hidden tests for which your score is not displayed, though we may have tests which you do not have access to.
Out of the 14 labs, only 10 will entail an assignment you need to submit. Each of these 10 labs will be worth 128 points (for a total of 1280 points).
You do not need to attend lab to receive credit for lab, with the exception of two specific assignments (see above).
This semester, we are not allowing lab partners for lab assignments. We do encourage you to discuss ideas (see the Lab Collaboration policy), but the code you submit should be your own.
No labs will be dropped, though we have a generous lateness policy.
There are 4 required homework assignments in the course.
We have three kinds of homework:
- HW 1 is a homework about being a good classmate in CS courses. It is intended to set the norms for the course, and remind us as to how we can respect and include all members of the Berkeley community in CS 61B.
- Conceptual assignments due shortly before each exam to help you study for the exams. They will be available on Gradescope and include a combination of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blanks questions. You can expect to have to work out these problems on paper before filling in your answer on Gradescope.
- Programming homeworks, which will be similar to labs.
Each homework will be worth 480 points (for a total of 1920 points).
No homeworks will be dropped, though we have a generous lateness policy.
In addition to the HWs and labs, there will be 4 programming projects. In these projects you will build an entire system. All projects except project 3 must be completed on your own.
Project 0 and 1 will be relatively easier than projects 2 and 3, taking less time and with greater levels of scaffolding. Project 2 is new. Project 3 will be a capstone project in which you will design a project from scratch. Depending on how ambitious you are, it might end up being much more work than Project 2.
Each project has a specific theme:
- Project 0 (2048): Introduction to Java
- Project 1 (Deques): Basic Design, Testing, and Code Review
- Project 2 (Ngordnet): Design, Large Scale Implementation
- Project 3 (BYOW): Large Scale Design
Projects will have different grader release schedule and restrictions on the number of allowed submissions per a time interval. Full grader details will be provided on the release of each project.
Projects 0, 1, 2, and 3 will be worth 1280, 1280, 3200, and 3200 points respectively.
Project 3 #
As Project 3 is a large-scale design project, it will be have some differences from the other three projects.
Project 3 will have a synchronous checkoff portion.
For Project 3, all students will be required to work with a partner. You will either be able to choose a partner to work with or request to be paired up with another student who has similar working habits and goals as you.
One of the main goals of CS 61B is to give you the tools to become a successful software engineer, one of which is the ability to work effectively with others. Barring extreme circumstances, we will not approve for students to officially work alone on Project 3. If you think you have a compelling reason for working alone on Project 3, we will release a form that you can fill out closer to the release of the project (keep an eye on Ed for this) - we will let you know if your request is approved shortly before the release of Project 3.
Full details on partnerships can be found here.
There will be two evening midterms:
- Week 4, Wednesday 9/14, 7-9 PM
- Week 9, Thursday 10/20, 7-9 PM
There is also a final exam Thursday 12/15, 3-6 PM.
CS 61B exams will by default be in-person, though you may request a proctored remote exam. Proctoring details will be released closer to the exam.
You will have the option to request an alternate, but we make no guarantees about being able to accommodate the rest of your schedule. Alternate details will be determined closer to the exam.
Midterm 1 grades will be unavailable before the drop deadline. If you’re a prospective CS major and you are worried about dropping the course in the time before the drop deadline, please reach out to course staff for advice.
Final Exam Percentile Clobbering #
For those of you who miss an exam, have a bad night, or make major improvements over the semester, the exam clobbering policy gives you a chance to replace potentially both of your midterm exam scores.
Specifically, if it helps your score, we will replace your midterm scores by their “final percentile equivalent” (FPE). For example, suppose you score in the bottom quartile of midterm 1 (i.e. earn a score in the bottom 25%) and don’t even take midterm 2. Later, you improve significantly and earn the median score (i.e. you are at the 50th percentile) on the final. In this case, we will replace your midterm 1 and midterm 2 score by the medians for each exam, respectively.
Percentiles will be based on the grades before this policy is applied. In other words, we will not recalculate the statistics for midterm 1 and midterm 2 for the purposes of implementing this policy.
The final exam percentile clobbering policy will only be applied if it helps your score. For example, if you score the median on both midterms, but then have a bad day and do terribly on the final, we will not change your midterm scores.
While this does mechanism introduce a bit of “curving” to the class, in practice it does not turn the class into a competition. Our grading bins are still fixed, a vast majority of the points are not subject to this mechanism, and the impact tends to be relatively small for most students.
In theory, it would be nice to have a mechanism that avoids use any statistics, e.g. simply replacing your midterm 1 and midterm 2 score by the final grade if it’s higher, in practice it is very difficult to get all 3 exam medians (and variances) to line up. Therefore, we use a percentile clobbering policy as described above.
Extra Credit #
Extra credit is very limited in this course, because we would rather you achieve your grade by demonstrating your knowledge on the assignments and exams. That said, here are a few:
- Pre-semester survey (64 points)
- Mid-semester survey (64 points)
- End-of-semester survey (64 points)
- Official university course evals (up to 64 points)
We may add additional extra credit, but do not expect us to do so.
Your letter grade will be determined by the total points out of the possible 25,600. In other words, there is no curving in this course, other than the clobbering policy above. Your grade will depend on how well you do relative to the bins, and not on how well everyone else does. Unlike other lower division CS courses, the grading bins for 61B generally do not get tweaked at the end of the semester, though this semester we did do a mid-semester tweak on 10/24.
These bins were designed to comply with departmental guidelines that the average GPA for a lower-division required course be in the range 2.8 - 3.3 (including students who drop or take the class for a P/NP grade). The design process involved setting of specific standards we expect students to achieve for the A, B, and C bins, with numbers adjusted and other bins interpolated based on a model that we built of predicted student performance based on previous semesters.
This semester, midterm 1 and midterm 2 were not as well calibrated as they should have been, leading to lower than expected scores. To compensate, significant bin redesigns were set on 10/24/2022.
Since the class is not curved, and we provide all the grading details above, occasionally students will only be “a few points away” from the next grading bin after they receive their final total points value. Please do not contact us in this case. We cannot “round up” your grade or give you credit for work you did not complete. If you ever find yourself unable to complete an assignment, please refer to our friendly lateness policy (details below), or contact us before the deadline.
We will grant grades of Incomplete 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. Do not try to get an incomplete simply as a way to have more time to study or do a project. That is contrary to University policy. Before requesting an Incomplete grade, please contact a college advisor or review your college’s Incomplete grade policies to understand if this is a right option for you.
Collaboration and Academic Misconduct #
Deadlines can be stressful, and we know that under extreme pressure, it becomes tempting to start rationalizing actions that you would otherwise consider inappropriate. Perhaps you’ll find yourself facing a CS 61B project deadline, and under all this stress you’ll convince yourself that you’re just going to cheat for the moment so you can get the points, and that you’ll come back later and really learn the thing you were supposed to have learned in order to restore your karmic balance (I’ve heard something along these lines a few times).
Please don’t do this. We care that you learn the material, and that your grade reflects your learning, regardless of the timeline. If you feel that you need to engage in academic misconduct to meet a deadline, please reach out to course staff.
Academic misconduct on any homework, lab or project will result in requiring you to resubmit the assignment, along with a report to the Center of Student Conduct. A second instance of plagiarism on a homework, lab, or project will result in an F in the course. All incidents of plagiarism will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct, including carelessly leaving code up on GitHub. Given our friendly lateness policy (see below), there will be no exceptions to this rule.
During the Spring 2017 semester, we compiled a series of incident reports written by students who were caught plagiarizing. If you find yourself tempted to cheat, you might turn to the words of others who have made the wrong choice for guidance.
Homework and Lab Collaboration #
The entire point of homework and labs is to learn. For homework or labs, you should feel free to collaborate with others however you choose, though keep in mind that greater independence is likely to give you a better learning experience (as long as you aren’t totally stuck). Even though we will allow close collaborations on HW and labs, the solutions you submit should still be your own work! Identical or near identical submissions will be treated as plagiarism.
Project Collaboration #
By contrast, the projects were designed not just for learning (particularly how to be self-reliant in the context of large unfamiliar systems), but also for the dual purpose of evaluating your mastery of the course material. As such, they are intended to be completed primarily on your own (or with your partner on the last project), particularly when it comes to writing the actual code.
Exam Misconduct #
For exams, we will be absolutely unforgiving. Any incident will result in a failing grade for the course, though Berkeley will let you retake CS 61B next semester. As above, all incidents of cheating will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.
Academic Misconduct #
What constitutes cheating? The golden rule of academic dishonesty is that you should not claim to be responsible for work that is not yours.
This is obviously open to some interpretation, and you’ll be getting some help from instructors, the internet, other students, and more throughout the course. This is OK, and we hope that the class is an open, welcoming, collaborative environment where we can help each other build the highest possible understanding of the course material.
To help (but not entirely define) the bounds of acceptable behavior, we have three important rules for coding assignments:
By You Alone: All code that you submit (other than skeleton code) should be written by you and your partner alone, except for small snippets that solve tiny subproblems (examples in the Permitted section below).
Do Not Possess or Share Code: Before you’ve submitted your final work, you should never be in possession of solution code that you (or your partner) did not write. Looking up solution code online is effectively possessing solution code.
You will be equally culpable if you distribute such code to other student or future students of 61B (within reason). DO NOT GIVE ANYONE YOUR CODE – EVEN IF THEY ARE DESPERATELY ASKING. DO NOT POST SOLUTIONS ONLINE (on GitHub or anywhere else)! If you’re not sure what you’re doing is OK, please ask.
Cite Your Sources: When you receive significant assistance on a coding assignment from someone else, you should cite that assistance somewhere in your source code with the
@sourcetag as described in Lab 1. We leave it to you to decide what constitutes ‘significant’. However, citing does not change the extent of collaboration or reference allowed.
For clarity, some examples of specific activities are listed below:
- High-level discussion of approaches for solving a problem.
- Giving away or receiving significant conceptual ideas towards a problem solution. Such help should be cited as comments in your code. For the sake of other’s learning experience, we ask that you try not to give away anything juicy, and instead try to lead people to such solutions.
- Discussion of specific syntax issues and bugs in your code.
- Using small snippets of code that you find online for solving tiny problems (e.g. googling “uppercase string java” may lead you to some sample code that you copy and paste into your solution). Such usages should be cited as comments in your HW, lab, and especially project code!
Permitted with Extreme Caution:
- Looking at someone else’s project code to understand a particular idea or part of a project. This is strongly discouraged due to the danger of plagiarism, but not absolutely forbidden. We are very serious about the “By You Alone” rule!
- Working on a project alongside another person or group of people. Your code should not substantially resemble anyone else’s!
- Use of GitHub Copilot / GPT3 / etc. If you’re just generating some amount of boilerplate code, that’s ok. However, you should not use such tools to generate non-trivial methods. We are trying to build your fundamental skills, and leaning on an AI is going to cause you trouble in circumstances where you don’t have an AI to help, such as exams. Any AI generated code must be cited and explicitly commented as such. Violation of this citation rule is a serious act of plagiarism.
- Typing or dictacting code into someone else’s computer is a violation of the “By You Alone” rule.
- Possessing another student’s code in any form before a final deadline, be it electronic or on paper. This includes the situation where you’re trying to help someone debug. Distributing such code is equally forbidden.
- Possessing solution code that you did not write yourself (from online (e.g. GitHub), staff solution code found somewhere on a server it should not have been, etc.) before a final deadline. Distributing such code is equally forbidden. Looking at solution code online counts as possessing code.
- Posting solution code to any assignment in a public place (e.g. a public git repository, Google Drive, Discord, etched into stones above the Mediterranean, etc). This applies even after the semester is over.
- Working in lock-step with other students. Your workflow should not involve a group of people identifying, tackling, and effectively identically solving a sequence of subproblems.
We have advanced cheating detection software, and we will routinely run this code to detect cheating. Every semester, we catch and penalize a significant number of people (roughly 100 cases per semester). Do not be one of them. If you find yourself at such a point of total desperation that cheating begins to look attractive, contact one of the instructors. Likewise, if 61B is causing massive disruption to your personal life, please contact us directly.
If you admit guilt to an act of plagiarism before we catch you, you will receive the same penalty (redoing the assignment), but we will not refer your case to the Center of Student Conduct. However, we would strongly prefer that you ask us for additional time before opting to plagiarize. You do not need to admit guilt to ask for additional time.
Obviously, the expressive power of Java is a subset of the English language. And yes, you can obviously obey the letter of this entire policy while completely violating its spirit. However, this policy is not a game to be defeated, and such circumventions will be seen as plagiarism.
If you would like to review our academic misconduct resolution procedures, you can find them here.
The expected deadlines for each assignment are posted on the class website. Our assumption is that you will complete each assignment by its due date. The course content builds on itself, and not completing an assignment will make it more much difficult to complete later assignments and do well on exams.
However, we understand that you may be busy, tired, or experiencing a crisis. We would like your grade to reflect what you demonstrate proficiency in and accomplish in the class, and have designed this lateness policy to achieve that as much as possible. Your health, safety, and well-being are the priority, and should not affect what your grade indicates you have learned.
We will be using slip tokens this term. You may receive credit for work submitted after the deadline by applying slip tokens in Beacon in the Extensions tab. Each slip token used will allow you to receive credit for a submission one additional day (24 hours) past the deadline. You cannot use partial slip tokens. You may use slip tokens at any point, including after the original deadline.
You will begin the term with 9 slip tokens, and do not naturally gain more as the term goes on. You may use at most 4 slip tokens in total on a single assignment, to extend a due date by at most 4 days.
- Need more tokens
- Have a circumstance where you anticipate using many tokens
cs61b (at) berkeley.edu. We want to see you
succeed, and will work with you to figure out how you can continue to
complete work and get credit for work you’ve completed.
- Need to apply for an extension beyond 4 days (the limit for slip tokens)
Please fill out the extension request form on beacon.
Some assignments will allow using fewer late tokens, or no late tokens at all:
- Surveys may not be extended.
- Conceptual homeworks may not be extended, as we will release solutions as exam prep.
- Project 3 Phase 2 may not be extended, as it is difficult to arrange late project presentations.
If you have extenuating circumstances regarding these
assignments, please email
cs61b (at) berkeley.edu to discuss
Auditing CS61B #
This is for students who are unofficially auditing this class. Maybe you are a non-Berkeley student who wants to brush up on your programming knowledge or even a high school student who wants to get a head start on your programming career. If this sounds interesting to you, we have set up a public autograder for the Spring 2021 version of the course.
To get everything set up, go to Gradescope and select the “Add a course” button. Enter course code MB7ZPY to be added. You will not be given a student repo, so you will have to create your own on GitHub in order to submit assignments. After you complete setup and lab1, you will also have access to all the code for the class.
That’s all you have to do! All lectures, worksheets, and specs will be available on the Spring 2021 Website. Important: you should be using the Spring 2021 skeleton, website, and gradescope. You will not be using any resources from this current semester. Every term we change assignments and lectures up a little bit, so make sure to stick to the Spring 2021 verion of things.
Some course handout material derived from previous terms, professors, and GSIs.