L103: Coursework L103


Coursework and grading

Coursework includes examinations, homework assignments, and participation in discussion sections. Examinations have two kinds of questions, "level-1" and "level-2", which are graded differently. See below for the differences. This table summarizes the point breakdown for the course.

Exams Level-1 topics 60%
Level-2 topics 15%
Homework 20%
Discussion 5%

Both homework and exams will normally be posted, submitted, and graded using Annotate. You will have a chance to get familiar with Annotate in Homework 0, which will not be graded. If you are using a Windows computer, you should only use Netscape, not Explorer, for Annotate. It should work in Explorer, as well as Netscape, on a Macintosh. When you go to the Annotate site, you will be prompted for your network id and password. Once you are in Annotate, you should use its "Back" button rather than the "Back" button in the browser, which will be disabled. For each "project" (homework or exam), you will need to write your answers in a file using a word processing programming. Make a separate paragraph for each answer, and save your answers as text. Then when you go to Annotate and select the project, you will be prompted to upload the file and submit it. Be sure you click on the "Submit" button after uploading the file. If you want to make sure your assignment has been submitted, you can go back and view it later.

Examinations (75% of grade)

Regular examinations

There will be four examinations, weighted roughly equally, during the semester. Each will be a "take-home" examination, made available on the Web at the Annotate site on either a Monday or a Wednesday after class (see the calendar for the dates). You will have until midnight that day to do the exam. You will submit your answers using Annotate. You are allowed to consult any of your notes or the materials on the Web but of course not any other person in answering the questions.

Final examination

The final examination, unlike the others, will be in-class. It will cover the last unit and important topics from the rest of the course (see Examination Topics below).

Examination topics

The topics covered in the course are divided into two groups for purposes of grading. Level-1 topics are those that we feel are so important that without mastering them you cannot be said to have studied basic linguistics. Each level-1 topic will have one or more specific types of problems associated with it that you will need to be able to solve. All level-1 topics will be covered in the lectures and in homework assignments. Level-2 topics are all important aspects of language and linguistics, but they are somewhat less basic than the level-1 topics. Questions on level-2 topics will be more open-ended, and some of the level-2 topics will be covered only in the readings. Topics and problem types will be clearly distinguished in the lectures and discussions as being level-1 or level-2.

Each exam (except make-up exams) will cover both kinds of topics. The final exam will cover level-2 topics from the last unit and level-1 topics from the rest of the course. Exam questions on level-1 topics will be very similar to homework problems; that is, it should be easy to study for these questions. Questions on level-2 topics will vary more.

Without answering all of the level-1 topics correctly, it will be difficult to get a B in the course, and without answering at least four of them, it will be impossible to pass the course. On the other hand, if you answer only the level-1 questions correctly (and get a grade of Adequate on the homework and discussion participation), you will get a B. The level-2 questions (as well as the points for homework and discussion participation) can make the difference between a D and a C or between a B and an A.

You will have three chances to "pass" the level-1 topics. There will be two make-up examinations, one in the eleventh, the other in the fifteenth week of class. The make-up exams are only for those who have not passed the level-1 topics, and you will answer only questions for the topics you have not passed. The final exam is your third chance to pass the level-1 topics. The table below summarizes the kinds of questions that appear on each exam.

  Level-1 Level-2
new repeated
Regular exams X
Make-up exams
Final exam

Homework (20% of grade)

The purpose of the homework assignments is to practice the material covered in the lectures and the textbook. You will probably not be able to pass any of the exams without doing the homework assignments. There will be an assignment each week when there is no exam, due at midnight on Friday. In the discussion sections, you will have a chance to ask about the week's assignment, and you will be expected to have at least attempted it before your discussion section. As noted in the section on procedures, you are allowed, in fact encouraged, to collaborate with other students on the homework assignments, and if you do, you only need to submit one paper (but if the assignment is submitted under somebody else's name, you should indicate under your name in Annotate where it can be found).

The assignments will be posted on the calendar.

Discussion (5% of grade)

Your grade for the discussion section will be based on your attendance and participation in your section.


The first thing to know about grading in the course is that there is no penalty for missing a question on an exam. All that matters for your final grade is what you have answered correctly.

Level-1 exam topics

Sixty percent of your grade in the course is based on your knowledge of the level-1 topics, so you should concentrate on learning these. For each of these topics, we will keep track of whether you have "passed" it or not. To pass a level-1 topic, you need to answer all parts of a question on the topic on an exam correctly. There is no partial credit for these topics. As described above, you will have three opportunities to pass each level-1 topic, on a regular exam, a make-up exam, and the final exam.

The grading scheme for level-1 topics is a bit strange; it is designed to encourage you strongly to master all of these basic concepts. Your score for the level-1 topics depends only on how many of these you have passed, not on which topics you have passed. The first five you pass are worth 5 points each, the next two worth 10 points each, and the eighth worth 15 points, 60 points in all. That is, you are rewarded for passing all of the level-1 topics. Note that it will be difficult to get a B without passing all eight questions, difficult to get a C without answering at least seven of them, and impossible to pass (that is, to get at least a D-) without passing at least four of them. The table summarizes the grading scheme for level-1 topics.

1 topic 5 points
2 topics 10 (5 + 5) points
3 topics 15 (10 + 5) points
4 topics 20 (15 + 5) points
5 topics 25 (20 + 5) points
6 topics 35 (25 + 10) points
7 topics 45 (35 + 10) points
8 topics 60 (45 + 15) points

Level-2 exam topics

Each of the four regular exams and the final exam will include questions covering level-2 topics. Unlike level-1 topics, level-2 topics will appear only once in the exams. Each regular exam and the final exam include level-2 questions only on the material covered in the last unit. You will receive 1 point for each of the level-2 questions you answer correctly; you will not be penalized for any you answer incorrectly. There is no partial credit for level-2 questions. Although the maximum level-2 points possible is 15, the total for all of the level-2 questions will be about 20. So even if you miss some of the level-2 questions, you could still receive the maximum.

Details of exam grading

The answers will normally be added to the exam itself soon after the exam is due. Before checking on your grade for the exam, you should look at the answers. You can find exams on this page.

After an exam has been graded, you can find your grade in Annotate. If you miss a question, we will only make comments if we think it is not obvious, given the answers that are posted for the exam, so don't expect to see the answers in Annotate too.

Remember that in this class you start with 0, and points are only added; nothing is subtracted. Each level-1 question is either right or wrong. We will be fairly lenient in grading level-1 questions, but you have to get all of the parts right to "pass" the question. On your exam at the bottom, for each level-1 question, we'll write "Pass" or "No Pass". In addition to how many of these questions you pass, of course we will also keep track of which ones you've passed. We'll be stricter with level-2 questions. Depending on how many level-2 questions there are on an exam, each one will be worth either 1 point or 1/2 point. On your exam at the bottom, we will write the total number of level-2 points you have gotten credit for on this exam; usually the maximum will be around 4.

If you do not understand a mistake you have made, it is up to you to discuss it with us (in e-mail or office hours). This is especially important for level-1 questions; before the make-up exam, you will need to figure out why you made the mistake.


On homework assignments, you will be graded only for whether you have seriously attempted the assignment, not for the correctness of your answers. Two of your 10 homework grades will be dropped in figuring your final homework grade. That is, you will receive the full 20 points for the homework if you have seriously attempted all but two of the homework assignments.


Your discussion instructor will keep track of your attendance and participation in the discussion sections. The maximum points for this part of your grade are 5.

What will not count

Finally, though I'm sure the great majority of you already know this, it is worth mentioning that your grade will be based only on the work that you do, not on the grade that you believe you need in the course or on the degree of hardship that you have endured during the semester. Please don't mention these irrelevant factors or ask to "discuss" your grade; grades are calculated, not negotiated. Any other approach is unfair to those who don't complain.

Course grade

Here is the grade breakdown for different point totals.

100 A+
91-99.9 A
90-90.9 A-
89-89.9 B+
81-88.9 B
80-80.9 B-
79-79.9 C+
71-78.9 C
70-70.9 C-
69-69.9 D+
61-68.9 D
60-60.9 D-
<60 F

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