Podlipnig, S. (2022). A Four-year Study of a Placement Exam for an Introductory Programming Course. In SIGCSE 2022: Proceedings of the 53rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education - Volume 1 (pp. 920–926). https://doi.org/10.1145/3478431.3499321
Introductory programming courses can be challenging due to heterogeneous student backgrounds. While novice programmers find even basic contents very demanding, experienced programmers are not sufficiently challenged. Having both novice and experienced programmers attend the same lab exercise can have a negative impact on novice programmers' self-efficacy. To create a better teaching environment for students, two different tracks were introduced in our introductory programming course, one for beginners and one for advanced students. Incoming students are offered a voluntary exam that can be used to obtain a place in the advanced track. Only one course is held throughout the semester but the advanced track does not begin lab exercises until the middle of the semester. This paper outlines the design and implementation of our course and its placement exam. It describes how, over the past four years, internal factors such as student feedback and grades, as well as external factors such as COVID-19, have influenced the design of the placement exam. Various statistics collected during this period are analysed and compared with results from the CEd literature.