Illinois CS Proficiency Exams

If you have already mastered the material covered in certain Illinois Computer Science courses, you may receive credit and satisfy prerequisites by taking a proficiency exam. Here you will find details about how to prepare and sign up for Illinois CS proficiency exams.

Overview

Proficiency exams are similar in coverage and scope to a comprehensive final exam. They are intended to ensure that you are well-prepared for later courses in the same subject area. Passing criteria are at the discretion of each course instructor.

Scheduling

Written proficiency exams are offered two times each fall and spring semester:

  • the 1st week,
  • and in the 8th week (immediately following the drop deadline).

Courses that give computer-based proficiency exams in the Computer-Based Testing Facility (CBTF) generally offer their exams during a window of time around the same time as the written exams are offered, but may also offer exams at other times. Please consult the course-specific information below to determine whether the proficiency exam you want to take is written or computer-based.

Next Written Proficiency Exam Dates and Times

The Spring 2020 early-semester written proficiency exam will be held Tuesday January 21st, 2020 from 7–10PM in a location to be announced, but probably in Siebel 1404.

Note that most proficiency exams are three hours in length. If you need extra time, please make arrangements to take the exam at DRES.

You must arrive on time to take a proficiency exam. If you arrive late you will not be seated.

Next Computer-Based Proficiency Exam Dates and Times

The Computer-Based Testing Facility (CBTF) will open times the week of January 21st, 2020, for the Spring 2020 early-semester proficiency exams. Specific dates and times to follow.

General Restrictions

In certain cases you may not be eligible to take a proficiency exam. You are responsible for understanding these conditions. We will not attempt to determine whether you are eligible to take a proficiency exam before you sit for it. You will only find out later that you will not receive credit. So please review these restrictions carefully.

  1. You may not take a proficiency exam for a course that you have already received a grade for. This is true even if it was a failing grade.
  2. You may only take each proficiency exam once in a 12-month period. So, once you sit for a proficiency exam, you must wait a full year to retake the same exam. If you sit for the same exam before the year is up, your score will not be counted. This restriction applies both to written proficiency exams and to ones given in the CBTF.
  3. You may not take a proficiency exam if you have taken more than one later course in the same area. For example, you may not take the CS 173 Proficiency Exam if you have already taken both CS 225 and CS 374, since they constitute two courses in the same area. Instead of taking the proficiency exam, you may be required to substitute other later courses to fulfill your degree requirements.
  4. Graduate students generally may only take Illinois Computer Science proficiency exams when required to satisfy other degree programs. Please contact the CS academic office to obtain permission if needed.

Other course-specific restrictions may also apply. Please consult the information below specific to the proficiency exams you plan to take for more details.

Taking Your Proficiency Exam

To take a written proficiency exam simply show up at one of the scheduled exam times. To take a computer-based proficiency exam you must schedule a time with the CBTF. You must bring your University of Illinois ID to the proficiency exam, if you have one. If you show up late or without proper identification, you will not be able to sit for the exam.

You may attempt multiple different proficiency exams during one written exam sitting. However, each exam period finishes promptly at the times indicated above, so you will need to work quickly to complete multiple exams in the time allotted.

Receiving Your Results

If the exam is written, it may take several days before your exam is graded. You will receive your proficiency exam results directly from the instructor supervising the exam. If the exam is given in the CBTF you may receive your results immediately.

Information for Students with Disabilities

We will accommodate any disabilities that have been registered with the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES). Please use their online application to notify them of your disability and register for support services. If you are new to the University of Illinois you should begin this process as soon as you are admitted.

You should make arrangements to take your proficiency exam in the DRES testing center by contacting proficiency‑exams@lists.cs.illinois.edu. In your email be sure to indicate which proficiency exam (or exams) you wish to take, and include a copy of your DRES letter documenting your accommodations.

Questions or Concerns

If you have questions not covered here, or on the course-specific pages below, please start a conversation on the CS Advising Piazza Forum. That is the best way to have your questions answered quickly. Please avoid contacting the course instructors directly.

Course-Specific Information

Please review the information below for any proficiency exams you plan to take.

CS 101: Introduction to Computing for Engineering and Science

Sign-Up Process

Note that you must both schedule your exam using the CBTF scheduler and also enroll in the “ CS 101 Proficiency Exam” course on RELATE.

  1. Log on to the CBTF scheduling site.
  2. Press the “Add a class” button and add the “Proficiency Exams” course.
  3. Click the “CS 101” exam in the “Proficiency Exams” course and reserve a time.
  4. Log on to RELATE using your @illinois.edu email address. We will not give credit to students that take the exam using a non-university email address.
  5. Enroll in the “CS 101 Proficiency Exam” course.
  6. When you visit the testing center the proficiency exam will be visible.

CS 105: Introduction to Computing for Non-Technical Majors

Note that the following information was not provided by the instructor and so may be incorrect. Contact the CS 105 Admin (cs105admin@illinois.edu) for more updated information.

CS 125: Introduction to Computer Science

  • Format: computer-based (Java), paper (C++)
  • Length: 3 hours
  • Location: CBTF
  • Date and Time: see above for Java and C++
  • More Information: is available on the CS 125 website.

Note that there are two versions of the CS 125 proficiency exam: one with programming questions and code reading questions in Java given in the CBTF, and a second with them in C++ given on paper. If you are a CS major and want to continue to CS 126 you must take the proficiency exam in Java. CS 126 assumes that incoming students are familiar with Java, and students that are not have struggled. If you are proficient in another programming language and strong enough to start in CS 126, you should not have trouble learning enough Java to pass the proficiency exam.

Other students may take the proficiency exam in either Java or C++ depending on which language you are more familiar with. However, you may still not take both in the same semester.

Sign-Up Process: Java Exam

Note that you must both schedule your exam using the CBTF scheduler and also enroll in the “ CS 125: Introduction to Computer Science, Proficiency Exam” course on PrairieLearn.

  1. Log on to the CBTF scheduling site.
  2. Press the “Add a class” button and add the “Proficiency Exams” course.
  3. Click the “CS 125” exam in the “Proficiency Exams” course and reserve a time.
  4. Log on to PrairieLearn using your @illinois.edu email address. We will not give credit to students that take the exam using a non-university email address.
  5. Enroll in the “CS 125: Introduction to Computer Science, Proficiency Exam” course. This is the same course with the practice problems and practice exam available publicly. Once you are in the CBTF you will be able to view and complete the official proficiency exam.
  6. When you visit the testing center the proficiency exam will be visible.

Sign-Up Process: C++ Exam

If you want to take the C++ CS 125 Proficiency Exam simply show up for one of the two written proficiency exam times. As a reminder, passing the C++ CS 125 Proficiency Exam does not allow you to continue on to CS 126. CS majors must take the Java version of the proficiency exam.

CS 173: Discrete Structures

Note that you may not take the CS 173 Proficiency Exam after taking CS 225 and CS 374, since these constitute two other courses in the same area.

CS 225: Data Structures