How to Pass

Version 1.02–July 29, 2007

Each of the AST BBST® courses will be evaluated by other students and by instructor(s).

Each course will include several assessments, such as exams, labs and assignments. Each assessment has its own primary objective. Here are common examples of what we might be trying to achieve with a specific assignment:

  • make a pass/fail decision about student performance that will be published in some way
  • help the student identify strengths and gaps in knowledge and skill
  • give the student practice working through a certain type of problem or task
  • help the instructor understand where the course is failing to motivate the students or to help them learn
  • motivate the students to spend a little more time, effort or attention on favored tasks

Normally, to pass the course, you must participate appropriately (add value to the course with your participation), submit reasonably good assignment(s) and exam(s), and provide reasonable assessments of other students’ work.


We do have expectations for your participation in online discussions, including the comments you make when you grade someone else’s work. For example:


Assignments vary widely. For example:

  • In the Bug Advocacy course, one assignment simply has you register as a developer in an open source software project and search the bug tracking database for open bugs. This doesn’t require much knowledge or skill; it’s just a task that must be done to enable the next assignments.
  • A much more complex assignment in Specification-Based Testing points students to a complex, contradictory group of specifications for a feature and requires the student to make sense of it using the Heuristic Test Strategy Model. The student demonstrates understanding of the specification, in terms of the model, by drawing a detailed concept map. This requires knowledge of the model, skill in active reading and modeling, and a lot of analytical work using active reading techniques.

It is impossible to write one set of guidelines that adequately describes our grading expectations for all of the assignments. There are some common themes, and we have developed a generic rubric that sets out baseline expectations that apply to most assignments.

Another expectation that applies to all assignments is that what you submit is your work and is not plagiarized from any other source. Please review our plagiarism policy.

Please note that group work on assignments is often welcome in the BBST® course, but:

  • the instructor will specify when group work is welcome. The default rule is that all work that you submit is your own, done without help from anyone else;
  • if a group submits an assignment, all of them should submit it together and it should list the names of everyone who worked on it;
  • if you get help from someone who is not in the course, you should acknowledge their help in the assignment.

In addition to these general expectations, we will describe grading expectations for each assignment. However, as you get more experienced, we will expect you to be able to structure your answers yourself and so instructions in later courses will be less detailed.

Exams (and their Study Guides)

In many of the courses (perhaps all of them), the instructor will provide a study guide that includes a set of possible exam questions. The actual questions on the final exam will be drawn from this study guide.

  • We encourage you to study for the exam with friends, to research your answers to the exam questions, to write drafts of your answers in advance and collect comments from your colleagues.
  • Because you have the exam questions well before the exam, we expect examination answers to be well written. That is, they should be:
    • clearly organized
    • directly responsive to the question that was asked
    • focused on the question that was asked, without discussing issues that were not asked.
  • We provide a video with a detailed example of our grading style, grading four very different answers to one question:
  • It is a good idea to create an outline of your answer before writing out the complete answer. This will help you clarify and focus your thinking.
    • Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab’s useful tutorial on writing a research paper includes excellent information on the how and why of outlines.
    • For more information on outlines, please visit this web page on outlines from Indiana University.
  • We expect you to answer the exam itself without help, without pasting any part of any answer that you created for the exam while studying, and more generally without referring to or using any notes or any other sources when you answer the exam. We also expect that, if the exam specifies a time limit for writing the exam, you will stop writing before the limit expires. The reason for the time limit is that we set a grading structure on the assumption that you can only write so thorough an answer in a specified amount of time.
    • Using sources or getting assistance of any kind when you write the exam is cheating.
    • Writing the exam for longer than the allowed time is also cheating.
    • If the instructor discovers that you cheated on the exam, you will fail the course.

Overall Assessment Strategy

Here are some working notes on the strategy of assessment in the software testing course. They are rough guides to the thinking behind the academic version of the course. We’re writing a clearer discussion, with data, but that won’t be ready until it’s ready…

Final Evaluation

In each course, the final pass/fail decision is a subjective judgment made by the lead instructor. Our goal is to pass most students in every class. However, a student is likely to fail if he or she:

  • does not submit a critical assignment or exam
  • does not submit thoughtful assessments of peer work by the course deadline

Some assignments can be done by groups; other work, such as exams, must be done by you, on your own. We cannot watch you as you write your exam, so it is possible for students to cheat. If the instructor has grounds to believe that a student has cheated on an exam, he can expel that student from the course. Students who are expelled from any BBST® course may not be allowed to enroll in other BBST® courses offered by AST.

When you pass the course, the instructor will email you an electronic copy of a certificate of completion, which you may print. In addition, AST will publish a list of students who have passed this course. You will be asked whether you want your name published on that list or not.