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Preliminary Examination in Computer Science


  • 1. The subject of the examination shall be Computer Science.

  • 2. The syllabus and number of papers shall be prescribed by regulation from time to time by the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Board.


  • 1. The Preliminary Examination in Computer Science shall comprise four compulsory written papers plus compulsory Computer Science practicals equivalent to one written paper:

    • CS1 Functional Programming, and Design and Analysis of Algorithms

    • CS2 Imperative Programming

    • CS3 Discrete Mathematics, Probability and Continuous Mathematics

    • CS4 Digital Systems, Linear Algebra, and Introduction to Formal Proof

    • Computer Science Practicals

  • 2. The syllabus for each paper will be published by the Department of Computer Science in a handbook for candidates by the beginning of the Michaelmas Full Term in the academic year of the examination, after consultation with the Faculty of Mathematics (for paper CS3). Each paper will contain questions of a straightforward character.

  • 3. All candidates will be assessed as to their practical ability under the following provisions:

    • (a) The Head of the Department of Computer Science, or a deputy, shall make available to the examiners evidence showing the extent to which each candidate has pursued an adequate course of practical work. Only that work completed and marked by  the submission date given in the Course Handbook shall be included in these records.

    • (b) Candidates shall submit their reports of practical exercises completed during their course of study as described in their Course Handbook by the date given in the Course Handbook.

    • (c) The examiners shall take the evidence (a) and the reports (b) into account in assessing a candidate's performance.

    • (d) Candidates whose overall performance on practical work is not satisfactory may be deemed to have failed the examination.

  • 4. Candidates shall be deemed to have passed the examination if they have satisfied the examiners in the five papers in clause 1 either at a single examination or at two examinations in accordance with clause 6 or clause 7.

  • 5. The examiners may award a distinction to candidates of special merit who have satisfied them in all five papers in clause 1 in one examination.

  • 6. Candidates who fail one or two written papers listed in clause 1 may offer those papers at one, but no more than one, subsequent examination.

  • 7. Candidates who fail three or more written papers may enter the written part of the examination on one, but no more than one, subsequent examination.

  • 8. The use of calculators is generally not permitted but certain kinds may be allowed for certain papers. Specifications of which papers and which types of calculators are permitted for those exceptional papers will be announced by the examiners in the Hilary Term preceding the examination.