Skip to main content

Exam 2

Warning! This exam is not quite in release form. It may change until 10:00 p.m. on the day it was assigned.

Assigned: Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Prologue Due: Friday, 10 November 2017 by 5:00pm

Exam Due: Wednesday, 15 November 2017 by 5:00pm

Epilogue Due: Wednesday, 15 November 2017 by 10:30 p.m.


Exam format

This is a take-home examination. You may use any time or times you deem appropriate to complete the exam, provided you return it to me by the due date.

There are four problems on this examination. You must do your best to answer all of them. The problems are not necessarily of equal difficulty. Problems may include subproblems. If you complete four problems correctly or mostly correctly, you will earn an A. If you complete three problems correctly or mostly correctly, you will earn a B. If you complete two problems correctly or mostly correctly, you will earn a C. If you complete one problem correctly or mostly correctly, you will earn a D. If you complete fewer than one problem correctly or mostly correctly, you will earn an F. If you do not attempt the examination, you will earn a 0. Partially correct solutions may or may not earn you a partial grade, depending on the discretion of the grader.

I rarely give makeup exams because my experience in past semesters is that students spend a lot of effort on such problems but do not significantly improve their grade.

Please read the entire examination before you begin.

I expect that someone who has mastered the material and works at a moderate rate should have little trouble completing the exam in a reasonable amount of time. In particular, this exam is likely to take you about ten hours, depending on how well you’ve learned the topics and how fast you work.

Blind grading

In the interest of fairness, I prefer to do blind grading on my examinations. Assign yourself a random number by typing (random 1000000) in Scheme. You should write your random number on every page of the exam. You should do your best to avoid including any information that would personally identify you within the exam.

Academic honesty

This examination is open book, open notes, open mind, open computer, and open Web. However, it is closed person. That means you should not talk to other people about the exam. Other than as restricted by that limitation, you should feel free to use all reasonable resources available to you.

As always, you are expected to turn in your own work. If you find ideas in a book or on the Web, be sure to cite them appropriately. If you use code that you wrote for a previous lab or homework, cite that lab or homework and the other members of your group. If you use code that you found on the course Web site, be sure to cite that code. You need not cite the code provided in the body of the examination.

Although you may use the Web for this exam, you may not post your answers to this examination on the Web. (You certainly should not post them to GitHub unless you create a private repository for your exam.) And, in case it’s not clear, you may not ask others (in person, via email, via IM, via IRC, by posting a “please help” message on StackOverflow or elsewhere, or in any other way) to put answers on the Web.

Because different students may be taking the exam at different times, you are not permitted to discuss the exam with anyone until after I have returned it. If you must say something about the exam, you are allowed to say “This is among the hardest exams I have ever taken. If you don’t start it early, you will have no chance of finishing the exam.” You may also summarize these policies. You may not tell other students which problems you’ve finished. You may not tell other students how long you’ve spent on the exam.

You must include both of the following statements on the cover sheet of the examination.

I have neither received nor given inappropriate assistance on this examination.

I am not aware of any other students who have given or received inappropriate assistance on this examination.

Please sign and date each statement. Note that the statements must be true; if you are unable to sign either statement, please talk to me at your earliest convenience. You need not reveal the particulars of the dishonesty, simply that it happened. Note also that inappropriate assistance is assistance from (or to) anyone other than one of the two instructors of CSC 301 for this semester.

Presenting your work

You will only present your exam to me in physical form.

You must write all of your answers using the computer, print them out, number the pages; and put your assigned number on the top of every page. You must turn in a separate cover sheet on which you hand write, sign, and date each of the academic honesty statements (provided you are able to do so). If you fail to number the printed pages, you may suffer a penalty. If you fail to turn in a legible version of the exam, you are also likely to suffer some sort of penalty.

Partial credit. I may give partial credit for partially correct answers. I am best able to give such partial credit if you include a clear set of work that shows how you derived your answer. You ensure the best possible grade for yourself by clearly indicating what part of your answer is work and what part is your final answer.

Getting help

Do not use Piazza to post your questions. Send your questions directly to your instructor via email.

I may not be available at the time you take the exam. If you feel that a question is badly worded or impossible to answer, note the issue you have observed and attempt to reword the question in such a way that it is answerable. You should also feel free to send me electronic mail at any time of day.

I will also reserve time at the start of each class next week to discuss any general questions you have on the exam.


The prologue for this examination will be via email, which you should send to your instructor. Your message should be titled CSC 301 2017F: Exam 2 Prologue (your name).

  1. For each problem, please include a short note about something that will help you solve the problem. Mostly, we want to see some evidence that you’ve thought about the problem. You might note some similar procedures you’ve written or problems you’ve solved in the past (e.g., in this course or another course). You might note an approach you expect to use. You might sketch an algorithm. You might pose a question to yourself. (We won’t necessarily read this in a timely fashion, so if you have questions for your instructor, you should ask by email or in person.)

    If, when looking at a problem, you think you already know the answer, you can feel free to write something short like “solved” or “trivial”.

  2. Which of those problems do you expect to be the most difficult for you to solve? Why?

  3. Conclude by answering the question What is an approach that you expect will help you be successful on this exam? For example, you might suggest that you will work thirty minutes on the exam each day, or work on the exam at 7pm each day, when your brain is most able to process information.


The epilogue for this examination will also be via email, which you should send to your instructor. The message should be titled CSC 301 2017F: Exam 2 Epilogue (your name). Include answers to the following questions.

What was the most difficult part of the exam?

What made that part difficult?

What are two things you can do to be more successful on the next exam?


Problem 1: Balanced trees

a. Draw the red-black tree that results from inserting the following sequence of values into the empty tree: aardvark, baboon, chinchilla, dingo, emu, fox, gibbon, hippo, iguana, jackalope, and koala. (You may find it useful to show the intermediate steps.)

b. Draw the two-three tree that results from inserting the same sequence of values into the empty tree.

c. Draw the red-black tree that results from removing gibbon from the tree you created in step a.

Problem 2: Trying tries

In class, we built a trie to help us count the number of words in a collection that started with a particular prefix. But what if we want to identify not the number of words that start with a given prefix, but rather the actual words that start with the given prefix. We can imagine three basic commands for such a system: we can add a new string (save), we can get a list of strings that start with a prefix (find), and we can remove a string (drop).

save sam
save samuel
save sample
save samples
find sam
save samantha
save samwise
save sampling
find samp
drop sam
drop sample
find sam

As you might expect, tries continue to provide an excellent mechanism for solving this problem.

Write a C program, predict, that reads and responds to a sequence of commands of the form above.

  • When you encounter a save command, you should store the associated string in the trie.
  • When you encounter a find command, you should print out the strings that start with a given prefix in alphabetical order. If one string is a prefix of another, you should print out the prefix first as in the sam, sample, samples example.
  • When you encounter a drop command, you should remove the string from the trie (or mark it as removed).

You may assume that no string is more than 31 characters. You may assume that the strings contain only lowercase letters.

Problem 3: Randomly selecting courses

Professor R and their advisee are working on preregistration. While they’ve agreed on the first three courses (CS, Studio Art, and Foreign Language), they are debating what the student should take for the fourth course. It could be an humanities course or it could be be a social science course. They’ve made a list of possible courses. They decide to repeatedly apply the following process for narrowing down the list of courses.

  • Randomly pick two courses from the list.
  • If the two courses are in the same division, that’s a sign that that division dominates too much. Get rid of both courses. But to make sure that we still have a reasonable selection, add a new humanities course to the list. (You can assume that there are arbitrarily many new humanities courses to add.)
  • If the two courses are in different divisions, keep the social science and drop the humanities course. (Dropping the humanities course in this case conceptually offsets the addition of the humanities course in the prior case.)

I didn’t say that it was a sensible approach. Just that it was an approach. Still, my advisees may be familiar with it.

a. Prove that the process terminates with only one course.

b. Write a loop invariant that provides useful information about the state of the system.

c. Using that invariant, determine the division of the final course based on the number of initial courses in each division.

Problem 4: Extending a minimum spanning tree

Suppose we are given a graph G(V,E) and a minimum spanning tree G(V,E’) of that graph. Let n be the number of vertices and m be the number of edges. Give an O(n) algorithm to find the minimum spanning tree of the graph G(V,E+{<u,v,w>}), where <u,v,w> represents an undirected edge between u and v of weight w.

That is, write an efficient algorithm that rebuilds a minimum spanning tree when an edge is added to a graph for which you’ve already built the MST.

Questions and answers

We will post answers to questions of general interest here while the exam is in progress. Please check here before emailing questions!