A systematic review of introductory programming literature yielded data for 161 CS1 courses. An average worldwide pass rate of 67.7 percent was found. Pass rates, however, varied considerably, with a low of 23.1 percent and a high of 96 percent. No significant improvement in CS1 pass rates was found over time.
While pass rates were found to vary considerably by country, the average pass rates of three of the four most sampled countries (USA, UK, and Australia) were not found to be statistically different. Though average pass rates for C and C++ courses were the poorest, at 61.1 percent and 56.2 percent respectively, they were not found to be statistically different from courses using other programming languages.
Defining classes to be small if they had less than 30 students, the average pass rate of 80.1 percent for small classes was found to be statistically different from the average pass rate of 65.4 percent for larger classes. Also, the average pass rate of 79.9 percent for other educational institutions was found to be statistically different from the average pass rate of 66.4 percent for universities.
Differences in admission standards are not addressed, nor is any attempt made to explain the lowest and highest pass rates observed. A graph charting class size against pass rate would have been useful. Though the authors suggest that small class sizes coupled with active learning approaches might be the best way to teach CS1, no analysis of pedagogy in the 161 CS1 courses examined is presented. This paper is recommended to computer science faculty.