Python Programming - Getting Started

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This page is part of Programming and CS - Getting Started

For a video explaining how to get started here, see

Getting Started

  1. Reading - start reading through at least one of the following before you start working on the programming problems.
    1. Learn Python - interactive tutorial where you can try out code in the browser
    2. Automate the Boring Stuff with Python - suitable for people with very limited programming experience, this is the text that is being followed for our CS 151 course (as of 2019)
    3. Think Python - suitable for people with very limited programming experience, not very deep
    4. LearnXinYminutes - quick review once you are familiar with the basics
    5. tutorial - good for those with programming experience already
  2. Get Python installed on your computer - download the latest Python3 version at Having python3 installed on your computer allows you to debug much quicker.
  3. Work on solving problems that are listed below.
  4. Cheat sheets - keep a cheat sheet for yourself of python syntax, built-in functions, etc. See below on this page for our model cheat sheets.
  5. If you are a current or incoming ISU student, or an ISU alumni, sign up for the ISU CS Mattermost at Note that you need to use your email address to sign up. Look for the Python Programming Channel (direct link is When asking about the hackerrank problems make sure to refer to them using the title hackerrank gives them.

Let's see how far you can get with solving the hackerrank problems! Good luck!

Running Python on ISU CS Systems

If you are using one of the CS lab computers or have a terminal open connected to the CS server, you can run python programs using one of the following methods.

Execute in the terminal Edit your python code with a text editor, and run it with the python3 or python command. For example,

cd ~
# and put some python code in then exit nano

If you want to run the program with Python2, you would use the command python rather than python3.

Idle You can use the builtin Python3 graphical editor to edit your programs and also run them (only if you are on one of the lab computers or tunneling X). The command for Python3 is idle3, and the command for Python3 is idle.

Lists of Problems

Programming Assignments 1

Start with trying to solve these problems. Each requires a different feature of the Python programming language, so solve these problems as you read through one of the tutorials or links above.

Note that the page includes a link to that contains solutions to most of the problems. If you do not have Python installed on your computer, you can try it out at - click the logo at the top, then click "+ new repl", select Python and Create Repl.

HackerRank Problems

Here are problems to work on from the hackerrank. Note that hackerrank has very strict rules for accepting correct solutions. Start with the basic problems to get a feel for what hackerrank expects.

Basic Python

These problems are all pretty basic - require a single loop, if statement, etc. They are good when you are just getting started with Python and to get familiar with hackerrank.

For a bit more practice with basic problems, try out more of the problems that are listed as "Easy". Once you have completed the ones listed in this section you should be ready to complete more of the "Easy" problems on your own.

A Bit More Involved

These problems require nested loops, working with lists of lists, reading a problem statement that takes more time to understand, or other things that are the next level of difficulty. Solve all of the Basic Python problems before starting on these.

And a Bit More

These problems are still a bit more involved. Some require some abstract thinking about the problem, a programming "trick", or other key insight. Note that at this point you are working on problems such that some of the lab assistants in the unix lab may not have solved these problems. This is where you want to be at - you have mastered the basics and are working on problems independently!

After That

If you are able to do all of the problems above, then you don't need us to give you lists of problems any more. You can pick problems to work through on your own. Some suggested places with problems are as follows.

Cheat Sheet

These cheat sheets have the highlights of basic information to memorize when you are in your first year of Python programming.