18.404: Theory of Computation

Table of contents

  1. Course Info
  2. Realistic Prerequisites
  3. Subject Matter
  4. Course Staff
  5. Lectures
  6. Problem Sets
  7. Exams
  8. Resources
  9. Grading
  10. Advice to Future Students

Course Info

Class Size 203
Hours/Week 9.9 (69 responses)
Instructors Michael Sipser
Overall Rating 6.6/7.0

Realistic Prerequisites

  • The content of 18.200 was a soft prerequisite, experience with proofs recommended.

Subject Matter

  • Highly theoretical and deep, though some useful applications in algorithms/computer science.

Course Staff

  • Enthusiastic and engaging. Approachable and caring course staff.


  • Lectures were recorded, lectures followed the textbook closely, and there are recorded OCW lectures from prior year online.
  • Textbook and recitation notes were available.

Problem Sets

  • Fun, though occasionally required creativity.
  • Going to office hours helped figure out some of the problems.
  • Had interesting optional problems.


  • The exams were mostly considered challenging but reasonable.
  • Exams were open-book, which made them less stressful.


  • The lectures followed Sipser’s Theory of Computation very closely.
  • OCW lecture videos also proved helpful.


  • Students felt that grading was fair and upfront.
  • No problem sets were dropped.

Advice to Future Students

  1. “Take the class! It’s fun and Prof. Sipser is a good lecturer. Also, Sipser is very excited about the subject - if you turn up to his office hours to talk about related content it’s lots of fun!”
  2. “Great class and staff, highly recommend to anyone in computer science, even those not interested in theory.”
  3. ”Take this class!! One of the best I’ve taken at MIT.”