This paper explores the programming knowledge of novices using Biggs' SOLO taxonomy. It builds on previous work of Lister et al. (2006) and addresses some of the criticisms of that work. The research was conducted by studying the exam scripts for 120 introductory programming students, in which three specific questions were analyzed using the SOLO taxonomy. The study reports the following four findings: when the instruction to students used by Lister et al. - "In plain English, explain what the following segment of Java code does" - is replaced with a less ambiguous instruction, many students still provide multistructural responses; students are relatively consistent in the SOLO level of their answers; student responses on SOLO reading tasks correlate positively with performance on writing tasks; postgraduates students manifest a higher level of thinking than undergraduates.