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Introduction to Python Programming

9.2 Sorting and reversing lists

Introduction to Python Programming9.2 Sorting and reversing lists

Learning objectives

By the end of this section you should be able to

  • Understand the concept of sorting.
  • Use built-in sort() and reverse() methods.


Ordering elements in a sequence is often useful. Sorting is the task of arranging elements in a sequence in ascending or descending order.

Sorting can work on numerical or non-numerical data. When ordering text, dictionary order is used. Ex: "bat" comes before "cat" because "b" comes before "c".



Concepts in Practice


What would be the last element of the following list if it is sorted in descending order?
[12, 3, 19, 25, 16, -3, 5]
  1. 25
  2. -3
  3. 5
Arrange the following list in ascending order.
["cat", "bat", "dog", "coyote", "wolf"]
  1. ["bat", "cat", "coyote", "dog", "wolf"]
  2. ["wolf", "coyote", "dog", "cat", "bat"]
How are the words "flask" and "flash" related in Python?
  1. "flask" < "flash"
  2. "flask" == "flash"
  3. "flask" > "flash"


Python provides methods for arranging elements in a list.

  • The sort() method arranges the elements of a list in ascending order. For strings, ASCII values are used and uppercase characters come before lowercase characters, leading to unexpected results. Ex: "A" is ordered before "a" in ascending order but so is "G"; thus, "Gail" comes before "apple".
  • The reverse() method reverses the elements in a list.

Example 9.2

Sorting and reversing lists

    # Setup a list of numbers
    num_list = [38, 92, 23, 16]

    # Sort the list

    # Setup a list of words
    dance_list = ["Stepping", "Ballet", "Salsa", "Kathak", "Hopak", "Flamenco", "Dabke"]

    # Reverse the list

    # Sort the list

The above code's output is:

    [38, 92, 23, 16]
    [16, 23, 38, 92]
    ["Dabke", "Flamenco", "Hopak", "Kathak", "Salsa", "Ballet", "Stepping"]
    ["Ballet", "Dabke", "Flamenco", "Hopak", "Kathak", "Salsa", "Stepping"]

Concepts in Practice

sort() and reverse() methods

Use the following list for the questions below.

board_games = ["go", "chess", "scrabble", "checkers"]
What is the correct way to sort the list board_games in ascending order?
  1. sort(board_games)
  2. board_games.sort()
  3. board_games.sort('ascending')
What is the correct way to reverse the list board_games?
  1. board_games.reverse()
  2. reverse(board_games)
What would be the last element of board_games after the reverse() method has been applied?
  1. 'go'
  2. 'checkers'
  3. 'scrabble'

Try It

Sorting and reversing

Complete the program below to arrange and print the numbers in ascending and descending order.


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