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Why bring AP Computer Science Principles to your school?

Almost every field today – from the arts and media to lab sciences – requires an understanding of computing. Students will be better prepared for the rigors of college and learn important skills that can be applied across a wide range of careers and disciplines.

How can I get this course started at my school?

It’s easy. Follow these steps to bring AP CSP to your school.

What’s the difference between AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A?

The AP Computer Science A course and exam focus on computing skills related to programming in Java. The new AP Computer Science Principles course will complement AP Computer Science A and will focus on the broader aspects of computing, including computing with large-scale data, the Internet, and cybersecurity. Visit Course Details for more information.

Will colleges and universities award credit for the course? What is the equivalent college-level course?

Over 350 colleges and universities have already stated their intent to award credit for satisfactory exam scores, and new policies continue to be submitted. AP Computer Science Principles is designed to be equivalent to a first-semester introductory college computing course. Colleges and universities make individual decisions on their credit and placement policies which vary from institution to institution. Students should contact the college that they are interested in for details.

What does the AP Computer Science Principles assessment consist of?

The AP Computer Science Principles assessment consists of two parts: a through-course assessment (consisting of two performance tasks) that students complete during the school year and the end-of-course AP Exam given in May. Both of these will measure student achievement of the course learning objectives. For the through-course assessment, students will upload digital artifacts and written responses via the AP Digital Portfolio. Learn more.

Do teachers need specific previous experience to teach this course?

It helps to have a fundamental understanding of computer science to teach this course. However, due to the broad and multidisciplinary nature of the course, teachers do not need to have prior computer science experience. While STEM teachers may be particularly suited to teach the course, teachers of all backgrounds will have the opportunity for professional development to supplement their experience, including AP Summer Institutes and one-day workshops . Teachers with less computer science experience can also explore professional development offered by College Board endorsed providers.

Additionally, states determine their own requirements for teacher certification and endorsement. Be sure to check out your state-specific computer science teacher certification requirements.

Do teachers need to know a specific programming language to teach this course?

There is no designated programming language for the course. Teachers have the flexibility to choose the programming language that is most appropriate for you or your students to use in the classroom. A list of suggested programming languages is provided in the AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description. Though this is not a comprehensive list, it as a point of reference to determine what will work best for students.

Are there any student prerequisites?

The AP Program recommends that students successfully complete a high school algebra course like Algebra I with a strong foundation in basic algebraic concepts dealing with function notation and problem-solving strategies. Students should be able to use a Cartesian (x, y) coordinate system to represent points on a plane. Students do not need to have prior knowledge of any programming language.

What is the recommended classroom set-up? Do students need individual access to computers and programming tools for the entire course?

The AP Program recommends classrooms have computers accessible for students to conduct daily work on computers.

What resources are available to help me teach this new course?

Visit the AP CSP Course Homepage for a comprehensive list of resources. 

When is the deadline to complete the AP Course Audit?

The AP Course Audit for 2018-19 courses opens in March 2018.

Are there professional development opportunities for AP Computer Science Principles?

AP Summer Institutes and one-day workshops are offered at high schools and colleges around the country. If the school is implementing a curriculum through a College Board endorsed provider, teachers can attend a professional development event offered by the specific program, and are not required to attend an AP Summer Institute.

When and how can I get samples of the performance tasks?

Samples of the performance tasks are available on the AP CSP Exam Information page.

Can students take AP Computer Science Principles without taking the AP Exam?

Yes. Students can take the course without taking the AP Exam. If students are seeking college credit or placement, check the institution’s policies to determine if they will grant credit or placement without an AP Exam score.

How much time do students need to complete the AP Computer Science Principles performance tasks?

Teachers are required to provide students a minimum of 8 hours of class time for the Explore performance task and a minimum of 12 hours of class time for the Create performance task. Sufficient time should be provided to students to learn the concepts tested in each performance task and to practice these skills prior to completing and submitting their work on the AP Digital Portfolio for AP scoring purposes.

Is there a recommended course sequence for taking AP Computer Science A and AP CSP?

The courses can be taken in any order. The decision to offer them in sequence is left up to the school and district.

What is the recommended length for the course, semester-long or year-long?

We recommend that this course be taught over an entire school year. It can be taught on a block schedule. 

What equipment is needed to teach the course?

Computers with Internet access are strongly recommended since the study of the Internet is included in the course.  In addition, as part of the requirements of the through-course performance tasks, students should be able to conduct online investigations of computing innovations.  It is also beneficial for teachers to be able to install computing software of their choosing so that students can develop programs and create other computational artifacts using a computer. 

Students can also use tablets and other similar hand-held devices such as smartphones for the course.

What are some strategies to recruit students traditionally underrepresented in the field of computer science?

We offer several evidence-based strategies to help schools ensure that all students have the opportunity to take AP Computer Science Principles, with a focus on students who have traditionally been underrepresented in computer science. Learn more.

What is the AP Digital Portfolio?

The AP Digital Portfolio is a web-based application used to facilitate the process of collecting and transmitting AP Computer Science Principles through-course performance tasks to the AP Reading for scoring. The AP Digital Portfolio contains user roles for teachers, students, and AP Coordinators.

Through the AP Digital Portfolio, you can create CSP classes. Information on the AP Digital Portfolio — including how to log in, how to create classrooms, and how to upload and submit performance tasks — is available on the AP Digital Portfolio site.

How do I use the AP Digital Portfolio?

Visit the AP Digital Portfolio site for important timelines and instructions.

I am an AP Coordinator — how do I support homeschooled students or students who decide to pursue independent study without taking the AP CSP course at a participating AP school?

If you would like to assist homeschooled students or students who pursue independent study to complete the through-course assessment and end-of-course exam for AP CSP, you can do the following:

  • Be willing to create an AP CSP class in the AP Digital Portfolio to enroll students in the class.
  • Provide students with all the necessary information and directions for enrollment and submission of work in the AP Digital Portfolio.
  • Order and administer the AP Exam at the end of the course for each student.

Visit the AP CSP Coordinator site for special instructions on how to accommodate students.

Have More Questions?

Visit a comprehensive FAQ page on AP Central, or go to the AP CSP Course Home page and Exam Information page. For further questions, send an email to [email protected].

It’s a blast of a course to teach. I love it!
— Jennifer Hardy, AP Computer Science Principles Teacher