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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 some understanding of computing. AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) can help students understand how computing and technology influence the world around them. Students will learn how to creatively address real-world issues while using the same tools and processes that artists, writers, computer scientists, and engineers use to bring ideas to life.

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 course introduces students to computer science with fundamental topics that include problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, organization of data (data structures), approaches to processing data (algorithms), analysis of potential solutions, and the ethical and social implications of computing. The new AP Computer Science Principles course will complement AP Computer Science A and will focus on the broader aspects of computing, including programming but also topics like global impact of computing, the internet and cybersecurity, and creativity. Additionally, AP Computer Science A has one end-of-year exam with multiple choice and free response questions. AP Computer Science Principles includes a through-course assessment for which you will need to complete two projects during the course, and an end-of year exam with multiple choice questions.

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 published their credit policies 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 and free Teaching and Assessment Modules. Teachers with less computer science experience can also explore professional development offered by College Board endorsed providers.Note that states determine their own requirements for teacher certification and endorsement. Teachers need to check out their state-specific computer science teacher certification requirements.

Beyond professional development opportunities, teachers can explore essential course resources endorsed by the College Board, including lesson plans, course planning and pacing guides, scoring guidelines and notes, and additional classroom resources not endorsed by the College Board, like curriculum samples, programming tools, free online courses (MOOCs) and more, to supplement instruction.

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 them or their students to use in the classroom. A list of suggested programming languages is provided in the AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.32MB). Though this is not a comprehensive list, it is a point of reference to determine what will work best.

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 resources are available to help me teach this new course?

Visit the AP CSP Course Homepage for essential course resources. Review the Course and Exam description, which lays out the course content and describes the assessments and the AP Program in general. Then, move down to additional resources, including Scoring Guidelines and Notes, Teaching and Assessing Modules, Course Overview Modules, Recorded Webinars, Course Planning and Pacing Guides, and more.

Additionally, visit the Professional Development page for PD opportunities organized by the College Board or College Board endorsed providers.

When is the deadline to complete the AP Course Audit?

Visit the AP Course Audit site for information.

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.

How can I get samples of the performance tasks?

Samples of the performance tasks with student responses and commentary 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. Students will need to submit their end-of-course exam intent in the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30.

Students will need to complete the through-course assessment, which makes up 40 percent of the score, by submitting their performance tasks as final in the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30.

Have student watch the AP Digital Portfolio video for instructions on how to:

  • enroll in an AP CSP class
  • submit required files for the Create performance task
  • submit required files and a written response for the Explore performance task
  • indicate intent to take the end-of-course exam
  • enter the AP number to ensure scoring of work submitted

How much time do students need to complete the 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.

While the deadline for submitting performance tasks as final is April 30, teachers will need to set interim deadlines to review student performance tasks prior to April 30. Teachers will not be able to report cases of student plagiarism or noncompliance with performance task directions after April 30.

If students want to take both AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A, is there a recommended sequence?

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?

The AP Program recommends 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?

A computer device with Internet access is required for significant course work that includes, but is not limited to, studying the infrastructure of the Internet and conducting online investigations of computing innovations. Students will be required to submit performance tasks for the through-course assessment via the AP Digital Portfolio. Computer system(s) available for students should contain appropriate computing software so that students can develop programs and create other computational artifacts throughout the course.

The following are recommendations for each equipment or resource requirement:

  • Browsers: Latest version of Chrome, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Samsung
  • Operating systems: Windows 7, 8.1, 10; Mac OS X; Chrome OS; Android 6, 7; or iOS
  • Devices: Desktop/Laptop, Tablet, or Mobile

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 schools and teachers are actively recruiting a representative group of students into their classrooms, with special outreach to students who have been underrepresented in CS such as girls and minority students. 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, teachers 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?

Information on AP Coordinator’s role with homeschooled or independent study students can be found on the Exam Requiring Special Preparation site. Contact [email protected] with additional questions.

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