AP Computer Science Principles

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Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (also called AP CSP or AP CS Principles) is an AP Computer Science course and examination offered by the College Board to high school students as an opportunity to earn college credit for a college-level computing course. AP Computer Science Principles[1] is meant to be the equivalent of a first-semester course in computing. Assessment for AP Computer Science Principles is divided into two parts, both an end of course exam as well as the creation of artifacts throughout the course.[2]

AP Computer Science Principles examines a variety of computing topics on a largely conceptual level, and teaches procedural programming. In the Create "Through-Course Assessment", students must develop a program, demonstrated in a video and a written reflection. The course may be taught in any programming language with procedures, mathematical expressions, variables, lists, conditionals, and loops.[3] Coding portions of the AP exam are based in both text-based and block-based pseudocode, as defined by the provided reference sheet.

The AP Computer Science Principles Exam was administered for the first time on May 5, 2017.

Topic outline[edit]

The framework focuses on computational thinking practices which are applied throughout the curriculum. The concept outline included in the curriculum is divided into seven units called "Big Ideas". Each unit contains a series of "Learning Objectives". Each "Learning Objective" is a general benchmark of student performance or understanding which has an associated "Enduring Understanding". An "Enduring Understanding" is a core comprehension which students should retain well after completing the course. Each "Learning Objective" is split into multiple "Essential Knowledge" standards, which are specific facts or content which the student must know to demonstrate mastery of the learning objective when assessed.[4]

Computational Thinking Practices: Skills[3] Concept Outline[3]
  • P1: Computational Solution Design
  • P2: Algorithms and Program Development
  • P3: Abstraction in Program Development
  • P4: Code Analysis
  • P5: Computing Innovations
  • P6: Responsible Computing


Through-Course Assessment[edit]

The Explore section will be removed in the 2021 exam. The exam prior to 2021 is described as follows:

  • Task 1: Explore – Implications of Computing Innovations[5]
    • Task Description: In the classroom, students explore the impacts of computing on social, economic, and cultural areas of our lives
    • Task Time Limit: 8 hours in Class Time
    • Task Response Format
      • Written Response: Innovation: 400 word Max
      • Written Response: Population and Impact : 300 Word Max
      • Visual Artifact: Visualization or Graphic
      • Visual Artifact Summary: 50 Words
      • Evaluate, Archive and Present Task
  • Task 2- Create – Applications from Ideas[6]
    • Task Description: Students create computational artifacts through the design and development of programs.
    • Task Time Limit: 12 hours in Class Time
    • Task Response Format
      • Individual Program: Source Code PDF and Video
      • Individual Reflection: 300 words
      • Evaluate, Archive and Present Task

End-of-Course AP Exam[edit]

  • The exam uses paper and pencil. (With the exception of year 2020, only Create and Explore were tested.)
  • It lasts 120 minutes and includes approximately 74 questions.
  • The exam is composed of two sections:
    • Single Select Multiple-Choice: Select 1 answer from among 4 options.
    • Multiple Select Multiple-Choice: Select 2 answers from among 4 options.[2]
Score 2017[7] 2018[8] 2019[9] 2020[10]
5 14% 14.4% 13.6% 10.8%
4 21.6% 21.6% 21.1% 23.3%
3 39% 36.7% 38.0% 36.6%
2 18.5% 19.7% 19.0% 17.5%
1 6.9% 7.6% 8.3% 11.8%
% of Scores 3 or Higher 74.6% 72.7% 72.7% 70.7%
Mean 3.17 3.16 3.13 3.04
Standard Deviation 1.10 1.13 1.12 1.14
Number of Students 44,330 72,187 96,105


  1. ^ AP Computer Science Principles Home Page, The College Board
  2. ^ a b AP Computer Science Principles About The Exam Page, The College Board
  3. ^ a b c "AP Computer Science Principles: Course and Exam Description" (PDF). College Board. 2020. pp. 13–125, 129. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  4. ^ "AP Computer Science Principles: Curriculum Framework 2016-2017" (PDF). College Board. Fall 2010. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  5. ^ "AP Computer Science Principles Draft Performance Tasks" (PDF). College Board. December 2013. pp. 6–7. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  6. ^ "AP Computer Science Principles Draft Performance Tasks" (PDF). College Board. December 2013. pp. 8–9. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  7. ^ "AP Computer Science Principles: The Exam | AP Central – The College Board". apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  8. ^ https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/pdf/research/2018/Student-Score-Distributions-2018.pdf
  9. ^ Total Registration (June 24, 2019). "2019 AP Exam Score Distributions". totalregistration.net. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  10. ^ "https://twitter.com/ap_trevor/status/1280184373560647683". Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-07. External link in |title= (help)