beginning of content:

Important Updates

2019-20 AP Course Audit: What You’ll Need to Do

To give you more time to familiarize yourself with the new resources and supports that launched in August, you won’t be required to submit a syllabus for course authorization until the 2020-21 school year.

If you’re teaching a new AP Computer Science A course in 2019-20, you’ll need to:

  • Submit a subject-specific AP Course Audit Form
  • Download the AP Computer Science A unit guide

If you’re teaching a previously authorized AP Computer Science A course, make sure your school administrator renews your course in 2019-20.

These steps will ensure that your course appears on the AP Course Ledger and you have access to online score reports in July 2020.

AP Course Audit

All schools that want to label a course “AP” must get authorization through the AP Course Audit.

Get Started

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Sign up.

Designing Your AP Computer Science A Course


The AP Computer Science A course should be designed by your school to provide students with a learning experience equivalent to that of an introductory college course in computer science. Your AP Computer Science A course should emphasize problem solving, procedural and data abstraction, object-oriented programming and design methodology, algorithms, and data structures. The AP Computer Science A course is compatible with those topics that are covered in a typical college CS1 course in accordance with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)/Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) guidelines. Syllabi submitted for course authorization must include a minimum of 20 hours of hands-on structured-lab experiences engaging students in individual or group problem solving.

The assumed prerequisites for entering the AP Computer Science A course include knowledge of basic English and algebra. A student in the AP Computer Science A course should be comfortable with functions and the concepts found in the uses of function notation, such as f(x) = x + 2 and f(x) = g(h(x)). It is important that students and their advisers understand that any significant computer science course builds upon a foundation of mathematical reasoning that should be acquired before attempting such a course.


Getting to Know the Course and Exam

The key document for each AP course is the course and exam description. Start by reviewing it to understand the objectives and expectations of the AP course and exam.

AP Computer Science A Course and Exam Description

This is the core document for this course and is new for the 2019-20 school year. New unit guides clearly lay out the course content and skills and recommend sequencing and pacing for them throughout the year. The CED also more clearly outlines how material will be assessed on the exam, provides instructional strategies, and gives information on the AP Program in general.


Course Requirements

Use these resources to design your AP Computer Science A syllabus.


Your course must fulfill these requirements.

AP Computer Science A curricular requirements:

  • The students and teacher have access to a college-level computer science textbook, in print or electronic format.
  • The course provides opportunities to deepen student understanding of the required content outlined in each of the units described in the course and exam description.
  • The course provides opportunities to deepen student understanding of the big ideas.
  • The course provides opportunities for students to develop the skills related to the computational practices:
    • Computational Practice 1: Program Design and Algorithm Development
    • Computational Practice 2: Code Logic
    • Computational Practice 3: Code Implementation
    • Computational Practice 4: Code Testing
    • Computational Practice 5: Documentation
  • This course provides students with hands-on lab experiences to practice programming through designing and implementing computer-based solutions to problems.
  • The course includes a structured-lab component composed of a minimum of 20 hours of hands-on lab experiences.
  • The course teaches students to recognize the ethical and social implications of computer use.

AP Computer Science A resource requirements:

  • The school ensures that each student has a college-level textbook (in print or electronic format) for individual use inside and outside the classroom. The textbook is supplemented when necessary to meet the curricular requirements.
  • The school ensures that the teacher has a copy of the most recent edition of a college-level computer science textbook or other appropriate materials to support instruction.
  • The school ensures that each student has access to the AP Computer Science A labs.
  • The school ensures that each student has access to a computer for a minimum of 3 hours a week; additional time is desirable. The computer system must contain appropriate software to create and edit programs and must allow programs comparable in size to the current AP Computer Science A labs to compile in seconds. Internet access is strongly encouraged.

The list below represents examples of textbooks that meet the curricular requirements of AP Computer Science A. The list is not exhaustive and the texts listed should not be regarded as endorsed, authorized, recommended, or approved by the College Board. Not using a book from this list does not mean that a course will not receive authorization. Syllabi submitted as part of the AP Course Audit process will be evaluated holistically, with textbooks considered along with supplementary, supporting resources to confirm that the course as a whole provides students with the content delineated in the curricular requirements of the AP Course Audit.

The current editions of the following textbooks meet the AP Course Audit curricular requirements. Earlier editions of these texts or other textbooks not listed here may meet the AP Course Audit curricular requirements if supplemented with appropriate college-level instructional resources. For discussions regarding the usefulness of these texts and other teaching materials in the AP Computer Science A classroom, please consult the AP Computer Science A Teacher Community.

  • CompuScholar, Inc. TeenCoder: Java Programming. Alpharetta, GA:
  • Cook, Charles E. Blue Pelican Java. Refugio, TX: Charles E. Cook, 2010.
  • Dean, John, and Raymond Dean. Introduction to Programming with Java: A Problem Solving Approach. McGraw-Hill.
  • Ericson, Barbara. Java Review for the AP CS A Exam. Online Text.
  • Horstmann, Cay. Big Java: Early Objects. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Horstmann, Cay. Java Concepts. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
  • Kolling, Michael, and David Barnes. Objects First with Java: A Practical Introduction Using BlueJ. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Lambert, Ken, and Martin Osborne. Fundamentals of Java: AP Computer Science Essentials. National Geographic Learning/Cengage Learning.
  • Lewis, John, and William Loftus. Java Software Solutions: Foundations of Program Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Litvin, Maria, and Gary Litvin. Java Methods. Andover, MA: Skylight Publishing.
  • Reges, Stuart, and Marty Stepp. Building Java Programs. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.