The Course

AP Computer Science Principles

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Course Overview

AP Computer Science Principles is an introductory college-level computing course that introduces students to the breadth of the field of computer science. Students learn to design and evaluate solutions and to apply computer science to solve problems through the development of algorithms and programs. They incorporate abstraction into programs and use data to discover new knowledge. Students also explain how computing innovations and computing systems—including the internet—work, explore their potential impacts, and contribute to a computing culture that is collaborative and ethical.

For an overview of the program, including why we created the program, teacher and student testimonials, and how you can bring it to your school, please see the Adopt AP Computer Science Principles page.

Course and Exam Description

Course Resources



Computer Science Recruitment Strategies

Get additional tips for encouraging all students—including those in traditionally underrepresented groups—to enroll in computer science courses.


CSP Recruitment Toolkit

Explore our collection of videos and downloadable resources to share with students, families, and educators to explain the benefits of the course.

Course Content

Based on the Understanding by Design® (Wiggins and McTighe) model, the AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description provides a clear and detailed description of the course requirements necessary for student success. The course is designed to be equivalent to a first-semester introductory college computing course. The major areas of study in the course are organized around big ideas that encompass ideas foundational to studying computer science.

The AP Computer Science Principles course framework is organized into five big ideas. As always, you have the flexibility to organize the course content as you like.


Big Idea Exam Weighting (Multiple-Choice Section)
Big Idea 1: Creative Development 10%–13%
Big Idea 2: Data 17%–22%
Big Idea 3: Algorithms and Programming 30%–35%
Big Idea 4: Computer Systems and Networks 11%–15%
Big Idea 5: Impact of Computing 21%–26%

Computational Thinking Practices

The AP Computer Science Principles course framework included in the course and exam description outlines distinct skills from computational thinking practices that students should practice and develop throughout the year—skills that will help them learn to think and act like computer scientists. Emphasis is placed on creativity and collaboration as pedagogical strategies to be used to develop a diverse, appealing, and inclusive classroom environment.

Computational Thinking Practice Description Exam Weighting (Multiple-Choice Section)
1. Computational Solution Design Design and evaluate computational solutions for a purpose. 18%–25%
2. Algorithms and Program Development Develop and implement algorithms. 20%–28%
3. Abstraction in Program Development Develop programs that incorporate abstractions. 7%–12%
4. Code Analysis Evaluate and test algorithms and programs. 12%–19%
5. Computing Innovations Investigate computing innovations. 28%–33%
6. Responsible Computing Contribute to an inclusive, safe, collaborative, and ethical computing culture. Not assessed



CSP Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to common questions about the course, exam, and AP Course Audit.



AP Computer Science Principles: Research Findings

Read our 2020 report presenting research showing that AP Computer Science Principles often serves as an entryway to STEM fields for female, Black, Hispanic, and first-generation students.

AP and Higher Education

Higher education professionals play a key role in developing AP courses and exams, setting credit and placement policies, and scoring student work. The AP Higher Education section features information on recruitment and admission, advising and placement, and more.

Over 1,200 colleges and universities offer credit and placement policies for AP CSP. Your students can look up credit and placement policies for colleges and universities on the AP Credit Policy Search.

AP Computer Science Principles Course Development

AP Computer Science Principles was created with significant support from the National Science Foundation and more than 50 leading high school and higher education computer science educators who piloted the program at their institutions.

Meet the AP Computer Science Principles Development Committee

The AP Program is unique in its reliance on Development Committees. These committees, made up of an equal number of college faculty and experienced secondary AP teachers from across the country, are essential to the preparation of AP course curricula and exams.