Comparing AP Computer Science Courses

AP offers two computer science courses—AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles. Students can take the courses in any order.

The AP Computer Science Principles course complements AP Computer Science A by teaching foundational concepts as it aims to broaden participation in the study of computer science. The AP Computer Science A course focuses on computing skills related to programming in Java.


Computer Science A

Computer Science Principles

Curricular Focus

Problem solving and object-oriented programming

Big ideas of computer science (including algorithms and programming)

Programming Language


Teachers choose the programming language

End-of-Course Exam Experience

Multiple-choice (single-select) and free-response questions

Multiple-choice (single- and multiple-select) questions, some related to a reading passage about a computing innovation

Create performance task administered by the teacher; students submit digital artifacts

Why We Created AP CSP

Whether it’s 3-D animation, engineering, music, app development, medicine, visual design, robotics, or political analysis, computer science is the engine that powers the technology, productivity, and innovation that drive the world. Computer science experience has become imperative for students’ success in the workforce of tomorrow.

We designed AP Computer Science Principles with the goal of creating leaders in computer science fields and attracting and engaging those who are traditionally underrepresented in computer science with essential computing tools and multidisciplinary opportunities.

Research shows that AP Computer Science Principles is making headway in diversifying computer science participation since its launch. See the 2020 research findings.

How We Developed AP CSP

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.

The rigorous process of development and testing produced a course that reflects the latest scholarship in the field and provides students with a relevant and engaging learning experience.