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Since the launch of the AP Computer Science Principles course in 2016, we’ve been gathering feedback from K–12 and higher education professionals on its structure and content—part of our standard process of strengthening all AP courses.

Based on what we’ve heard, we’re making these updates to the AP CSP course and exam in the 2020-21 school year to improve the course experience and better align AP CSP to introductory college courses in the subject.

Here is what we’ve updated:

Conceptual Framework

Download the Conceptual Framework for 2020-21 (.pdf/1.5MB)

  • Big ideas are reframed to convey themes that should be taught across units developed in a typical college computer science course. These include:
    1. Creative Development
    2. Data
    3. Algorithms and Programming
    4. Computer Systems and Networks
    5. Impact of Computing
  • Learning Objectives are more specific, giving teachers and students a clearer understanding of the course objectives.
  • Computational Thinking Practices include further refined skills to help teach not just content, but a way of thinking. Emphasis will be placed on creativity and collaboration as pedagogical strategies to be used to develop a diverse, appealing and inclusive classroom environment.



  • The multiple-choice section of the exam will contain 70 single-select and multiple-select questions. On the 2021 exam, a set of the stimulus-based multiple-choice questions will require students to analyze the data, as well as the effects, of a computing innovation.

Through-Course Assessment

Explore Performance Task

  • Students will no longer have the Explore performance task as part of their through-course assessment starting on the 2021 exam, though teachers will still need to incorporate the skills and content formally assessed in the Explore performance task in their classroom instruction.
  • Students will be assessed on the skills and content from the Explore performance task through a stimulus multiple-choice set on the end of course 2021 exam.

Create Performance Task

  • Students will get revised instructions to clarify the expectations for developing algorithms and new requirements for the development of specific abstractions. Review pages 40-41 of the Conceptual Framework for a summary of the updates to the Create Performance Task on the 2021 exam.

We’re working closely with endorsed providers to be sure they incorporate these updates into their curricula and professional development resources to support your teaching in the 2020-21 school year.

Since these updates won’t take effect until fall 2020, continue to use the existing AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.0MB) in 2019-20.

Download the Recorded Webinar

To learn more about the 2020-21 AP CSP course and exam updates download the recorded version of the October 24th presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

The AP Program continually works with K–12 and higher education professionals to strengthen all AP courses and exams to best serve our students and meet higher education standards. These updates, based on feedback from educators, will improve the course experience and enhance AP CSP alignment to higher education introductory courses.

Updates to the AP CSP course and exam go into effect in fall 2020. That means that the AP CSP Exam in May 2021 will reflect these updates. Students completing the Create performance task by April 30, 2021, will use the revised instructions and requirements.

The AP CSP course and exam in 2019-20 won’t have updates. Continue to use the current AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.0MB) and exam resources to support your instruction.

In spring 2020, teachers will have access to resources such as an updated AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description, an AP CSP practice exam, and curriculum update webinars, as well as updated lesson plans and preapproved syllabi delivered by endorsed providers.