AP CSP: Questions About the Course


Do I need specific experience to teach AP Computer Science Principles?

It helps to have a fundamental understanding of computer science to teach this course. However, due to the broad and multidisciplinary nature of the course, teachers do not need to have prior computer science experience.

Teachers of all backgrounds can prepare to teach AP CSP by participating in professional learning specific to AP Computer Science Principles.

  • From College Board: Attend AP Summer Institutes and one-day workshops and view free teaching and assessing modules.
  • From educational organizations endorsed by College Board: Explore AP CSP curricula–including preapproved syllabi, lesson plans, and other instructional supports–delivered by College Board-endorsed providers. AP CSP teachers who participate in professional learning offered by an endorsed provider are not required to attend a College Board AP Summer Institute for AP CSP.

Note that states determine their own requirements for teacher certification and endorsement. Teachers need to check out their state-specific computer science teacher certification requirements.

Beyond professional learning opportunities, teachers can explore essential course resources endorsed by College Board, including lesson plans, scoring guidelines, and notes. Additional classroom resources, some of which may not be endorsed by College Board, appear on the AP CSP Classroom Resources page. These include curriculum samples, programming tools, free online courses, and more.

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Why bring AP Computer Science Principles to my school?

Almost every field today–from the arts and media to lab sciences–requires some understanding of computing. AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) can help students understand how computing and technology influence the world around them. Students will learn how to creatively address real-world issues while using the same tools and processes that artists, writers, computer scientists, and engineers use to bring ideas to life.

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Are there any student prerequisites?

The AP Program recommends that students successfully complete a high school algebra course like Algebra I with a strong foundation in basic algebraic concepts dealing with function notation and problem-solving strategies. Students should be able to use a Cartesian (x, y) coordinate system to represent points on a plane. Students do not need to have prior computer science knowledge or experience.

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How can we recruit students traditionally underrepresented in the field of computer science?

We present on this site several evidence-based strategies to help schools ensure that schools and teachers are actively recruiting a representative group of students into their classrooms, with special outreach to groups that have been underrepresented in computer science. Learn more.

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Will colleges and universities award credit for the course? What is the equivalent college-level course?

1,200 colleges and universities have published their credit policies for satisfactory exam scores, and new policies continue to be submitted. AP Computer Science Principles is designed to be equivalent to a first-semester introductory college computing course. Colleges and universities make individual decisions on their credit and placement policies, which vary from institution to institution. Students should contact the college that they are interested in for details.

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Can students take AP Computer Science Principles without taking the AP Exam?

Yes. Students can take the course without taking the AP Exam.

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What is the recommended length for the course, semester-long or yearlong?

The AP Program recommends that this course be taught over an entire school year. It can be taught on a block schedule.

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What’s the difference between AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A?

The AP Computer Science A course and exam focus on leveraging programming in Java to solve problems. Students cultivate their understanding of coding through analyzing, writing, and testing code as they explore concepts like modularity, variables, and control structures.

The AP Computer Science Principles course complements AP Computer Science A and focuses on the broader aspects of computing. 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 the potential impacts of these innovations, and contribute to a computing culture that is collaborative and ethical.

Additionally, the AP Exams for the two courses have different formats. AP Computer Science A has one end-of-course AP Exam with multiple-choice and free-response questions. AP Computer Science Principles includes the Create performance task, which is completed during the course, and an end-of-course AP Exam consisting of multiple-choice questions and written response questions related to the Create performance task.

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Which textbooks does College Board recommend?

College Board does not recommend specific textbooks. However, a list of textbooks appropriate for the course appears on the AP CSP Course Audit page.

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What equipment do students need for the course?

Each AP CSP student will need access to a computer with an internet connection and software for developing programs and creating other computational artifacts. The specific software programs they’ll need will depend on course content determined by the teacher.

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Are there professional learning opportunities for AP Computer Science Principles?

AP Summer Institutes and one-day workshops are offered at high schools and colleges around the country. If the school is implementing a curriculum through a College Board–endorsed provider, teachers can attend a professional learning event offered by the provider, and are not required to attend an AP Summer Institute.

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How do I prepare to teach this course?

Visit the AP CSP course page for essential course resources. Review the course and exam description, which lays out the course content and describes the exam and the AP Program in general. Then, move down to additional resources, including scoring guidelines and notes, teaching and assessing modules, and more.

Visit the AP CSP Classroom Resources page to find more resources. Go to Adopt Ready-to-Use Curricula to browse out-of-the-box curricula designed by College Board–endorsed providers.

Additionally, visit the Professional Learning page for professional learning opportunities organized by College Board or College Board–endorsed providers.

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Do I need to know a specific programming language to teach the course?

There is no designated programming language for the course. Teachers can choose the programming language that is most appropriate for them and their students to use in the classroom. A list of suggested programming languages is provided in the AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.05MB). Though this is not a comprehensive list, it is a point of reference to determine what will work best.

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If students want to take both AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A, is there a recommended sequence?

The courses can be taken in any order. The decision to offer them in sequence is left up to the school and district.

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