AP Computer Science Principles Frequently Asked Questions

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Questions about the Explore Performance Task Rubric

On November 11, 2016, the AP Program announced that updates to the scoring guidelines for the Explore Performance Task were made to ensure better scoring reliability during the AP Reading. The new guidelines include seven criteria that will be used to score sample student responses. Please note that while the structure of the rubric is different, the performance task directions have not changed; therefore the expectations for student submissions have not changed. If you were using the previous scoring guidelines with your students, they will still be well prepared to submit their Explore Performance Task. The new rubric continues to focus on major requirements of the task. We have also provided five new sample student responses, with accompanying scoring commentary and student performance Q & A.

Because the Explore performance task directions have not changed, teachers need only provide students with the required 8 hours of class time. Students should not need additional time to complete the task. However, teachers may provide class time to allow students to review and revise their work using the updated Scoring Guidelines (.pdf/3.1MB).

Students do not need to complete or upload a new response. As long as the teacher has not made final submissions to College Board, students are allowed to review their uploaded response to ensure they are satisfied it meets the requirements in the new Scoring Guidelines. They will not be penalized in any way for doing this.

May 1st. For example, for the 2017-18 academic year, at least two of the references should be dated after May 1, 2017. This date applies for all schools with year-long and block scheduled AP courses.

For this course, a computing innovation is considered any innovation that depends on computing or computing tools (i.e., includes a computer or program code) to define its functionality. The computing innovation should meet all of the requirements of the Explore—Impact of Computing Innovation task in the AP Computer Science Principles Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.32MB).

If students are incorporating work that requires attributions into their computational artifact, students should consider the following:

If the computational artifact is a video: In addition to including a list of references within the video or as part of the written response, students can provide titled text in the video with the appropriate attribution for specific portions, or provide the attributions verbally as part of a voice over in the video if voice is included.

If the computational artifact is an image or a collection of images: In addition to including a list of references as part of the written response, students can organize the images (e.g., using a numbering system, or providing information about the placement of the images (upper left, bottom right, etc.)) and provide text as part of the image or the written response to include the appropriate attributions.

Questions about the course

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, you do not need to have prior computer science experience.

While STEM teachers may be particularly suited to teach the course, teachers of all backgrounds will have the opportunity for professional development to supplement their experience, including AP Summer Institutes and one-day workshops. Teachers with less computer science experience can also explore professional development offered by College Board endorsed providers.

Additionally, states determine their own requirements for teacher certification and endorsement. Be sure to check out your state-specific computer science teacher certification requirements.

There is no designated programming language for the course. You have the flexibility to choose the programming language that is most appropriate for you or your 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/2.32MB). Though this is not a comprehensive list, we suggest it as a point of reference to begin determining what will work best for a student.

These resources will help:

The AP Program recommends that classrooms have computers for students to use daily. Internet access is strongly recommended since the course studies the internet. In addition, as part of the requirements of the through-course performance tasks, students should be able to conduct online investigations of computing innovations. You are allowed to install computing software of your choosing so that students can develop programs and create other computational artifacts.

Computers with Internet access are required for significant course work that includes, but is not limited to, studying the infrastructure of the Internet and conducting online investigations of computing innovations. In addition, Internet access is required to submit work completed for the through-course performance tasks via the AP Digital Portfolio. Computer system(s) available for students should contain appropriate computing software so that students can develop programs and create other computational artifacts throughout the course.

The following are recommendations for each equipment or resource requirement:

  • Browsers: Latest version of Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge
  • Operating systems: Windows 7, 8.1, 10; Mac OS X; or iOS 9
  • Devices: Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, or Mobile

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

The courses can be taken in any order, or at the same time. The recommended prerequisite for both courses is a first-year high school algebra course such as Algebra I.

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.

We recommend that this course be taught over an entire school year. It can be taught on a block schedule.

Yes. Students can take the course without taking the AP Exam. If students are seeking college credit or placement, be sure to check with the institution's policies to determine if they will grant credit or placement without an AP Exam score.

Questions about the AP Course Audit

The AP Course Audit is an authorization process that provides teachers and administrators with guidelines and requirements for offering AP courses. It also ensures that AP courses across high schools meet the same college-level criteria.

Yes. Every school wishing to label a course an "AP" course must participate in the AP Course Audit.

The AP Course Audit requires the online submission of two documents: the AP Course Audit form and the teacher's syllabus. The AP teacher and the school principal or designated administrator submit the AP Course Audit form, acknowledging the curricular and resource requirements. The syllabus, detailing how the AP course requirements will be met, is submitted by the AP teacher for review by college faculty.

No. We strongly encourage that you begin the course audit process between now and Sept. 1, 2016, but the submission deadline is Jan. 31, 2017. It is necessary to start the course audit process in order to gain access to the AP Digital Portfolio—a web-based application where teachers create a classroom and confirm students' submission of performance tasks as part of the assessment for this course.

The AP CSP Course Audit site provides teachers with the tools to create and submit their syllabus for authorization, including curricular requirements, a syllabus development guide, and four annotated sample syllabi. Teachers can choose to create their own syllabus, adopt and submit a sample syllabus, or work with an endorsed provider and obtain a syllabus ID number to receive course authorization.

Go to AP Course Audit for more FAQs, resources, and information about the process.

Questions about the Assessment

The assessment has two parts: a through-course assessment (consisting of two performance tasks) that students complete during the school year and the end-of-course AP Exam given in May. Both of these will measure student achievement of the course learning objectives. For the through-course assessment, students will upload digital artifacts and written responses via a web-based digital portal. For more information about the through-course performance tasks, please see the Assessment Overview section of the AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/3.61MB).

The through-course assessment includes two AP Computer Science Principles performance tasks. One of the tasks requires students to identify a computing innovation, explore its impact, and create a computational artifact that represents the computing innovation. The other task focuses on the development of a computer program through the collaborative and iterative processes of programming. The tasks can be administered to students in any order. Find out more on the assessment information page.

Samples of the performance tasks will be available by summer 2016 and will be included in the College Board's AP Summer Institutes.

Teachers are required to provide students a minimum of 8 hours of class time for the Explore performance task and a minimum of 12 hours of class time for the Create performance task. Sufficient time should be provided to students to learn the concepts tested in each performance task and to practice these skills prior to completing and submitting their work on the AP Digital Portfolio for AP scoring purposes.

No. While students are required to provide attributions through at least three inline citations in their responses, no specific citation style is required. MLA, APA, or IEEE would be appropriate to use for the works-cited list. Students can denote inline citations and references in any manner, even if the style of inline citations used in responses does not follow an official format (e.g., MLA, APA, IEEE). You can view sample student responses to see examples.

Students are allowed to develop any program they choose (e.g., an app, a game, art design, etc.) with their choice of programming language to meet all the criteria in the Create performance task. A list of suggested programming languages that were used when piloting this course can be found in the instruction section of the AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.32MB). Though this is not a comprehensive list, we suggest it as a point of reference to begin determining what will work best for a student.

Students should craft their written responses to remain within the word count limit (per the task directions in the AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.32MB); the limits are 700 words for the Explore task and 750 words for the Create task). A template will be provided for students to use for each performance task that will allow a small amount of flexibility in case additional words are needed to complete each response. The template will also help ensure students include all the required responses and provide guidance for them to remain within an acceptable word count limit. Students may need to revise their responses to provide the most essential information needed to meet each criterion in the rubrics for each performance task. More information regarding these templates is available on the AP Digital Portfolio site.

During the submission process, students must attest that they are submitting their own work.

For the Explore performance task: If students select a computing innovation that was discussed in class, students must find new sources and submit original responses to avoid fraud and plagiarism and cannot submit any work from practice performance tasks.

For the Create performance task: Students must be able to claim that the program code and the written response they are submitting is their own. Students can use code segments that are not originally developed by them provided they have included appropriate attributions for these code segments.

Furthermore, students should not submit any written responses that were used in practice performance tasks in class. For additional information, please see the FAQ: What should teachers do if they notice a student has neglected to cite their sources?

It will be given each year in May. Go to the AP Exam Schedule for the most current exam dates.

Review the AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/3.61MB) carefully to understand the curriculum framework as well as the exam design. Provide opportunities throughout the year for your students to practice the learning objectives within the curriculum framework. As an additional resource to the curriculum you are implementing, access to a full practice exam is available by logging in to your AP Course Audit account. The practice exam is often used as a supplemental resource to help students understand the types of questions that may be asked in the AP CSP Exam.

To prepare students for the through-course performance tasks, ensure that they have sufficient learning experiences and practice on the concepts tested in the tasks prior to administering them. Samples of the performance tasks with scoring commentary are available on the AP CSP Assessment Information page. Sample responses to the performance tasks with scoring commentary are available.

Online resources like curriculum samples, programming tools, and free online courses (MOOCs) can supplement your AP CSP instruction. These resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the College Board but are recommendations from your fellow teachers. Visit the AP CSP Classroom Resources page and join the AP CSP Teacher Community to access resources.

After a student uploads their final submission, teachers will be able to review the submission to ensure appropriate acknowledgements of image(s), video, music, written works, and code segment(s) created by someone else and used in the creation of the computational artifact or written responses. If there are attributions missing, teachers will be able to return the submission to the student to add the necessary acknowledgments before submitting to College Board for AP Scoring, rather than reporting this as plagiarism.

When students are ready to complete the Explore performance task for AP scoring purposes, students must complete this task on their own.

When students are ready to complete the Create performance task for AP scoring purposes, students can collaborate in the development of their program. The AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.32MB) provides teachers with examples of acceptable ways for students to collaborate while completing the Create performance task.

Yes, as long as each student develops and contributes their independently developed algorithm and abstraction. The code should be labeled based on what was developed together and what was contributed by each partner. This can be done through the use of program comments. The video of the running of the program should be developed independently. The written responses should be written independently, and responses to parts 2c and 2d should be centered on the algorithm and abstraction the student developed independent from their partner. Additionally, the response to part 2B should focus on at least one of the difficulties or opportunities being something they did independently, the other can be either independent or collaborative.

Students are able to work on the tasks outside of a classroom provided they have been given the required class time as indicated in the performance task directions.

Teachers can accommodate the student to complete the task in the classroom or school environment , ensuring that they have access to tools and resources they need. Some teachers may be able to allow the student to continue working independently during class time, or before and/or after class. Teachers can check their school policy for additional information on providing students with make-up time to complete assignments. Note that students must upload their work and complete their final submissions on the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30 in order to receive an AP Exam score.

Yes. Students can begin uploading their work on the AP Digital Portfolio starting this fall. Keep in mind that once students have received their AP number in March, students must return to the AP Digital Portfolio in order to complete their submission as final. Information about submitting can be found on the About the AP Digital Portfolio page. The Student User Guide (.pdf/1.01MB) is also a helpful resource.

Teachers can review student submissions for the following purposes ONLY:

  1. Teachers can review the files that student are submitting to ensure the files are correct and not corrupted for each performance task (i.e., students upload correct files for the Explore performance task and correct files for the Create performance task); and

  2. Teachers can review students' submissions to ensure they have provided necessary attributions for work that is not originally created or written by the student. Students must attribute work that is not their own through inline citations and references. If a teacher notices student work that does not provide the necessary attributions through citations and references, teachers can inform the students where they believe missing attributions are needed and return the work to the student to add the necessary inline citations and references before submitting it to College Board.

  3. Once students' submissions have been submitted to College Board through the AP Digital Portfolio, teachers can then provide feedback to students if they are being considered as part of a class grade. Note that classroom grades may differ from the AP score that a student may receive.

A designated AP Coordinator at your school can enroll these students on the AP Digital Portfolio. For more information, see the AP CSP Site for Coordinators and About the AP Digital Portfolio.

Go to the course homepage and exam information page. You'll find specifics about the exam format and more.

Questions about the AP Digital Portfolio

The AP Digital Portfolio is a web-based application used to facilitate the process of collecting and transmitting AP Computer Science Principles through-course performance tasks to the AP Reading for scoring. The AP Digital Portfolio contains user roles for teachers, students, and AP Coordinators.

Through the AP Digital Portfolio you can create CSP classes. Information on the AP Digital Portfolio—including how to log in, how to create classrooms, and how to upload and submit performance tasks—is available on the AP Digital Portfolio site.

The AP Digital Portfolio is only available to teachers, students, and Coordinators at schools who are authorized to offer AP Computer Science Principles. Access to the Digital Portfolio is granted after teachers have started the AP Course Audit process. We strongly encourage teachers to start the AP Course Audit process by Sept. 1 to gain access to the AP Digital Portfolio.

Teachers should go to the AP Digital Portfolio and log in using their College Board Professional Account. First time AP Computer Science Principles teachers will receive an access code from the College Board in early September. The AP Digital Portfolio—Teacher User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles provides detailed instruction for teachers using digital portfolio.

Students should go to the AP Digital Portfolio and log in using their College Board username and password. Students may have an existing account if they viewed AP scores, or registered for SAT online. Students can request a password reset, or they can create a new account if they do not already have one. The AP Digital Portfolio—Student User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles—launching August 2016 on the AP Digital Portfolio site—will provide detailed instructions for students using the digital portfolio.

Coordinators from schools that offer AP CSP will receive an access code to the AP Digital Portfolio in early 2018.

Coordinators supporting independent study students will be given instructions and access to the AP Digital Portfolio upon request. Contact apcsp@collegeboard.org if you need access.

Visit the Exam Requiring Special Preparation site for information on Coordinator's role with AP CSP.

Access to the AP Digital Portfolio will be granted to AP Coordinators this fall. Coordinators supporting independent study students or homeschooled students will need to:

  • Create an AP Computer Science Principles class in the AP Digital Portfolio to enroll students
  • Provide students with all the necessary information and directions for reenrollment and submission of work in the AP Digital Portfolio
  • Order and administer the AP Computer Science Principles End-of-Course Exam for each student.

Instructions on how to log in, how to create classrooms, and how to upload performance tasks to the AP Digital Portfolio are posted on About the AP Digital Portfolio.

If you would like to assist homeschooled students or students who pursue independent study to complete the through-course assessment and end-of-course exam for AP CSP, you can do the following:

  • Be willing to create an AP CSP class in the AP Digital Portfolio to enroll students in the class.
  • Provide students with all the necessary information and directions for enrollment and submission of work in the AP Digital Portfolio.
  • Order and administer the AP Exam at the end of the course for each student.

Instructions on how to log in, how to create classrooms, and how to upload performance tasks to the AP Digital Portfolio are posted on the AP Digital Portfolio site. Contact apcsp@collegeboard.org with questions or visit the AP Digital Portfolio site for students.

The last day for teachers to access the AP Digital Portfolio is April 30.

Students must submit all written performance task assessments as final and enter their AP ID numbers into the Digital Portfolio by April 30.

There is no guarantee of an extension beyond April 30. Teachers should plan their academic calendars allowing for unforeseen circumstances so that students have made final submissions of performance tasks by April 30.

Performance tasks make up 40 percent of the overall course grade. If students want their performance tasks to be scored they must complete the following in the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30: submit their tasks as final, indicate intent to take end-of-course exam, and enter the AP number. We highly recommend that students submit their performance tasks in addition to taking the end-of-course exam. Students must take an end-of-course exam to receive an AP score.

Students who are not enrolled in the AP Digital Portfolio will not receive an AP score for AP Computer Science Principles because they will not be able to submit through-course performance tasks or take the end-of-course exam in AP Computer Science Principles.

An AP number is a unique identifier assigned to every AP test-taker in a given administration year and can be found in the AP Student Packs that are delivered to schools in April. AP numbers are student specific and not exam specific. If a student is taking multiple AP Exams, they will use the same AP number for each exam.

Students must enter an AP number into the Digital Portfolio in order for their work to be sent to the College Board. All performance tasks that a student has submitted as final by April 30 will automatically be sent to the College Board for scoring, as long as an AP number is associated with the student's digital portfolio account.