AP Computer Science Principles Frequently Asked Questions

Print this page
beginning of content:

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, teachers 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 and free Teaching and Assessment Modules. Teachers with less computer science experience can also explore professional development offered by College Board endorsed providers.

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 development opportunities, teachers can explore essential course resources endorsed by the College Board, including lesson plans, course planning and pacing guides, scoring guidelines and notes, and additional classroom resources not endorsed by the College Board, like curriculum samples, programming tools, free online courses (MOOCs) and more, to supplement instruction.

There is no designated programming language for the course. Teachers have the flexibility to 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/2.32MB). Though this is not a comprehensive list, it is a point of reference to determine what will work best.

Visit the AP CSP Course Homepage for essential course resources. Review the Course and Exam description, which lays out the course content and describes the assessments and the AP Program in general. Then, move down to additional resources, including Scoring Guidelines and Notes, Teaching and Assessing Modules, Course Overview Modules, Recorded Webinars, Course Planning and Pacing Guides, and more.

Additionally, visit the Professional Development page for PD opportunities organized by the College Board or College Board endorsed providers.

A computer device with Internet access is 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. Students will be required to submit performance tasks for the through-course assessment 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 Chrome, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Samsung
  • Operating systems: Windows 7, 8.1, 10; Mac OS X; Chrome OS; Android 6, 7; or iOS
  • 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. The decision to offer them in sequence is left up to the school and district.

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.

The AP Program recommends 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. Students will need to submit their end-of-course exam intent in the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30.

Students will need to complete the through-course assessment, which makes up 40 percent of the score, by submitting their performance tasks as final in the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30. Students will also need to indicate end-of-course exam intent and enter their AP Number in the AP Digital Portfolio.

Have student download the AP Digital Portfolio—Student User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles and watch the AP Digital Portfolio video for instructions on how to navigate the AP Digital Portfolio.

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. Teachers don’t need to complete the AP Course Audit process to teach the course. They do, however, need 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 AP Computer Science Principles through-course assessment includes two performance tasks. The Explore performance task requires students to identify a computing innovation, explore its impact, and create a computational artifact that represents the computing innovation, accompanied by a written response. The Create performance task focuses specifically on the creation of a computer program through the collaborative and iterative processes of programming, accompanied by a video and written response. The tasks can be administered to students in any order. Find out more on the AP CSP Exam information page.

Samples of the performance tasks with student responses and commentary are available on the AP CSP Exam information page.

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.

While the deadline for submitting performance tasks as final is April 30, teachers will need to set interim deadlines to review student performance tasks prior to April 30. Teachers will not be able to report cases of student plagiarism or noncompliance with performance task directions after April 30.

The Explore performance task directions indicate that at least two of the sources must have been created after the end of the previous academic year. What is the acceptable date for the end of the previous academic year?

The acceptable date is May 1st of the year prior to the submission deadline. For example, for the 2017-18 academic year, two sources should be published 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 an innovation that includes a computer or program as an integral part of its function. Some examples of computing innovations include: physical computing innovations, such as self-driving car; non-physical computing software, such as apps; and non-physical computing concepts, such as eCommerce. The computing innovation selected 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.

Students will be prompted to attest to the following before they submit their performance tasks as final on the AP Digital Portfolio:

  • That the work submitted is the students’ original work, and that they have read and understood the AP CSP Policy on Plagiarism.
  • That they have read the Teachers must share this document with students.
  • That they did not collaborate on any of the following:
    • individual written responses of the Create Performance Task
    • individual video for the Create Performance Task
    • any portion of the Explore Performance Task

Student will receive a zero on their performance tasks if they do not comply with these policies.

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). Samples of the performance tasks with student responses and commentary are available on the AP CSP Exam information page.

Students can 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 is provided in the instruction section of the AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/2.32MB). Though this is not a comprehensive list, it is a point of reference to determine what will work best for a student.

Teachers who find that students have plagiarized by not acknowledging the third-party sources should follow the guidelines for flagging the students’ work as plagiarized. Evidence of the plagiarism should also be provided.

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). 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.

We advise students not to submit performance tasks that were covered in class, as it will be difficult to incorporate completely original ideas and/or responses to prompts. If students do choose to submit topics covered in class, teachers will need to review these performance tasks and report plagiarism to the College Board, if found.

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.

It will be given each year in May. Teachers can visit AP Exam Schedule for the most current exam dates.

Teachers need to review the AP CSP Course and Exam Description (.pdf/3.61MB) carefully to understand the curriculum framework as well as the exam design. It is important to provide opportunities throughout the year for students to practice the learning objectives within the curriculum framework. As an additional resource to the curriculum being implementing, teachers can access practice exams by logging in to their AP Course Audit account. The practice exams are often used as supplemental resources 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, teachers must 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 student responses and commentary are available on the AP CSP Exam information page.

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

When students are ready to complete the Explore performance task for AP scoring purposes, they should not collaborate on any portion of this performance task.

When students are ready to complete the Create performance task for AP scoring purposes, they can collaborate, as long as each student develops and contributes his or her own 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.

However, students cannot collaborate on the written response or video for the Create performance task. The video of the running of the program must be developed independently. The written responses must be written independently, and responses to parts 2c and 2d should be centered around 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.

The AP CSP Course and Exam Description provides teachers with examples of acceptable ways for students to collaborate while completing the Create performance task.

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 submit it as final in the AP Digital Portfolio by April 30 in order to receive an AP Exam score.

Yes. Students can begin uploading their work in the AP Digital Portfolio in September. Once students have received their AP Number in April, students must return to the AP Digital Portfolio in order to enter their AP Number. Students must submit their performance tasks as final, enter their AP Number, and indicate intent to take the end-of-course exam by April 30. Information about submitting can be found on the About the AP Digital Portfolio page. The AP Digital Portfolio—Student User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles (.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 or 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). Teachers can return these files to the students; and
  2. Once students' submissions have been submitted to College Board as final 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.

Please note: Teachers who find that students have plagiarized by not acknowledging the third-party sources should follow the guidelines for flagging the students’ work as plagiarized. Evidence of the plagiarism should also be provided.

If the school does not have a designated AP CSP teacher, a designated AP Coordinator at the school can enroll these students on the AP Digital Portfolio. If there is an AP CSP teacher, but for certain reasons the student is not taking the AP CSP course, it is the AP CSP teacher’s responsibility to add this student to their classroom in 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.

Learn the easiest Rubik's Cube solution which is available in many languages. You'll just have to memorize a cople tricks.

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—Teacher User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles.

Teachers receive access to the AP Digital Portfolio once they start the AP Course Audit process. Teachers who were Course Audit authorized from the previous year will be able to access the AP Digital Portfolio at any time once it is opened.

Teachers should log in to the AP Digital Portfolio using their College Board Professional Account. The AP Digital Portfolio—Teacher User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles provides detailed instruction on how to navigate the digital portfolio. Contact apcsp@collegeboard.org if you can’t remember login information.

Students should log in to the AP Digital Portfolio 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. Contact apcsp@collegeboard.org if you can’t remember login information.

For detailed instructions on how to navigate the digital portfolio, students should download The AP Digital Portfolio—Student User Guide for AP Computer Science Principles and watch the AP Digital Portfolio video.

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

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

For information on AP Coordinator’s role with CSP and for important deadlines, visit the Exam Requiring Special Preparation site.

The AP CSP Coordinator Guide (.pdf/1MB) provides instructions on how to log in, how to create classrooms, and how to upload performance tasks in the AP Digital Portfolio.

For information on the AP Coordinator’s role with CSP and for important deadlines, visit the Exam Requiring Special Preparation site. Contact apcsp@collegeboard.org with additional questions.

AP Coordinators supporting students on a block schedule must complete the access code request form to obtain early access to the AP Digital Portfolio.

Teachers can return student work and report work as plagiarized until April 30. Teachers will need to set interim deadlines to review student performance tasks prior to April 30.

Setting interim deadlines is important because teachers will not be able to report cases of student plagiarism or noncompliance with performance task directions after April 30.

Teachers can continue to access their class work in read-only mode until June 30. After that, their class will be available as an archived class. Archived classes can be found by going to ‘My Classes’ in the top-navigation bar of the Digital Portfolio and clicking on the ‘View your archived classes’ link at the bottom of the menu.

Students must submit all written performance task assessments as final and enter their AP Number into the Digital Portfolio by April 30, otherwise performance tasks will not be scored by the College Board.

There is no guarantee of an extension beyond April 30. Teachers should plan their academic calendars, and set interim deadlines to review student performance tasks, allowing for unforeseen circumstances so that students have made final submissions of performance tasks by April 30.

For extreme circumstances teachers or coordinators can write to apcsp@collegeboard.org to explain their situation. Extensions are not guaranteed and will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Yes, students are required to use the AP Digital Portfolio in order to take the AP Exam and receive an AP score. 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 must be enrolled in AP Digital Portfolio to submit their performance tasks, which account for 40 percent of their AP Exam score.

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.