Thought Leadership


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Why You Should Take AP Computer Science Principles

March 18th, 2017

If you’ve never taken a computer science course, but are intrigued to learn, AP Computer Science Principles is your best bet. AP CSP is a new course developed by the College Board and made first available for the 2016-17 school year, and is the perfect first AP class if you’ve never taken one before. This course was designed specifically for those who are not very familiar to the coding world and takes you through the fundamentals of programming, granting you computer science literacy which will allow you to have a solid base when taking computer science courses in college. Taking this class will give a better understanding of the CS field in case you aren’t sure whether or not you want to pursue it later on.

Check if AP Computer Science Principles is available at your High School

As mentioned, AP CSP launched at the start of the 2016-17 school year. Before this, AP Computer Science A was the only AP computer science course available, which entailed a bit more of an intensive curriculum. It may be the case that your high school might not yet offer AP CSP, since it is still a relatively new course. Either way, reach out to your guidance counselor to add it to your schedule next year or suggest the possibility of adding the course to the school’s curriculum.

What will I learn in AP Computer Science Principles?

The curriculum structure of AP CSP is based around computational thinking practices, which is a fancy term for determining how to use simple math concepts to solve problems. The course is broken into five main units that cover connecting computing (learning the effects computing/programs have on society), creating computational artifacts (applying computing techniques to creatively solve problems), abstracting (understand how data, information, or knowledge is used for computational use), analyzing problems and artifacts (evaluate a proposed solution to a problem and locate/correct errors), communicating (describe computations and explain the meaning of a program’s result/output), collaborating (work with others constructively to solve a computational problem). These may sound like complicated ideas but they really just mean learning computer science lingo/ideas to be able to develop simple programs and being able to explain how a program works using accurate terms to another person.

Teachers have a lot of options and leeway when teaching AP CSP, and not every class will be identical. Some of the programming languages the College Board recommend teachers use in class include Scratch, App Inventor, Python, Java, and Swift. Scratch and App Inventor are “block-based” programming languages, which means you won’t have to type any code– these platforms are very useful to learning the fundamentals of programming. After a while, your teacher will most likely move onto “text-based” language where you will take the building blocks you learned before but actually type code following the proper syntax or programming language rules.

What will the AP exam for this course consist of?

AP CSP is somewhat of an unusual AP course, since there are three portions that count for different percentages of your AP score: the Explore Performance Task (16%), the Create Performance Task (24%), and the End-of Course Exam in May (60%).

The end-of-course exam is two hours long and includes 74 multiple-choice questions that test your understanding of fundamental programming ideas as well as ability to fix an error or determine/explain the outcome of a presented program.

The Explore and Create tasks are projects you will have time to work on inside and outside of class. The Explore Performance task requires you to find an innovation/technology in society and write a report on the impact it has. The Create Performance task is a project where you will be developing a program using any block-based or text-based platform taught in class while making use of a few fundamental programming ideas. You will also be submitting a written response and video about your program and development process.

Where can I learn more?

The curriculum for AP CSP is still new and may change periodically based on feedback from teachers. To stay up to date on this course, check out the College Board’s website on AP CSP.