How to Choose the Right AP Computer Science Course?

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The AP Computer Science Principles course was first offered by the College Board in 2016, and by 2019, over 100,000 teenagers had taken the exam. Female test-takers jumped by 136%, demonstrating the course’s efficacy. By 2020, 116,000 people would have taken the exam, up 21% from the previous year. Since 1984, Computer Science A has been a popular course, with almost 70,000 high school students enrolled in a normal year.


What material does AP Computer Science Principles cover?


  1. Creative development (collaboration, design, development)
  2. Data (binary numbers, data compression/extraction)
  3. Programming and Algorithms (variables and assignments, data abstraction, iteration, etc.)
  4. Computer Systems and Networks (internet, fault tolerance, parallel/distributed computing)
  5. Impact of Computing (crowdsourcing, legal/ethical concerns/bias)


What material does AP Computer Science A cover?


  1. Algorithm Development and Program Design (determine code segments to produce a given output)
  2. Code Logic (determine output/value/result of program code based on initial values)
  3. Code Testing (analyze the code for correctness, equivalence, and errors)
  4. Documentation (explain the actions/conditions that resulted in a specific outcome)


Four free-response questions are included in a separate essay portion that covers the following five skill areas:

  1. Write program code to create objects of a class and call methods.
  2. Write program code to define a new type by creating a class.
  3. Write program code to satisfy method specifications using expressions, conditional statements, and iterative statements.
  4. Write program code to create, traverse, and manipulate elements in a 1D array or ArrayList objects.
  5. Write program code to create, traverse, and manipulate elements in 2D array objects.


How do students score on the AP Computer Science Principles exam?


Only 10.9% of test-takers received a “5” on the AP Computer Science Principles exam in 2020, while 23.6% received a “4”. A “3” was gained by 37.1%, a “2” by 19.8%, and a “1” by 8.6%. Only 234 students globally answered all of the questions correctly the previous year. Students perform best on issues relating to “data & information,” “internet,” and “global influence,” on average. Students do the worst on questions on programming.


How do students score on the AP Computer Science A exam?


Surprisingly, a higher number of students pass the more challenging Comp Science A test. A whopping 25.6% received a “5”. A “4” was chosen by 21.7%, a “3” by 23.2%, a “2” by 12.8%, and a “1” by 16.8%. While about one-fifth of students fail this difficult exam, nearly half of those who took it received a “4” or a “5”. This makes sense because this test is taken by a larger self-selecting sample than the Principles test. At that point, 601 pupils aced all of the test questions 2019.


Who should take AP Computer Science Principles?


This course is suitable for those with little or no coding expertise. Because the degree of math required is only a dive into basic algebra, several students choose to take AP Computer Science Principles early in their high school careers. This is a subject that every serious student should take, whether or not they want to continue their education in Computer Science beyond high school. In short, everybody with even a passing interest in computers should take this class.


Who should take Computer Science A?


Before enrolling in this program, students should have excelled in an Algebra II course and/or have coding expertise. AP Computer Science A is a high school course that anyone interested in a career in engineering, design, or software development should take. Colleges wanting to enter a range of tech-oriented fields of study will expect to see this on your transcript if it is offered by your high school.


Should I take both courses?


These courses, according to the College Board, can be taken in any order. This is probably sound advice if you have a lot of coding experience. If not, we recommend starting with AP Computer Science Principles and then progressing to AP Computer Science A later in the semester/year if you appreciate the overview. Some advanced students may tell you that Principles are not worth your time, while others would advise you to do both to show your commitment to Computer Science at a competitive university. Finally, if you are a top-tier Computer Science student, we believe that taking AP Computer Science Principles can be advantageous if you have space in your already jam-packed AP program. However, if your day is already packed with vital and highly relevant lessons, there is no need to force this course.


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