AP CS A or CSP? Both! Four AP CS Veterans Share Their Perspectives

AP CS A or CSP? Both! Four AP CS Veterans Share Their Perspectives

In this collaborative piece, four high schoolers share their experiences taking Advanced Placement Computer Science, and provide valuable advice on how to succeed in AP Computer Science classes.

Image for postFrom left to right students Jenna, Mridula, Gloria, and Ashley.

?Computer Science is boring.?

?Programming is useless.?

?Coding is too challenging.?

Perhaps you have heard these statements before; however, they are all false. To us, Computer Science is empowering, exciting, and worthwhile, and we are here to tell you how AP Computer Science classes can lead you to succeed in programming and technology, and set you up for success in college.

College Board promo video on AP Computer Science Principles

AP Computer Science Principles

If you aren?t yet sure you are sold on computer science, then AP Computer Science Principles (CSP) is for you! CSP is a survey course that explores many different aspects of computing, including social impact, security, privacy and more. Students will be introduced to data structures, algorithms, and the internet. The exam includes a multiple-choice section and two projects.

Insider Tips

1) Research

Read about current news in technology daily and decide if there is anything that interests you.

2) Understand Fundamentals

Know the key points for each topic covered.

3) Explore

Research more about technology to find something that interests you!

4) Collaborate

By working with other people, you can learn from one another and ask for help.

5) Think Creatively

There are many approaches that can be taken to solve a problem so try to brainstorm the different solutions.

6) Ask Questions

If you find yourself struggling on an assignment, don?t be afraid to ask.

7) Try Again

If something doesn?t work, try again with a different tactic.

8) Write Clearly

Write your responses as clearly as possible as they are the easiest for AP readers to understand.

9) Think Simple

Basic projects can earn full points if they meet requirements.

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In my sophomore year, I took AP Computer Science Principles and loved it! My teacher taught the course using Python, a simple language which made it easy to comprehend new programming concepts. Class primarily involved short slideshow lectures and coding projects. At the end of the year, we even took apart a computer! Computer Science Principles is an engaging class for all ? including those who have never before considered computing. I wouldabsolutely recommend it.


I had already coded side projects before taking AP Computer Science Principles but learning about the theory and problem solving skills that are taught in this course only furthered my fondness for CS. I learned about the many layers that there are in only just the steps to writing a program and sharpened my computational skills. When it came time to take theexam, I actually felt prepared and excited to take it.


I took the AP Computer Science Principles exam while taking the AP Computer Science A class. The two exams differed majorly as AP Computer Science Principles was less stressful with 2/3 parts of the exam completed in class while AP Computer Science A was a classic AP exam with multiple choice sections and free response questions.


AP Computer Science Principles is meant for the blooming Computer Scientist who is curious and driven to take that first step towards computing and technology. I personally believe that taking the course and exam is crucial in gaining an understanding of what Computer Science is. The class gives an interactive and creative spin on the test to expand students? love for the subject while challenging them in activities that are necessary for ComputerScience.

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AP Computer Science A

AP Computer Science A is geared towards students who want to gain deeper experience in Java programming; however, students with no prior experience can also do well in the course. The exam has a multiple choice section and four free-response questions.

Insider Tips

1) Keep Coding

Coding constantly and practice is essential in gaining confidence in computing.

2) Prepare

Review concepts weekly to refresh your computing knowledge.

3) Read Closely

Questions often give hints on how to write the necessary code, so read carefully!

4) Understand Loops

Loops comprise a large part of the exam so understand how they run.

5) Review Syntax

Review Java coding terminology before the exam to prevent mistakes.

6) Don?t Compare Yourself to Others

Everyone learns at a different pace; take time to understand each concept.

Image for postStudents Ashley and Mridula



I took AP Computer Science A in eleventh grade. Aside from notes, my peers and I worked on a variety of projects such as battleship and a card game! My background in coding particularly helped me in this course; despite the complex appearance of Java?s syntax, many coding concepts were the same as ones I had already learned. Computer Science A may seem challenging, but in my experience, anyone can succeed with hard work.


I was one of the three 11th grade girls in my class. Entering the course with minimal experience, I left with cool projects and a stronger self-confidence. While some students took 15 minutes to finish projects, I usually took 2 hours. However, seeing my code finally run and being able to say, ?Wow! I did that.? made the course and the hours spent fixing errors worth it. Take risks. Ask questions. Put the effort in. And you will definitely succeed this course.


Being among the few girls to take AP Computer Science A in the 9th grade, it was challenging at the start. But my love for computer science only grew as my classmates and I were encouraged to do our best and learn more. Even after experiencing challenges with the concepts, I was able to master them soon by realizing that learning Java programming is worth the time and effort I put in. Taking the time to understand the concepts, using all available resources and not being afraid to ask for help are three main qualities that helped me ace the AP CS A course and exam.

Ready to dig in? There are lots of great resources online. We?ve put together a handy table with resources for both courses!

About the Authors


A rising Sophomore at Basis Shavano, Mridula is an avid learner and continues her search for knowledge by taking on challenging courses and extracurriculars at her school. She is an Oracle Certified Java Associate, has been recognized by the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT), is the captain for her all-girls Cyber Patriots Team and Girls Go Cyber Start team, and has received the AP Scholar with Honor Award in her freshman year. She created the website askthecat.org as a supplemental to her peer tutoring efforts at school so that students could ask questions anonymously and receive personalized video responses to their questions. She hopes that her website will help share the love of learning and appreciation for subjects like Computer Science. She would like to remain eager and enthusiastic about learning throughout her life.


Jenna is a student at Centennial High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tech Guru Innoventure, an organization established to introduce coding to middle school students as well as show how coding can be used in a business setting. She is also the webmaster of Breaking Away from the Mathbook, an educational resource website by Pat Baggett and Andrzej Ehrenfeucht. During her educational career, Jenna has been recognized by the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) with the Award for Aspirations in Computing, the Congressional App Challenge, She++, and coderGirls for her computing pursuits.


Gloria is an incoming freshman at the School of Arts & Sciences at Rutgers University. Her intended major is Computer Science with an interest in Artificial Intelligence. She is a Paul Robeson Institute Scholar as well as a Girls Who Code Alumni and NYU GSTEM alumni. During her high school experience she founded the first Girls Who Code Club in her community at the town?s middle school for the junior girls and been recognized by the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) with the Award for Aspirations in Computing. She hopes to create robots that will help underrepresented women be more educated in STEM and for people during natural disasters.


Ashley is a rising senior at Alameda High School where she loves playing soccer, attending hackathons, and participating in clubs. Her interests in computer science first sparked through animation, and she?s continued pursuing her interests in technology as the founder and executive director of She STEMs, an organization introducing girls to computer science through robotics. Ashley is currently working as a research apprentice at San Jos State University. She has been recognized by the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) with the Award for Aspirations in Computing, the Mentor Foundation, and Education First for her contributions to the computing community. You can find her on LinkedIn.


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