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Everything You Need To Know About AP Computer Science A

Everything You Need To Know About AP Computer Science A

Table of Contents

Why AP Computer Science A?

AP Computer Science A is a one-semester class that is usually taken in the second year. AP Computer Science A is one of the AP courses that provide you with multiple options for majors and is beneficial for your application and skill set and achieving a good score makes you look good on paper for colleges. By attaining a perfect score of 5, your application receives a huge boost in value and with other great overall scores, your application will definitely be taken into consideration for top-tier colleges.

Computer science is extremely useful in the current world and is applied across numerous majors, especially engineering degrees. Remember to take into account your personal schedule, the subjects you are most interested in, and how AP Computer Science A will affect your plans in addition to the factors mentioned above as you make your choice. Most majors do find computer science as a bonus but here are some majors which prioritize it:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electronic Engineering
  • Robotics
  • Designing

The Syllabus:

When you finish an Advanced Placement Computer Science A course in high school, you are eligible to take the college-level AP Computer Science Exams, which are given each May. The programming language which you will learn is Java and the syllabus is essentially features and special principles of Java.

This is what you’ll be learning in Computer Science A:

Unit Name What you’ll learn
Primitive Types Integers, Strings, Characters, Operators and Operations on these primitive types
Using Objects Creation of objects using constructors(inclusive of parameters or no parameters), String objects and methods, non-static void methods, Math class etc.
Boolean Expressions and If Statements Identifying and finding boolean values w.r.t. an expression, utilizing if statements to execute different statements based on certain values
Iteration Looping(How to repeat a process over and over), For and while loops, Nesting iterative processes
Writing Classes Object attributes, Commenting, composition of a class and specification of its access, Ethics of programming
Arrays What are Arrays, Array Traversal, Insertion, Deletion and Searching in an array, Problems that utilize array and traversal techniques
ArrayList What are ArrayLists, ArrayList Traversal, Insertion, Deletion and Searching in an arraylist, Problems that utilize arraylist and traversal techniques
2D Array What are 2DArrays, Array Traversal, Insertion, Deletion and Searching in a 2D array, Problems that utilize 2D array and traversal techniques such as matrices
Inheritance Super classes and Subclasses, Features of Object Oriented Programming and its Implementation(Method Overloading and Overriding, Polymorphism)
Recursion What is recursion and its implementation

The Exam Template:

The AP exam for Chemistry is overall 3 hours long. It’s split into two sections – Multiple Choice, with a duration of 1 hour 30 minutes and Free Response, with a duration of 1 hour 30 minutes as well. There will be a short break between the two sections, and you will be allowed a calculator throughout the test (standard four-function, scientific, or graphing calculators only).

Section Time Duration About the questions
Multiple Choice (50%) 1 hour 30 minutes This section has 60 questions both individual and in sets. The set of questions can pertain to the same graphic or data presentation. 

Single-select questions are each followed by five possible responses, only one of which is correct.

Free Response (50%) 1 hour 30 minutes This section has 4 free response questions. All four questions will be about developing and writing a program to a certain problem based on the concepts you learnt throughout the AP course. 

The free-response section is graded by high school and college teachers in contrast to the multiple-choice section, which is graded by a computer. If you don’t correctly answer every part of the question, you might still receive some points for the steps because they have rules for partial credit.

Every topic/unit has its individual weightage. The exam may have more questions from one topic than the other as the distribution is not equal. Below is a look at the nine units structured in a sequence recommended by the College Board, along with the weight each unit is given on the AP Chemistry exam:

Unit Name Percentage weightage in Examination
Primitive Types 2% – 5% 
Using Objects 5% – 7.5% 
Boolean Expressions and If Statements 15% – 17.5% 
Iteration 17% – 22.5% 
Writing Classes 5% – 7.5% 
Arrays 10% – 15% 
ArrayList 2.5% – 7.5% 
2D Array 7.5% – 10%
Inheritance 5% – 10%
Recursion 5% – 7.5%

Now, though this weightage of questions exists, this will only apply to the multiple choice section. It will not apply to the free response section as you will have to implement most of these concepts for every question in the free response section so it’s essential you know all of these concepts and how to combine and implement them.

Grading Your Exam Papers and Previous Paper Score Statistics:

AP exams are graded on a scale of 1-5 where 5 is an extremely good score and the most you can receive. Colleges generally look for a 4 or 5 on the AP Computer Science A exams if you want college credit, but some may grant credit for a 3 as well. AP Computer Science A is not too difficult to learn as a decent majority of students do pass the examination. See the table below to find out what percentage of students scored 1-5. 

Score Percentage of students that scored
5 26.5%
4 20.3%
3 20.0%
2 10.4%
1 22.8%

The Pass Rate For AP Computer Science A:

The percentage of students who pass the AP exam is one indicator of how challenging a particular AP class is. Scores for AP exams range from 1 to 5, with a 3 considered a passing grade like all other AP subjects. You may get a sense of how challenging the exam is for students by comparing the AP exam pass rate for AP Computer Science to the overall average. The table below shows a comparison of the pass rate and the perfect score rate for the computer science exam versus the average of the other AP subjects. 

AP Exam Pass Rate (3 or higher) Perfect Score (a 5)
AP Computer Science A 66.8% 26.8%
Other AP classes 64.2% 16.8%

The pass rate and percentage of perfect scores for AP Computer Science A is pretty good compared to other AP classes. Pass rates on the AP exam, however, are not a reliable indicator of how challenging a subject is. Essentially, if you are able to comprehend the features of Object Oriented Programming and know programming concepts such as iteration and arrays, then the subject would actually be a breeze.

How Do You prepare for the AP Computer Science A exam?

To boil it down, here are a few ways that you can prepare for the exam:

  1. A test prep book is definitely optional but a lot of the AP students use it because the book consists of practice problems and exams unique to each topic. It’s extremely useful as it will consist of types of questions that will appear in the exam and some questions that are repetitive in numerous tests.
  2. A small notebook on how to create and implement certain coding concepts. Printing or writing down certain concepts that are tricky to implement can be your savior as you may forget a small part and by going back to this, you mostly won’t forget it again. These are an easy way to quickly revise and jog your memory on what needs to be remembered for the exam and for the concept. Additionally, some concepts need different syntax and keeping note of that will be handy in emergency cases before the exam.
  3. Practice tests. These are already available to you in the test prep books but solve older AP exams as well for the multiple choice section so you would understand the type of questions that they would throw at you. Code snippet questions are in every exam and ensuring how to answer these questions are essential. 
  4. Write and Type Code. You should be thorough with the syntax and how to implement numerous concepts such as method overloading, method overriding, polymorphism etc. To help with this, try coding it on your own and after this, try writing the program down on paper. Writing it down could help prevent silly syntax errors as the autofill feature in programming tends to make students lazier to type and could possibly make them forget syntax.

Here are a few tips you can keep in mind during the exam:

  1. Time management is your savior. Allocate an appropriate amount of time on the free-response section. Make sure you don’t spend too much time on one question and run out of time to at least try to answer all of the others.
  2. Indent and clearly show your program. Always ensure that the program is properly organized and is indented for legibility and clearness. Furthermore, ensure that the syntax is clearly displayed and try to make the functionality and length of the code as simple and small as possible to save time.
  3. Cautiously and Repeatedly Read the Question. You have to read through all of the questions to decide which ones you are bound to obtain more points in before starting to answer the free-response questions. Additionally, you need to strategize on how you are going to attempt the paper. For the free response section, you want to attempt the questions in which you are confident and do not need to think much about while also ensuring you achieve 100% of points in those questions. After that, proceed to the other questions where you are mostly or somewhat sure and you need time to think.
  4. Write what you think the answer is. Even if you are not sure whether the solution you devised is right or wrong, think about it for a bit but if you are not confident with it and you have nothing else coming to mind, write it down. Chances are that it’s mostly correct or somewhat correct. Attempting the question will definitely fetch you some points and 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

In conclusion, AP Computer Science A is a very versatile and useful AP course that you should consider taking as it expands your career options if you haven’t decided yet and regardless of whether your major needs it or not, it still decorates your college application and proves your academic capability. It’s also not a very difficult AP course and is easy if you pay attention during classes and if you comprehend the basic principles of the concepts taught along with the syntax. 

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