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AP Computer Science Principles expands computer science curriculum


AP Computer Science Principles is a new course that was added to the 2018-’19 school year course guide. As this course is only offered to rising juniors, it is intended to smooth students’ transition into AP Computer Science A, which is now only available to rising seniors. The main objective of the course is to introduce the central ideas of computational thinking to students. As a result, programming is a less critical component in the new course than it is in AP Computer Science A.

“AP Computer Science Principles is a relatively new course for both the school and the Collegeboard,” said Marc Montague, AP Computer Science teacher. “As there is no need to be stringent on time, I am expecting students to have fun and be creative with programming, and feel comfortable with the basics of programming even if they enter the course without any prior experience. While anyone will be able to excel in the course with the time and effort, students who will enjoy the class are ones who like to solve riddles and step-by-step problems using logic.”

Mr. Montague says whether or not students took AP Computer Science Principles will not have a large effect on their ability to excel in AP Computer Science A. He recommends the course to those who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of computer science. As the course does involve programming throughout the year, students will also feel more comfortable with Java when taking AP Computer Science A their senior year.

“AP Computer Science Principles will be my first time programming,” said Richie Kim (10). “I am glad that the new course is offered as I would have felt less confident taking AP Computer Science A as my first time learning computer science. There are introductory-level courses for all other fields of study including history and math that prepare students for advanced AP courses, but such is not true for computer science.”

Undoubtedly, while the large topic of computer science is a commonality, there are various aspects of AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A that are different. For instance, AP Computer Science A only deals with coding through the Java program, whereas AP Computer Science Principles focuses less on solely programming but more on the field of computer science as a whole. Furthermore, while there is an AP test for the course in May that consists of 74 multiple-choice questions, students are required to submit two pieces of work instead of taking the free-response section.

“Taking AP Computer Science A my junior year was not necessarily challenging beyond what I could handle, but being introduced to Java for the first time in an AP course was hard to adjust to in the beginning,” said Elliot Nam (12). “As I am planning to major in computer science, if I were given the option, I would have taken AP Computer Science Principles in my junior year and AP Computer Science A in my senior year. It felt limiting that AP Computer Science A was the only course I could take in the field of computer science.”

With the course being offered for the first time the next school year, projections of the course are yet unknown. However, students will be able to benefit from a larger selection of computer science courses at SIS. The hope is for the computer science program to grow further in following years.

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