AP CSP Exam Reading Reflection

The AP CSP exam changed this year and as a seasoned reader, I thought it might be helpful to share some reflections from my reading experience.

  • In the past, placement of content didn't matter. As long as students had the right content somewhere in their responses, they got the credit. Now, the content must fall within the appropriate section of the response. 3B answers won't matter for the 3C section, for example.
  • Similarly, in the past, if there was correct content within the response even after inaccurate or incomplete content, it could still earn the point. Now, if students provide two examples of code and/or multiple explanations, readers MUST look at the first one rather than examining both for potential points.
  • Row 1, the video and explanation of the program, is no longer a "freebie point". With the old exam, it was pretty much a given that everyone would earn the first point. This year, readers have been directed to scrutinize the purpose and function of the program distinctions much more carefully.  I expect to see MANY students confusing purpose and function and missing that point since it was something we teachers were able to overlook in past years. A program's purpose is not to create a two-player game. A program's purposes is to entertain users and it does this by running a two-player game (it's function). Isn't that a tricky little distinction? (For me, it's helpful to think back to middle school essay writing--an essay's purpose is to inform, persuade or entertain. Maybe start there with a program's purpose too?)
  • Also, the video's inputs, functions and outputs must now match the written response for Row 1. Before, students could show the program functioning however they wanted. Now readers are looking more closely.
  • For Row 3, the explanation on how the list reduces complexity: it MUST be specific to the students' code. It's not enough to say, "The list reduces complexity because otherwise I'd have to type out a lot of individual variables." The student must explain how their code in particular would function without the list and how it is more complex that way. Because of the specificity, I suspect many students will miss this point.
  • For Row 5, if there is selection and iteration, sequencing is a given. A loop and an if/else statement will meet these criteria very simply.
  • For Row 6, Different parts of the code have to run as a result of the 2 different calls. The easiest way to accomplish this seems to be to use an if/else statement and have one call meet the "if" criteria and one follow the "else" path. This will cause different parts of the code to run and will meet the criteria.

I'll be interested to compare this to the Chief Reader Report eventually and see what commonalities exist between my individual reading reflections and the larger group of readers.



Submitted by Mitch Middler on Thu, 06/10/2021 - 9:14 pm EDT

Thank you for sharing this info!  It sounds like the grading guidelines are significantly more rigorous than in prior years.  Given the distance learning this year coupled with a significant reduction of instructional hours in our district, I expect that our passing rates will not be as high as in years past.


Profile picture for user Rclang1
Submitted by Rebekah Lang on Mon, 06/14/2021 - 10:36 am EDT

It'll be interesting to see how the scores are calculated... While the rubric is more rigorous, maybe it'll take fewer points to earn a 5? Before, I think because the performance tasks weren't as challenging, it seemed like students had to do really well to earn that 5 and be at the top of the curve. 


Profile picture for user Rclang1
Submitted by Rebekah Lang on Wed, 07/21/2021 - 3:37 pm EDT

Trevor Packer posted this CSP analysis comparing the 2019 scores to 2021: https://allaccess.collegeboard.org/ap-computer-science-principles-2021-results?excmpid=SM51-PR-1-tw

Looks like the area of the Create PT that students struggled with the most was Row 3. And Row 1 was no longer a given... In that way, my informal assessment aligned with the actual findings. The rest of the report is worth a quick read to adjust our teaching practices for the upcoming year.