AP Computer Science A
AP Computer Science Program
When AP Computer Science Principles launches in the 2016–17 academic year, AP will have two computer science offerings, and students can take either course in any order. Currently one of the fastest growing AP courses, the AP Computer Science A course and exam continues to focus on computing skills related to programming in Java. The new AP Computer Science Principles course will complement AP Computer Science A as it aims to broaden participation in the study of computer science. The courses underscore the importance of communicating solutions appropriately and in ways that are relevant to current societal needs. AP Computer Science courses can help address traditional issues of equity, access, and broadening participation in computing while providing a strong and engaging introduction to fundamental areas of the discipline.
AP Computer Science A Course Overview
AP Computer Science A is equivalent to a first-semester, college level course in computer science. The course introduces students to computer science with fundamental topics that include problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, organization of data (data structures), approaches to processing data (algorithms), analysis of potential solutions, and the ethical and social implications of computing. The course emphasizes both object-oriented and imperative problem solving and design using Java language. These techniques represent proven approaches for developing solutions that can scale up from small, simple problems to large, complex problems. The AP Computer Science A course curriculum is compatible with many CS1 courses in colleges and universities.
RECOMMENDED PREREQUISITES Students should be comfortable with functions and the concepts found in the uses of function notation, such as f(x) = x + 2 and f (x) = g(h(x)). It is important that students and their advisers understand that any significant computer science course builds upon a foundation of mathematical reasoning that should be acquired before attempting such a course.
The AP Computer Science A course must include a minimum of 20 hours of hands-on structured lab experiences to engage students in individual or group problem solving. Thus, each AP Computer Science A course includes a substantial laboratory component in which students design solutions to problems, express their solutions precisely (e.g., in the Java programming language), test their solutions, identify and correct errors (when mistakes occur), and compare possible solutions.
The AP Computer Science A course requires that solutions of problems be written in the Java programming language. Because the Java programming language is extensive with far more features than could be covered in a single introductory course, the AP Computer Science A Exam covers a subset of Java. See the Product Gallery for the programming language covered in the course.
Goals of AP Computer Science A Students should be able to
• Design, implement, and analyze solutions to problems;
• Use and implement commonly used algorithms;
• Develop and select appropriate algorithms and data structures to solve new problems;
• Write solutions fluently in an object-oriented paradigm;
• Write, run, test, and debug solutions in the Java programming language, utilizing standard Java library classes and interfaces from the AP Java subset;
• Read and understand programs consisting of several classes and interacting objects;
• Read and understand a description of the design and development process leading to such a program; and
• Understand the ethical and social implications of computer use.
Topic Outline for AP Computer Science A
I. Object-Oriented Program Design
A. Program and class design
II. Program Implementation
A. Implementation techniques
B. Programming constructs
C. Java library classes and interfaces included in the AP Java Subset
III. Program Analysis
C. Runtime exceptions
D. Program correctness
E. Algorithm analysis
F. Numerical representations of integers
IV. Standard Data Structures
A. Primitive data types (int, boolean, double)
E. Arrays (1-dimensional and 2-dimensional)
V. Standard Operations and Algorithms
A. Operations on data structures
VI. Computing in Context
A. System reliability
C. Legal issues and intellectual property
D. Social and ethical ramifications of computer use