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AP Computer Science A: Preparation and Testing Strategies


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This thread intended as a comprehensive discussion of how a homeschool parent can teach their student Java programming and prepare them for the AP Computer Science A exam.  I am doing this now since my son taught a Java course to homeschoolers in the fall and did AP CS A test prep this spring.  I was both his assistant and his student in these courses and I want to take advantage of that dual perspective to capture my thoughts on how to best approach this topic.  My goal is to enable homeschool parents who do not have programming experience (or Java programming experience) to administer a homeschool course and successfully prepare their students for the AP Computer Science A exam.

 

This thread is not intended to be the ONLY or the BEST approach to this topic.  What works best is very subjective and it depends on the characteristics of the teacher, the student and their goals for the course, among other things.  Rather it is simply a resource which someone wanting to provide this course can use to gather ideas on how best to proceed.  I encourage everyone to provide corrections and suggestions in the comments and I will make adjustments to the posts as I feel is necessary.

 

This thread will include ideas on how to teach Java programming, but it will be mainly focused on AP CS A test preparation.  The discussions will range from broad overviews to detailed discussions of technical topics with very specific strategies provided.  I will provide many links to available resources, some free and some for a fee.  (I am not affiliated with any of the organizations to which I am linking.)

 

In the interest of ensuring that I have enough space to fit all the material that I want to cover, I am breaking this post into several separate posts on different topics.  Here is an outline of what will be covered:

 

- Should my student learn computer programming in high school?

- Java programming: Overview and Resources

- AP Computer Science A: Overview and Resources

- Multiple-choice (MC) test-taking strategies

- Free-response question (FRQ) test-taking strategies

- Programming Fundamentals: Tips and strategies

- Data Structures: Tips and strategies

- Logic: Tips and strategies

- Algorithms/Problem Solving: Tips and strategies

- Object-Oriented Programming:  Tips and strategies

- Recursion: Tips and strategies

- Software Engineering: Tips and strategies

 

Please bear with me as it will take me days or weeks to assemble all of this information.  In the meantime, please ask your past AP CS A students to comment on what they found to be the most difficult areas or to provide any tips that helped them the most.  Also, if you are a parent who is thinking about offering this to a student, but have questions which are not answered here, please post your thoughts and I will see if I can answer them.  If you are a parent that has taught AP CS A, either successfully or not-so-successfully, please share your insights on what works and the struggles that you had.  Thanks!

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Should my student learn computer programming in high school?

 

Ultimately, this will depend on the student's goals and interests.  So I'll break them down in a few different ways:

 

Goal:  Become a computer programmer

 

Definitely take both computer programming and the AP Computer Science A exam in high school!  Here are some reasons why:

 

- You will greatly enhance your chances to get into a good college programming program if you have a good background in high school.

- You will be behind other programmers when you enter college if you have not programmed previously.

- Taking AP Computer Science A is significantly cheaper than taking an introductory programming course in college (unless you pay a lot of money for your programming and/or AP prep course).

- It would be much better to find out that you really don't like programming in high school than after you have already started college.

- Programming is a skill which allows you to always be learning during your entire lifetime.  Why not start early?

 

Goal:  Pursue a career in another STEM field besides programming

 

I highly recommend taking computer programming in high school and taking the AP Computer Science A exam.  Here are some reasons:

 

- Introductory computer programming is a required course for most STEM fields of study.  If you can complete it in high school, that is one fewer course you will need to take in college, freeing your time to pursue courses closer to your interest area.

- In virtually all technical fields, computer software is being used as a tool to advance the field.  This trend toward more automation will only increase throughout the decades ahead when you are in the workforce.  While many people are users of software rather than developers, there are often cases in which technical individuals find that they need to write software as part of their job.  This is particularly true for engineers.

- Even if you never program in your field, you likely will be interfacing with programmers and sometimes you will be providing requirements for software that is being developed.  You will be much more capable of doing this if you have some basic programming skills.  It will also help you appreciate the difficulty involved in writing even "simple" software programs.

 

Interest:  I like computers and I think programming would be fun!

 

You should consider taking a programming course in high school, but unless you are entering a field which requires introductory programming in college you might skip the AP Computer Science exam.  Here are some thoughts:

 

- Java is a professional programming language, but it is not the easiest language to learn.  This thread is focused on Java because it is the language that the AP Computer Science A exam is based on.  If you want to try programming for fun, you may want to try another language which is easier to learn.

- Even if you study Java, AP Computer Science A preparation is a lot of work.  Even students who intend to be programmers grumble about the amount of work involved, so be sure you REALLY want to do the extra work before signing up for this test.

 

Interests and goals:  Outside of those listed above...

 

If you are not interesting in computers or programming and you will be pursuing a career which does not involve computers, then taking a programming course in high school is probably not for you.

 

But there is another factor of which most people are not aware...

 

Simply put, a large fraction (30% to 60%) of incoming computer science freshman fail their introductory programming course.  And many of the students who fail these courses are otherwise very good students!  Colleges all over the world have been struggling with this fact for decades and they have not been successful in developing remediation strategies or in screening incoming freshmen based on standardized tests.  Many have simply come to believe that there is a fraction of the population which are unable to learn to write computer programs.  While I do not know if that is true or not, I will say that DS17 and I hit this issue head-on (and completely unaware) during the course this past year.  When we started researching ways to remediate students who were struggling to keep up, we immediately came across this blog post:  Separating Programming Sheep from Non-Programming Goats.  Included in that article is this excerpt (from a research paper):

 

All teachers of programming find that their results display a 'double hump'. It is as if there are two populations: those who can [program], and those who cannot [program], each with its own independent bell curve. Almost all research into programming teaching and learning have concentrated on teaching: change the language, change the application area, use an IDE and work on motivation. None of it works, and the double hump persists.

 

I only include this last part because the simple fact is that it is possible that your student who really wants to learn to program may not be successful.  This is another good reason to do this in high school rather than waiting until college for the first exposure.  In any case, I encourage everyone to read that blog post and some of the links found within and just be aware that failure *may* be an option, even for outstanding students.

 

One final note...

 

The College Board is developing a new AP Computer Science Principles exam which will first be given in May 2017.  This exam will apparently be targeted toward STEM-focused students who are not going into computer programming.  Apparently it will not be based on the Java programming language.  So if you have a younger student who is interested in programming, but who may not be interested in a Java course, perhaps it makes sense to wait for this one.

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Java programming: Overview and Resources

 

Why Java?

 

This thread is focused on the Java programming language because that is the language which was chosen by the College Board for the AP Computer Science A exam starting with the 2004 version of the exam.  While Java is not the easiest programming language to learn, it incorporates many modern programming capabilities and is used extensively in a wide range of applications.  As such, it is an appropriate language for a college-level introductory programming course.

 

Brief Java Background

 

For reference, here is the basic description of Java found at Wikipedia:

 

Java is a general-purpose computer programming language that is concurrent, class-based, object-oriented,[12] and specifically designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. It is intended to let application developers "write once, run anywhere" (WORA),[13] meaning that compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilation.[14]

 

Java was originally developed by Sun Microsystems, but is now owned by Oracle Corporation.

 

Learning Java

 

There are many ways to learn Java.  I will provide links to some that I have found, starting with free resources and moving on from there:

 

- Java tutorial at Oracle:  I am providing this link since it is directly from the source.  While I did not use these tutorials, they appear to be fairly complete and include the basics.  There are programming activities, but there do not appear to be assessment tests included.

- Amplify Online AP Computer Science MOOC:  This course is free for students with an optional fee for extra information available for coaching.  Several here have recommended this course.

- Berkeley: Preparing for the AP Computer Science ExamThis MOOC is from the University of Berkeley and is free with an option to purchase a completion certificate for $50.

- LearnJava Online:  This course appears to be in work, but it is free and completely online.  That means there is no requirement to install any software in order to write Java software.

- MIT OpenCourseWare:  This is the introductory Java course from MIT as it was taught in 2010.  It appears that lecture notes and assignments are included, but no solutions.

- PA Homeschoolers AP Computer Science ($680): This online course has been recommended by several here.

 

More to come...

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AP Computer Science A: Overview and Resources

 

Overview

 

Here is the link to the AP Computer Science A Course Home Page.  This AP exam is based on the Java programming language and a score of 4 or 5 qualifies a student to receive credit for introductory programming courses at many colleges and universities.

 

Some important links to material on the College Board site:

 

- AP Computer Science A Course Overview

- AP Computer Science A Full Course Description

- AP Computer Science A Frequently-Asked Questions

 

Historical score distributions on the AP CS A exam (from Total Registrations.net and from the College Board for earlier years):

|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------||      | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 ||------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------||  5   | 18.6 | 17.9 | 21.9 | 19.3 | 21.7 | 23.2 | 26.3 | 24.8 | 23.3 | 26.9 | 20.9 | 24.4 ||  4   | 23.6 | 23.2 | 22.2 | 22.8 | 21.7 | 25.7 | 24.7 | 25.0 | 24.2 | 26.7 | 23.0 | 24.6 ||  3   | 15.3 | 14.9 | 14.4 | 14.5 | 13.9 | 13.2 | 13.9 | 14.2 | 15.6 | 14.0 | 16.9 | 15.3 ||  2   |  9.4 |  9.9 |  7.7 |  9.5 |  9.0 |  8.2 |  7.9 |  8.0 |  7.8 |  6.9 |  7.7 |  7.1 ||  1   | 33.1 | 34.0 | 33.7 | 33.9 | 33.7 | 29.8 | 27.1 | 28.0 | 29.1 | 25.5 | 31.5 | 28.6 ||------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Note the strong bimodal distribution of the scores.  In no year did more than 10% of the students receive a 2, but score with the most students was a 1 in every year except 2013.

 

AP Computer Science A Course Audit Information

 

If you would like to list Computer Science as "AP" on the student's high-school transcript, then the course syllabus must be approved by the College Board.  If you are taking one of courses listed in the Java programming: Overview and Resources section above, you will need to find out from the course instructor whether or not your course is AP-approved or not.

 

If you are self-studying for your AP Computer Science A course using other curriculum, you will need to get your course syllabus approved by the College Board ONLY if you wish to write "AP" on the student's high-school transcript.  Follow the instructions provided by the College Board on the AP Computer Science A Course Audit page.  Please follow these detailed instructions on how to get through the Course Audit registration process as a homeschooler.  Once you get in, you may wish to ask for a syllabus from other homeschoolers on the AP Syllabus swap thread.

 

AP Computer Science A Preparation

 

While some extremely talented students receive a 5 on this exam without preparation, that is the exception rather than the rule.  The test focuses on details of the Java language in many of the questions, so test preparation is necessary for most students to achieve a 4 or a 5.

 

The College Board provides extensive materials to assist students preparing for the AP Computer Science A exam.  Here is a list of the most important (by category):

 

Testing Information and Tips:

- AP Computer Science A Exam Information

- AP Computer Science A Exam Tips

- AP Computer Science A Appendix - Java Quick Reference (Provided for the free-response portion of the test.  Students should know this material extremely well!)

 

Practice Tests and Test Questions:

- AP Computer Science A Full Course Description (contains a shortened practice exam containing 25 multiple-choice questions (MCs) and 4 free-response questions (FRQs))

- AP Computer Science A FRQs from previous years (Only useful back to 2003 since that is when Java was first used)

- 2009 AP Computer Science A Released Exam (for sale from the College Board for $30)

- Free AP Computer Science A Practice Exam (available ONLY to AP Computer Science teachers who complete the course audit procedure above)

 

Please note that the AP Computer Science A exam used to include a case study called "Grid World", but that is no longer the case.  As a result, it is important that you skip all prep materials which refer to "Grid World".  This will include some of the FRQ questions from previous tests and some MC questions on the 2009 test which can be purchased.

 

Because the AP Computer Science A test has used the Java language for so many years and the College Board has released every free-response question from those tests along with detailed scoring guidelines, there is more than sufficient preparation available for the FRQ portion of this exam.  On the other hand, there is a dearth of multiple-choice example problems available from the College Board, so this area typically will require that other materials be acquired to supplement preparation for this area of the exam.

 

AP Computer Science A prep books are a good way to obtain supplemental multiple-choice questions as well as other preparation materials.  Please note that since the Grid World case study was removed following the 2014 AP CS A exam, the prep books have been rewritten, so try to get a recent edition.  Here are some links to available prep books:

 

- Barron's AP Computer Science A, 7th Edition

- Be Prepared for the AP Computer Science A Exam in Java

 

Previous versions of both of the above prep books have been recommended by members on this board who have used them with their students.  If you would like to recommend any other prep books or materials for AP Computer Science A preparation, please post in this thread and I will try to add the information here.

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Free-response question (FRQ) test-taking strategies

 

The free-response section of the exam requires the students to write Java code (typically methods or classes) on paper using a pencil.  Most students initially find this section to be more intimidating than the the multiple-choice section, but after extensive preparation, many end up being more competent at the FRQ section than at the MC questions.  Students are often thrown off by trying to write Java software on paper after spending months learning how to do it with the aid of a computer.  Fortunately the College Board provides extensive materials which the students can use to practice for the free-response section of the AP Computer Science A exam.  If they are diligent and take full advantage of these materials, they can achieve a very high score on this section of the exam.

 

Please take note of the fact that the College Board has reduced the time for this section of the exam from one-hour and 45 minutes to one-hour and 30 minutes.  This can be significant for some students who struggle to complete the FRQs in time.  This makes preparation even more important so that the students to not waste time by writing overly-complicated software when simpler approaches would suffice.

 

Fortunately, the College Board gives an extensive set of tips for attacking the FRQs on the AP CS A exam.  These are excellent tips which I recommend that every student study carefully, both early in their preparation AND before they take the actual exam.

 

I feel the best way to practice for the free-response portion of the CS AP A exam is simply to practice by writing lots of answers to free-response questions!  The good news is that there are very many questions available to practice available from the College Board along with answers and scoring guidelines.

 

What we did last spring was to institute a "Method-A-Day" requirement for each of the students.  They were required to answer one portion (a, b or c) of one FRQ each weekday.  We would assign one two-part and one three-part FRQ each week.  By the time the students have done all of the FRQs from 2004 through 2015 (excluding "Grid World" and "Marine Biology" case study questions) as well as the four FRQs found in the AP Computer Science A Full Course Description, they should be prepared to take the exam.  The questions you get on the actual exam will certainly be well-covered by what you have drilled on from the old exams.

 

Be sure to use the AP Computer Science A Appendix - Java Quick Reference Guide when doing the practice problems.  Know the methods and other details listed on that page as those WILL be covered on the test (both FRQs and MCs).  The quick reference is useful in the exam, but it's best if you use it just to check your memory.  You will use too much time if you have to read it during the exam.

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Recursion: Tips and strategies

 

Recursion problems are some of the most difficult problems AP CS A students face.  That is why fewer of them get these problems correct than any other type.  Although recursion CAN be used to solve some of the FRQ questions, it typically comes up only in MC questions.  Recursion is also used in both the Binary Search and the Merge Sort algorithms which are two of the searching and sorting algorithms stressed by the College Board.

 

Recursion:  Example questions from the College Board

 

AP Computer Science A Course Description: MC: 10, 14 and 16.  FRQ: 2a (can be solved using recursion, but it is not required).

 

AP Computer Science A Official Practice Exam - Released Fall 2014 (Available when course syllabus is approved.): MC: 10, 11, 39, 40

 

2009 AP Computer Science A Released Exam ($30):  MC: 13, 39, 40

 

What is recursion?

 

Recursion is when a method makes a call to itself.

 

One of the main difficulties with recursion is how to analyze the problem on paper.  Because of the recursive calls, it is difficult to keep track of what is going on.

 

Recursion Tips

 

- Any statements (such as a System.out.println() statement) which occur *before* the recursive call will occur in order of the recursion.

- Any statements (such as a System.out.println() statement) which occur *after* the recursuve call will occur in reverse order of the recursion.

- If the method simply contains an if-else construct, then the method can be represented by a ternary operator.  This simple substitution greatly simplifies the analysis of recursive problems.

 

Recursion Examples

 

Example:  Integer math with recursion:

public int recur(int n){    if (n > 20)        return n / 6;    else        return recur(n * 3);}

What is the result of the following call to this method:

recur(2);

Solution:

 

Because of the if-else construct, a call to this method can be replaced by the ternary operator:

recur(n)

can be replaced by

(n > 20) ? n / 6 : recur(n * 3)

So, let's make the replacements one line at a time:

recur(2)(2 > 20) ? 2 / 6 : recur(2 * 3)recur(6)(6 > 20) ? 6 / 6 : recur(6 * 3)recur(18)(18 > 20) ? 18 / 6 : recur(18 * 3)recur(54)(54 > 20) ? 54 / 6 : recur(54 * 3)54 / 69

So,

recur(2) = 9
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  • 3 weeks later...

I teach programming online now, but I used to do it at our local co op too, and I also found there are two groups. I have been wondering if others are finding the same thing and so it was very good finding this thread and I just read the article you linked to. I have a hard time when a parent emails and wants to know what their kids can do to improve - and I try to explain that I just don't think they have the ability. And it definitely isn't linked to age. I have an 8th grader who had no trouble with my Python course and an 11th grader who twice came to see me in person for extra help and eventually dropped out.

 

For this reason I have a 4 week Intro class now that costs very little so that parents can test the waters and not shell out a lot of money on a class that their child will fail. I think I will try and figure out how to incorporate some kind of pre-test using that assignment example and watch how the results correlate to how kids do on a course

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Just wanted to thank you for offering that Intro class - my son took it recently, and enjoyed it. He's always been interested in programming, but wasn't certain if he'd enjoy it or be good at it. Your class gave him a chance to dip his toes in, and now he's interested in pursuing more programming. I know there are lots of self-directed resources out there, but this student does better with more structure and definite deadlines so an intro class was a great fit for him.

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Thanks for the thread and the links to the article as well as to the new AP CompSci exam. 

 

I teach programming online now, but I used to do it at our local co op too, and I also found there are two groups. I have been wondering if others are finding the same thing and so it was very good finding this thread and I just read the article you linked to. I have a hard time when a parent emails and wants to know what their kids can do to improve - and I try to explain that I just don't think they have the ability.

 

... I think I will try and figure out how to incorporate some kind of pre-test using that assignment example and watch how the results correlate to how kids do on a course

 

When I was doing programming as an undergrad and postgrad, I was always the debugger and compiler in any assigned team. What I found was that classmates who slog and "suffer" the most did not have as good a foundation in Logic.

 

I found this interesting aptitude test.

http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/tests/computer-test.htm

 

From the link

"Aptitude tests for computing jobs broadly fall into three groups:

  1. A standard battery of tests assessing competencies such as numerical reasoning, logical reasoning and non-verbal reasoning which are required in technical computing jobs.
  2. A hybrid test comprising of elements involving logical reasoning, numerical problem solving, pattern recognition, ability to follow complex procedures and attention to detail. Neither of these first two types of test require any knowledge of programming
  3. A programming simulation involving pseudocode, control structures (e.g. loops), look-up tables, sets, arrays, boolean true/false, looping and other programming structures. These are given to experienced programmers to assess their competence."
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Just wanted to thank you for offering that Intro class - my son took it recently, and enjoyed it. He's always been interested in programming, but wasn't certain if he'd enjoy it or be good at it. Your class gave him a chance to dip his toes in, and now he's interested in pursuing more programming. I know there are lots of self-directed resources out there, but this student does better with more structure and definite deadlines so an intro class was a great fit for him.

 

Great!! I am glad he enjoyed it and it was worth it for him. My own kids taught themselves but I have come to realize they are the exception. Plus, I actually do better with a class too. And deadlines. I have never finished an open-ended course yet.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi RegGuheert, how did the AP test go for the test takers?

 

We don't have scores, yet.  AP scores should be here available in VA on July 7.  Here are my predictions:

 

DS15:  4 (possibly 5)

DD13:  5 (possibly 4)

Male ~16: 5 (possibly 4)

Female ~14: 4 (possibly 3:  She told DS17 she had a bad time the day of the test.)

Male ~15: 2 (possibly 3)

Male ~15: 2 (possibly 1)

 

As you can see, there is a wide spread.  It maps with the amount of work done, but we did have one drop at the very end by a student who worked extremely hard.  I also wonder if the two students who were at the bottom really weren't getting it so they didn't feel motivated.  It's hard to know.

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I teach programming online now, but I used to do it at our local co op too, and I also found there are two groups. I have been wondering if others are finding the same thing and so it was very good finding this thread and I just read the article you linked to. I have a hard time when a parent emails and wants to know what their kids can do to improve - and I try to explain that I just don't think they have the ability. And it definitely isn't linked to age. I have an 8th grader who had no trouble with my Python course and an 11th grader who twice came to see me in person for extra help and eventually dropped out.

 

Thanks for the feedback, Meryl!  We found this to be a very difficult issue to deal with, particularly when it was a top student who was struggling.  It's hard to make the break without the student feeling like they have failed, perhaps for the first time in their life.

 

For this reason I have a 4 week Intro class now that costs very little so that parents can test the waters and not shell out a lot of money on a class that their child will fail. I think I will try and figure out how to incorporate some kind of pre-test using that assignment example and watch how the results correlate to how kids do on a course

 

We are working on the website for the fall course and have decided we will refund all but $50 of the tuition if a student withdraws before the fifth class.  We considered your idea of a separate course, but the logistics were a bit too much for our in-person course.

 

BTW, the link in your signature for the fall courses is broken.  There appears to be one-to-many https in there...

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  • 2 weeks later...

We don't have scores, yet.  AP scores should be here available in VA on July 7.  Here are my predictions:

 

DS15:  4 (possibly 5)

DD13:  5 (possibly 4)

Male ~16: 5 (possibly 4)

Female ~14: 4 (possibly 3:  She told DS17 she had a bad time the day of the test.)

Male ~15: 2 (possibly 3)

Male ~15: 2 (possibly 1)

 

As you can see, there is a wide spread.  It maps with the amount of work done, but we did have one drop at the very end by a student who worked extremely hard.  I also wonder if the two students who were at the bottom really weren't getting it so they didn't feel motivated.  It's hard to know.

 

Just to follow up on this, I now have scores for DS15 and DD13:  They both got a 4, which is right in line with my projections.  They both did fine on the FRQs, so it was the MCs that made the difference between a 4 and a 5.

 

Male 16 also got a 4, also in line with the projection.

 

Unfortunately, no 5s for DS17's first AP CS A class. :sad: Maybe next year will be different.

 

Clearly the weakness with this class is with the MCs.  Most of the students who went along with the program got fairly proficient with the FRQs, but we never came up with a solid approach for MCs, partly because there is such a dearth of practice materials available.  I'll be filling in the section on FRQs with some of the things we did which worked well, but I would love some ideas on the MCs.  I'll link to outside resources and I will give some ideas of what helped, but none of our students quite made it to the 5 level there.  TIA!

 

 

Thanks!  Here is a compilation of all the score distributions starting in 2004 when the College Board switched to Java for AP Computer Science A:

|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|      | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 |
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|  5   | 18.6 | 17.9 | 21.9 | 19.3 | 21.7 | 23.2 | 26.3 | 24.8 | 23.3 | 26.9 | 20.9 | 24.4 |
|  4   | 23.6 | 23.2 | 22.2 | 22.8 | 21.7 | 25.7 | 24.7 | 25.0 | 24.2 | 26.7 | 23.0 | 24.6 |
|  3   | 15.3 | 14.9 | 14.4 | 14.5 | 13.9 | 13.2 | 13.9 | 14.2 | 15.6 | 14.0 | 16.9 | 15.3 |
|  2   |  9.4 |  9.9 |  7.7 |  9.5 |  9.0 |  8.2 |  7.9 |  8.0 |  7.8 |  6.9 |  7.7 |  7.1 |
|  1   | 33.1 | 34.0 | 33.7 | 33.9 | 33.7 | 29.8 | 27.1 | 28.0 | 29.1 | 25.5 | 31.5 | 28.6 |
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

This year's score distribution is quite typical for this test, in spite of the (minor) change to the format.  It is interesting to note that the bimodal distribution is clear in these scores.  There isn't a single year in which more than 10% of students received a 2, but in every year except 2013 the score with the largest proportion of students is a 1.

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Thanks, Reg.  

 

DD13 thought her practice MC exams were much easier than the actual test.  She took extra time to be careful on the MCs, but then was close to running out of time.  (On the practice tests, she finished with extra time left over.)  

 

Still waiting for our scores.  

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DD13 thought her practice MC exams were much easier than the actual test.  She took extra time to be careful on the MCs, but then was close to running out of time.  (On the practice tests, she finished with extra time left over.) 

 

Our experience with the Barrons practice exams was that the questions were "different" (and perhaps a bit easier).  By way of comparison, the official AP MC practice questions (the 25 found in the course description and the 40 in the official test that is available for registering the course) are carefully crafted and are quite challenging.  You need to be extremely proficient AND fast to get through them successfully.  DS15 and I are both rather slow and neither of us have ever finished the 40 questions on an AP MC exam in the allotted time.  Even though I got a fairly comfortable 5 overall on the official AP CS A practice exam for this year, I only got 28 out of 40 correct on the MCs because I didn't finish.  DS15 completed 35 out of 40 on the actual AP exam this year, which was the most he has ever completed.

 

DD13 has never had an issue with time.  She always finishes.  But her accuracy was all over the map.  She got 30 correct on the official practice exam, but I do not think she did got that high on the official exam.

 

Still waiting for our scores.  

 

It sounds to me like she did just fine given that she was careful and finished all the MC questions.  If she does well on FRQs (a VERY different skill, IMO), then she probably got a 5.  Here's hoping!

 

I hate waiting, so I feel your pain!

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We received an email today from the College Board informing us that the time allotted to the different sections of the AP Computer Science A exam have been changed for the upcoming 2016 exam.  Here is what they say on their website:

 

 

Exam Timing Change

Beginning with the 2016 AP Computer Science A Exam:

  • The multiple-choice section will be lengthened by 15 minutes, to one hour and 30 minutes.
  • The free-response section will be shortened by 15 minutes, to one hour and 30 minutes.

The total time for the exam will remain unchanged at three hours, and each section will continue to count 50 percent toward the overall exam score.

 

Also, I added the content to the AP Computer Science A: Overview and Resources section above.  Please have a look and let me know if you find any mistakes or omissions.

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"They told us that students would benefit from more time on the multiple-choice section of the exam and that the free-response section was providing more time than students needed."

 

My dd14 who took the exam this year agreed with this statement and thinks the above change is a good thing.  

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"They told us that students would benefit from more time on the multiple-choice section of the exam and that the free-response section was providing more time than students needed."

 

 

My dd14 who took the exam this year agreed with this statement and thinks the above change is a good thing.  

 

I also agree with this.  I have NEVER been able to complete the forty questions of a multiple-choice portion of any AP CS A exam in one hour and 15 minutes even though I know the materials quite well.  I think the FRQs are also doable in one hour and 30 minutes if the student is well-prepared.

 

BTW, I've just completed the Free-response question (FRQ) test-taking strategies section above.

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