AP Computer Science Principles Exam Tips

The following strategies for answering the performance tasks will help you during exam administration.

Read all task directions and guidelines

The Assessment Overview and Performance Task Directions for Students has tips to read before completing the performance tasks, such as reviewing student samples and the scoring guidelines, the performance task directions, and guidelines you must adhere to while completing the performance task. As you read, underline key points that are important to remember when completing the performance tasks. Each performance task has its own unique guidelines, so be sure to take time to review both sets.

Review scoring guidelines and samples

We have posted the scoring guidelines for both performance tasks in the About the Assessment section of the AP Student site. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the scoring guidelines. The student samples allow you to see high performing student responses as well as student responses with room for improvement. Use the student samples to practice applying the scoring guidelines so you can better apply the rubric to your own written responses during the exam administration.

Plan out your time

Your teacher will provide you with in-class time to complete each performance task. You will be given at least 8 hours to complete the Explore Performance Task and at least 12 hours to complete the Create Performance Task. Often, this can be a long time to spend on one task, so taking time to plan out your approach and what you plan to accomplish each day will help you stay on track and meet your goal of completing on time with a quality submission. At the end of each class, use a journal to record what you accomplished and what you plan to accomplish next. These notes can be very helpful when you have to complete your written responses and describe your development process. If the amount of class time provided is insufficient, you are allowed to work outside of class on your performance tasks.

Complete all components and answer all written responses

Be sure to complete all components of the performance task. If you have reviewed the scoring guidelines, you will see that much of your score is coming from the written responses, so just writing the program for the Create Performance Task is not going to yield a high score. When completing the written responses, be sure to clearly label your answers. The Written Response templates provided by College Board, which can be found on the AP Digital Portfolio, are a helpful guide for organizing your responses and are recommended for all students.

Answer succinctly

Read and reread your responses. Be sure you have answered what was asked. The word-count limit has been placed as an incentive for you to write clearly and get to the answer without a lot of extra. Use the scoring guidelines to rate your own responses and determine if there is anything that can be made clearer or streamlined. This may take additional cycles of revision to ensure you have answered the prompts clearly.


Throughout the year, your teacher will most likely give you scaffolded tasks to prepare you for completing the performance tasks on your own. Take these opportunities to obtain feedback seriously and do your very best. Your teacher will be unable to give you feedback during the administration of the performance tasks, so these practice performance tasks are your only opportunity to obtain important feedback on your computational artifacts as well as your answers to written responses.

Credit contributors

When completing the Explore and Create performance tasks, you are allowed to incorporate media and program code that is not your own with significant modifications, extensions, or improvements. When using the creative work or innovations of another individual, you are required to acknowledge the creators or owners.

  • For Create, you can acknowledge program code that isn’t your original work by adding comments in the code. This program code cannot be used in your answers for the written responses, as these responses require you to include program code that you wrote.
  • For Explore, acknowledge any media used in the creation of the computational artifact in the artifact itself or in part 2e of the written response.

Failure to acknowledge the ideas and works of others is considered plagiarism, and a score of 0 will be given on that performance task. Before submitting your performance task, check that you have acknowledged all contributors.

Digital portfolio submissions

Once your performance tasks are complete and you are satisfied that you have done your best work, it is time to upload them to the digital portfolio. Before you upload your work, double-check that you have not included your name on any of the components, including as part of the file name. Uploading a file to the digital portfolio is only the first step in submitting work to College Board for scoring. Uploaded files are stored as drafts until the student goes through the necessary steps to submit their work as final. When you are ready to submit, you will be submitting 5 files as final, be sure to:

  • Check that the current draft does indeed represent your final submission.
  • Check to be sure that you’ve submitted your work to the correct performance task. It is common for students to accidentally reverse their submissions, submitting Create for Explore and Explore for Create.
  • Complete the attestations for each of your submissions.
  • Submit each draft file as final.

Only files submitted as final are sent for scoring.

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