AP Computer Science A Exam

The AP® Computer Science A Exam is a college-level exam administered every year in May upon the completion of an Advanced Placement Computer Science A course taken at your high school. If you score high enough, your AP Computer Science A score could earn you college credit

Check out our AP Computer Science A Guide for the essential info you need about the exam:

What’s on the AP Computer Science A Exam?

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in your AP Computer Science A course. They explain that you should be familiar with the following topics:

  • Primitive Types
  • Using Objects
  • Boolean Expressions and if Statements
  • Iteration
  • Writing Classes
  • Array
  • ArrayList
  • 2D Array
  • Inheritance
  • Recursion

Check out our AP Computer Science A Prep book for a comprehensive content review

What’s the difference between AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles?  

The AP Computer Science A course and exam focus on computing skills related to programming in Java. Students cultivate their understanding of coding through analyzing, writing, and testing code as they explore concepts like modularity, variables, and control structures.

AP Computer Science Principles provides students with a broad introduction to computer science and how it relates to other fields.

The AP Computer Science Principles course complements AP Computer Science A and focuses on the broader aspects of computing. Students learn to design and evaluate solutions and to apply computer science to solve problems through the development of algorithms and programs. They incorporate abstraction into programs and use data to discover new knowledge. Students also explain how computing innovations and computing systems including the internet work, explore the potential impacts of these innovations, and contribute to a computing culture that is collaborative and ethical.

Additionally, the AP Exams for the two courses have different formats. AP Computer Science A has one end-of-course exam with multiple-choice and free-response questions. AP Computer Science Principles includes the Create performance task, which is completed during the course, and an end-of-course multiple-choice exam.

Comp Sci A Sections and Question Types

The AP Computer Science A exam is three hours long and consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

AP Computer Science A Section


Number of Questions

Percent of Exam Score


90 minutes

  • 40 multiple-choice questions.

  • Mostly individual questions, with one or two sets of multiple questions (typically two or three questions per set).



90 minutes

  • 1 Methods and Control Structures question

  • 1 Class question 

  • 1 Array/ArrayList question

  • 1 2D Array question 



3 hours



Note: The College Board has not yet announced if the 2021 digital version of the AP Computer Science A exam will be in place for future exam years. For updates on the digital test and its format, please visit the AP Computer Science A page on the College Board's website.

AP Computer Science A Multiple-Choice

40 multiple-choice questions with 5 answer choices. Mostly individual questions, with one or two sets of multiple questions (typically two or three questions per set).

AP Computer Science A Free-Response Questions

The free response section consists of four multi-part questions, all of which assess Computational Thinking Practice 3: Code Implementation. All five skills within this practice are assessed across the 4 free-response questions.  

Can you use a calculator on the AP Computer Science A exam?


AP Computer Science A Exam Reference Sheet

A table of methods from the Java library commonly used in computer science will be provided to you at the exam site. Check out what the this Java Quick Reference documents looks like here.

How to Interpret AP Computer Science A Scores

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP Computer Science A exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. (Check out our overview of how to earn AP credit). Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year. Here’s how students scored on the AP Computer Science A exam in May 2020:



Percentage of Test Takers


Extremely qualified



Well qualified






Possibly qualified



No recommendation


Source: College Board

How Can I Prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP Computer Science A content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.

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