Pathways: Which Comp Sci Course to Take?

Students are sometimes confused about which Computer Science course to take at Westhill. This page describes the differences between the courses offered and provides various roadmaps for computer science course sequences (Pathways). Here is a diagram that shows the computer science courses currently offered at Westhill High School.

A pathway consists of a sequence of courses designed to allow a student to build a certain set of skills. The Computer Science Academy at Westhill (CSAW) offers students an opportunity to get recognition on their high school transcripts if they complete their Computer Science Pathway. The image, above, shows some possible combination of courses students may take to achieve these requirements. Although the above diagram implies a large number of Pathway possibilities, most students typically follow one of several set paths such as those shown on the diagram below:

Requirements for CS Pathway at CSAW

Students who complete 3.5 computer science credits with a B- average or better during their 4 years at Westhill will have completed CSAW's Computer Science Pathway. This completion shall result in a Concentration in Computer Science being acknowledged on the student's high school transcript. If three or more courses are honors or AP-level courses (and a student maintains a B- average or better on the computer science courses taken), the acknowledgement shall be upgraded to Concentration in Computer Science with Honors. More information about the requirements for transcript recognition in computer science may be found in the Stamford Public School's Course of Studies catalog.

Which Starter Course to Take

All Honors-level students should start with AP CSP as their first computer science class (including Freshman). For all other students, the choice will be between Python A and Intro to CS. The Intro to CS course is based on block programming and, as such, provides a gentler introduction to programming.

Optional Placement Exam

The Computer Science Academy of Westhill is an open admission organization. Thus, all Westhill students are elligible for admission. During the first week of school, students have the option of taking a placement exam to help determine which computer science course to take first. Current Westhill students who choose to take AP CSA without previously taking a computer science course at Westhill may be asked to take this exam.

Westhill also offers approximately 1% of the incoming freshman an opportunity to skip AP CSP and be placed directly into AP CSA. Incoming freshmen who wish to be placed into AP CSA must also take this exam. In a typical year, 4-5 incoming freshman are offered this accelerated track. Only students with extensive, prior knowledge of computer science should consider this option.

This exam requires no previous experience with computer science. No previous knowledge of any computer language is assumed or required. The exam uses a pseudo-language to assess the ability of the test taker. Students are provided a description sheet for this pseudo-language prior to the start of the exam. Students can also access a copy of the description sheet for this pseudo-language by going to the Forms tab located on the left sidebar. The results of the test are used for placement purposes only, not as a determinant for admission to the academy.

Which AP Course to Take

If you are trying to choose between the two AP offerings, check out this Venn Diagram (provided by CSforALL), chart and video:

If you are currently an 8th grader and will be attending Westhill High School next year, click here for more information.

Prerequisites for Computer Science Courses

  • Honors freshmen wanting to take an AP Computer Science course in their first year at Westhill are encouraged to take AP CSP before taking AP Comp Sci A.
  • Incoming 9th graders with extensive, previous experience with programming may, however, take the optional placement exam to be placed directly into AP CSA.
  • Seniors are encouraged to take AP CSP or AP Computer Science A in place of Intro to Comp Sci.
  • Students must successfully complete AP Computer Science A to be eligible to take the Data Structures course.
  • No previous programming experience is necessary for the Intro, CSP, and Comp Sci A courses.

  • Comparison of Comp Sci Courses:

    How Hard Are Computer Science AP Exams?

    By their nature, all AP exams are difficult. Students may be wondering about the relative difficulty levels between the AP Computer Science A exam and the AP Computer Science Principles exam. In previous studies, students have consistently voted AP Physics C to be the most difficult of all AP exams. AP Computer Science A has historically placed second in the difficulty ratings in this poll.

    Based on feedback from students who took the AP CSP exam in May of 2017, the multiple choice portion of AP CSP exam is significantly less challenging than most other AP exams. Here is Mr. Sarkar's opinion on the relative overall difficulty of the various CS courses offered at Westhill.