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. If you are trying to choose between the two AP offerings, check out this video:

Comparison of Comp Sci Courses:

Issue AP CSA AP CSP Intro CS
Target Audience STEM Majors Liberal Arts & STEM Liberal Arts & STEM
How academically challenging? High Medium Low
Math Credit Counts Toward Graduation? Yes Yes 1/2 Year
(AP) College credit for CS majors? Yes No No
(AP) College credit for non-CS majors? Yes Yes No
Frequent Quizzes? Yes Yes Yes
Exams? Yes Midterm, Final only Midterm, Final only
Recommended for freshmen? No Yes Yes
Recommended for seniors? Yes Yes No
% of Course Dedicated to Programming 95% 60% 95%
Length of course Full Year Full Year One Semester
Programming Language Java App Inventor 2 Scratch & Java
Type of Programming Language Text-Based Block-Based Block & Text-Based
Prerequisites B+ Honors Algebra 2 B Geometry Algebra 1
Previous Programming Experience No No No

If you are currently an 8th grader and will be attending Westhill High School next year, here are things to consider if you are thinking of taking a Computer Science course as a freshman:

AP Computer Science A AP Computer Science Principles Intro Computer Science
Freshman are strongly discouraged from taking APCSA. Please consider taking AP CSP. Consideration may be given to students entering Westhill who will be taking Honors Pre-Calc in their freshman year. Ideal freshman candidates for APCSP will be those students who are placing out of Algebra 1 and will be taking Honors Geometry (or another honors math class) in their first year of High School. Ideal freshman candidates for this course consist of students who have a personal interest in computers and have at least a C average in their last math class in middle school.

Here is a diagram that shows the typical course sequences that students at Westhill follow.

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
Regular Intro to CS AP CSP AP CSA Advanced AB
Accelerated AP CSP AP CSA Advanced AB Independent Study
Nosebleed AP CSA AP CSP with Android Studio Advanced AB Independent Study

  • 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.
  • 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 AB course.
  • No previous programming experience is necessary for the Intro, CSP, and Comp Sci A 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.

    Since May of 2017 is the first year that the AP CSP exam will be offered, there is incomplete information currently available regarding its level of difficulty. However, based on the materials already provided by the College Board, it is my opinion, that the AP CSP exam will likely be significantly less challenging than most other AP exams. Here is my early view on the relative difficulty levels of the two AP Computer Science Exams:

    Here is more detailed information about each course:

    Intro to Computer Science AP Computer Science Priniples (CSP) AP Computer Science A Computer Science AB
    This is a single-semester course designed to teach students the basics of the Java programming language. It is a CP-level course although Honors level students typically comprise 10%-15% of the class and are often enrolled to help them decide whether they wish to take AP Computer Science the following year. Students who do well in this course are recommended for AP Computer Science. Note that Intro to Computer Science is NOT a pre-requisite for AP Computer Science A. This full-year course exposes students to the principles behind Computer Science while teaching them how to build applications (apps) for Andriod devices, including cell phones and tablets. Students design apps using MIT's App Builder 2. Although there is no course prerequisite for CSP, students must have a B average or better in their most recent math course. The level of difficulty of this course ranks higher than Intro to Computer Science but easier than AP Computer Science A. This full-year AP course is a first-year college-level Computer Science course based on the Java programming language. Students build complex programs from the ground up. Students are expected to take the AP exam in May. More information about the specific curriculum for this course may be found at the College Board website. To take this course, students must have a B+ or higher in their most recent honors math course or have gotten a B+ or higher in Intro to Computer Science. This online, full-year course is taught as an independent study in select years. (It will not be offered during the academic year 2015-2016 but is expected to return the following year). It teaches the curriculum formerly offered in the AP Computer Science AB course which is no longer offered by the College Board due to historically low enrollment. Only students who have finished AP Computer Science A and scored an B+ grade or better are eligible to take this course.