AP CS exam data shows growth in 2017, much more still needed

Monday, January 8, 2018

Map: 2017 AP CSA exams takenECEP co-principal investigator Barbara Ericson has released her analysis of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Computer Science exam data for 2017.  The analysis includes both AP CSA and AP CS Principles (CSP). The data show growth in AP CSA and a great start for AP CSP, but more needs to be done to reach underrepresented groups.

The good news, according to Ericson’s analysis, is that more than 32 states doubled participation from underrepresented groups (African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders) and six states doubled female participation in AP CS exams last year.

“This was the first year that the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) course was offered and the goal was to have at least 20,000 students take that exam,” said Ericson, who directs computing outreach and is a senior research scientist for the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. “The actual number was more than double that at 43,780, which is very exciting.”

The AP CSP exam was more diverse than the Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CSA) exam, with 26% of the exam takers coming from underrepresented groups compared to 16% of AP CSA exam takers. The percentage of women taking AP CSP (30%), while higher than the percentage of women taking AP CSA (23.5%) was still lower than nearly all other AP exams except for some of the physics exams. “There is still work that needs to be done to attract more students to these classes and to prepare them to succeed on the AP CS exams,” said Ericson.

According to Ericson, colleges and universities have seen enrollment in computer science programs double and triple in the past few years, which makes it even more important that students get programing experience in high school. “Many colleges and universities have dealt with the huge enrollment increase by making it harder to get into the major or by making introductory courses harder,” she added. “High school AP CS courses can give students the background they need to be successful in their college computing courses.”

Ericson’s analysis of the AP CSA exam data from 1998 to 2017 is available online and broken down by state, as well as by gender and ethnic/racial groups. ECEP state members rely on this data to track one measure of progress to broaden participation in computing in their states.


Ericson, Barb. "AniAniWeb for the Institute for Computing Education at Georgia Tech." AP CS Data for the United States 1998-2017, 8 Dec. 2017, http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/597. Accessed 27 Feb. 2018.

Snedeker, Albert. "Georgia Tech College of Computing." Positive Signs, But Diversity Still Lagging in AP Computer Science Exam Participation, 8 Jan. 2018, https://www.cc.gatech.edu/news/599416/positive-signs-diversity-still-lagging-ap-computer-science-exam-participation. Accessed 27 Feb. 2018.

Guzdial, Mark. "Computing Education Research Blog." Analysis of 2017 AP CS exam participation from Barbara Ericson, 8 Jan. 2018, https://computinged.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/analysis-of-2017-ap-cs-exam-participation-from-barbara-ericson/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2018.