# AP Computer Science A Exam: 2021 Results

The following data reflect the 63,980 students worldwide who took either the paper or the digital AP Computer Science A (AP CSA) Exam in May. Data from students who tested in June are not yet available.

## AP Computer Science A score distributions, 2019 vs. 2021

The following table enables comparisons of student performance in 2021 to student performance on the comparable full-length exam prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

AP Score | 2019 | 2021 |
---|---|---|

5 | 27% | 25% |

4 | 22% | 22% |

3 | 21% | 20% |

2 | 12% | 12% |

1 | 18% | 21% |

Of these 63,980 students, 345 students achieved a perfect score from all professors/readers on all free-response questions and correctly answered every multiple-choice question, resulting in the rare and impressive feat of earning all 80 of 80 points possible on an AP Computer Science A Exam.

It’s also important to honor the work of students who did not qualify for a score of 3+, but who nonetheless developed basic understandings and skills in the course. As a reminder,**the most recent research on students who achieve a score of 2 in AP Computer Science A**found that they proceed to earn higher grades when taking the course in college than students with the same high school GPA, SAT score, race, and gender. And these outcomes are stronger for AP CSA students who receive a 2 than they are for students receiving 2s in most other AP subjects.

## The May 6 In-School Paper Exam

The largest exam date for AP Computer Science A was May 6, so the following information is specific to the exam version administered on that date.

As usual, students scored significantly higher on the multiple-choice section than on the free-response questions.

**Multiple-choice section:**

- Course Units:
- AP CSA students’ strongest performance was on Unit 4, Iteration. 22% of students earned perfect scores on this unit’s questions.
- AP CSA students generally demonstrated solid understanding of each unit; the only unit where many students struggled was Unit 10, Recursion. 21% of students couldn’t answer any questions about that unit correctly.

- Computational Thinking Practices:
- AP CSA students’ strongest practice was Code Testing; 34% of students earned perfect scores across questions related to this skill.
- The most challenging skill for students in the multiple-choice section was practice 2, Code Logic. Students generally earned somewhat lower scores on questions that required this practice.

- AP CSA students scored highest on Q2 (Class). 19% of students earned perfect scores of 9/9 points possible on this question. 23% of students earned 0/9 points.
- Skill 3A (Write program code to create objects of a class and call methods): 56% of students earned 2 points; 9% of students earned 1 point; 35% of students earned 0 points.
- Skill 3B (Write program codes to define a new type by creating a class): 26% of students earned 5 points; 21% of students earned 4 points; 10% of students earned 3 points; 10% of students earned 2 points; 7% of students earned 1 point; 26% of students earned 0 points.
- Skill 3C (Write program codes to satisfy method specifications using expressions, conditional statements, and iterative statements): 40% of students earned 2 points; 23% of students earned 1 point; 37% of students earned 0 points.
- The most challenging part of this year’s AP CSA Exam was Q4 (2D Array). 13% of students earned perfect scores of 9/9 points possible on this question. 29% of students earned 0/9 points.
- Skill 3A (Write program code to create objects of a class and call methods): 30% of students earned this point.
- Skill 3C (Write program codes to satisfy method specifications using expressions, conditional statements, and iterative statements): 25% of students earned 3 points; 25% of students earned 2 points; 14% of students earned 1 point; 36% of students earned 0 points.
- Skill 3D (Write program code to create, traverse, and manipulate elements in 1D array or ArrayList objects): 55% of students earned this point.
- Skill 3E (Write program code to create, traverse, and manipulate elements in 2D array objects): 27% of students earned 4 points; 14% of students earned 3 points; 11% of students earned 2 points; 16% of students earned 1 point; 32% of students earned 0 points.
- Differences in the testing mode (paper or digital). For sections of the exam that proved easier to take digitally, the digital versions require more points for each AP score. For sections of the exam that proved easier to take on paper, the paper exam requires more points for each AP score.
- Differences in the difficulty of specific questions. When exam questions prove easier, more points are required for each AP score, and when exam questions prove more difficult, fewer points are required on one version than another.
- Differences in versions of the exam. The net result for this year’s AP CSA Exams is that out of 80 points possible, about half of the digital versions were more difficult than the paper version, some of the digital versions were easier than the paper version, and some of the digital versions had the same difficult as the paper version. As a result:
- On the easiest digital version, a student needed to earn 3 more points to receive an AP score of 3 or higher than students who took the paper version.
- On the hardest digital version, a student needed to earn 5 fewer points to receive an AP score of 3 or higher than students who took the paper version.

## The May 18 Digital Exams

To support student access, different testing modes—paper and digital—were essential. To protect exam security, many different exam versions were necessary. Accordingly, to provide students with similar opportunities for success regardless of which version they took, each version of the exam had to be analyzed separately by psychometricians to identify its unique difficulty level so that standards for scores of 3, 4, and 5 could then be separately identified for each exam version. Analyses focused on: