Not sure what you’re signing up for? Don’t worry! We’ll address some common misconceptions about AP Computer Science A and show you how you’re more prepared than you think!

Myth #1: Everyone else taking this class is an experienced coder.

  • There are tons of people taking AP Computer Science A who’ve never seen a snippet of code before in their lives.
  • Understanding code in Java is easy to pick up, you’ll be a pro in no time!
  • You don’t even need to know a lot of math for this class, just think logically and you’ll be fine.
  • Even if you never took AP Computer Science Principles, you’ll be okay.

Myth #2: I’ll need to memorize tons of code to do well on the AP exam.

  • You don’t need to go into the exam with any code memorized. As long as you can understand and use the code given to you in the reference sheet and questions, you can get a 5!
  • Seriously, you don’t have to memorize code.
  • Also, did you know that most professional coders don’t even have every piece of code memorized.

Myth #3: I’ll never be able to do the FRQs.

  • If you’re looking at past FRQs, the ones from 2017 and after are much closer to the current exam (the ones before are a lot harder than now).
  • Even if you can’t solve one part of a question, you don’t need it for the other parts!
  • Each question is graded in isolation, so if you can’t do one method, you will still be able to get points on others.
  • College Board gives out partial credit for the FRQs, so you can still get points even if you make some mistakes!

Myth #4: I’ll panic during tests and not be able to understand any of the code.

  • You don’t need to analyze code in your head. It’s actually best if you always write stuff down as you work through the code.
  • If you can’t understand what a code snippet does, plug in your own values to test. Sometimes, in the method header comments, you will be given some overarching examples- always make sure to follow those for helpful hints and clues.
  • Relax, the test is designed so you’ll have plenty of time to review your answers!

Myth #5: There’s tons of obscure terms that I’ll never be able to remember.

  • There aren’t that many terms you’ll need to remember, and through practice, the ones you do need to know will just slip into your vocabulary.
  • If you’re having trouble remembering specific terms, create mnemonic devices! Make them personal to you so you’ll remember them better! (You can use something as ridiculous as “I always override my parents’ decisions, so function overriding is when a function in the child class runs instead of the function inside the parent class”.)

Myth #6: I’ll never be able to understand these Computer Science topics.

  • A lot of topics make sense once you become familiar with them. If you keep practicing, these concepts will become second nature to you.
  • It helps if you create analogies between computer science topics and your daily life.

Myth #7: I’ll make some silly mistake on the FRQs and lose points.

  • College Board knows that you’re solving the questions in a timed setting, so they don’t dock points if you make mistakes in your syntax or if you accidentally write in another coding language! ย (Just remember Klingon isn’t a recognized computer language, yet…)
  • Even if you spell a variable name wrong, you’ll still get the point as long as the grader can tell what you meant.
  • To avoid any confusion for the grader, make sure all of your variables have different, unique names.
  • *Remember: the graders aren’t allowed to read your comments, so don’t rely on only comments to help the graders understand your code.*

Parting Words:

  • Don’t worry about not being able to understand Java, it’s really easy to pick up!
  • Even if you can copy-and-paste code for class assignments, don’t do it. You’ll just make it harder for yourself in May.
  • Write stuff down as you trace the code so you won’t make mistakes. Write out the data tables, write down the new values as they are changed, do whatever it takes to ensure that you don’t make a mistake.
  • When in doubt, plug in values to test your code. Make sure to use corner cases as well as known test inputs.
  • The best way to practice reading code on the exam is to practice writing your own code throughout the school year.
  • If you’re stuck on a snippet of code, move onto something else then come back. It’s like a word search, you might be stuck on it for a while but find it right away after doing something else.
  • Remember, if you can’t think clearly, you won’t code well. Make sure you get as much sleep as possible the night before.

Have faith in yourself, we believe in you!