Dig Deeper into AP Computer Science

The AP Computer Science A exam is widely accepted by the computer science education community as one of the most reliable measures of computer science high school course-taking patterns. The College Board’s rigorous methodology and data gathering has enabled us to see trends in AP Computer Science A exam-taking over time, by state, by gender, and by ethnic group. This page contains a summary of that data.

In 2016, the College Board debuted a new computer science exam, AP Computer Science Principles. Data on the first administration of this exam should be available in Fall 2017.

This data comes directly from the public spreadsheets available on a per-state basis from the College Board.

AP Computer Science A Over Time

Change in ethnic group categories: In 2016, the College Board changed the ethnic group categories that they report. Prior to 2016, we considered the following to be underrepresented minority groups: American Indian, Black, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Other Hispanic. In 2016, we considered the following categories: American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

Download a spreadsheet with this data here.

2016 Outcomes

General

  • Numbers of female and underrepresented minority student participation and representation in AP Computer Science A increased from 2015 to 2016.
  • The proportion of schools with AP programs that offer Computer Science A increased 6 percentage points between 2015 and 2016, from 15.5% of schools to 21.2% of schools.
  • In 2016, there were 8,035 more students in AP Computer Science A, which is a 17% increase from 2015.
  • The vast majority of states saw an increase in the number of students taking AP CS (44 states + DC).

Female participation

  • Female students made up 23% of the AP Computer Science A exam. This is the lowest rate of female participation for any single exam.
  • Female participation increased from 10,142 female students who took the AP Computer Science A exam in 2015 to 12,694 students who took the exam in 2016. This is a 24.6% increase. (And in 2014, only 7458 students took the exam).
  • Female representation increased from 21.88% of AP Computer Science A exams taken by females in 2015 to 23.25% in 2016 (and in 2014, it was 19.98%).
  • In the STEM subjects (Computer Science, Chemistry, Calculus AB and BC, combined Physics exams, Statistics, and Biology), Computer Science had the lowest female participation rate at 23%.

Underrepresented minority participation

For 2016 College Board data, we consider the following ethnic group categories to be underrepresented minorities: American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. (Other categories reported by the College Board are Asian, White, Two or more races, Other, and No response.) Note that in previous years, the College Board reported demographics using different categories; for those years, the following ethnic group categories are considered to be underrepresented minorities: American Indian, Black, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Other Hispanic. (Other ethnic categories reported by the College Board include Asian, White, Other, and Not stated.)

  • Underrepresented minority students made up 16% of AP Computer Science A exams. This is the 8th lowest of 38 exams, and the second lowest subject when grouping exams by subject.
  • Underrepresented minority student participation increased from 6,140 (2015) to 8,522 students (2016), which is a 35.3% increase. However, in 2016, the College Board changed their demographic categories, so it is difficult to make direct comparisons between the years.
  • Underrepresented minority representation increased from 13.25% of AP Computer Science A exams to 15.6% of AP Computer Science A exams (although the demographic categories also changed).
  • In the STEM subjects (Computer Science, Chemistry, Calculus AB and BC, combined Physics exams, Statistics, and Biology), Computer Science had the lowest underrepresented minority participation rate at 16%.

2016 State-Level Highlights

  • The largest percent increases in AP Computer Science A exam-taking were in Mississippi, which increased from 5 students to 16 students; Nevada, which increased from 39 students to 104 students; and Montana, which increased from 0 students to 9 students.
  • 6 states saw a slight decrease: Louisiana (-14 students), Maine (-1 student), Oklahoma (-19 students), Oregon (-9 students), South Dakota (-14 students), and West Virginia (-22 students).

Female participation at the state level

  • 34 states saw an increase in the proportion of AP Computer Science A students who are female, with an average increase of 4%. The largest increases came in Wyoming (+33%), Iowa (+10%), and North Dakota (+9.7%).
  • 16 states saw a decrease in the proportion of AP Computer Science A students who are female, with an average decline of 4.5%. The largest decreases came in Alaska (-13.1%), Kansas (-11.7%), and Delaware (-10%).
  • Four states more than doubled the number of female students in AP Computer Science A, including Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, and Nevada.

Underrepresented minority participation at the state level

  • 37 states saw an increase in the proportion of AP Computer Science A exam-takers who are underrepresented minorities, with an average increase of 3.7%. The largest increases came in Washington DC (+21.1%), Wyoming (+16.7%), and South Dakota (+9.0%).
  • 11 states saw a decrease in the proportion of AP Computer Science A exam-takers who are underrepresented minorities, with an average decline of 4.3%. The largest decreases came in Kansas (-9.7%), Kentucky (-9.3%), and Louisiana (-7.7%).
  • Eight states more than doubled the number of underrepresented minority students who took the AP Computer Science A exam, including Alaska, Connecticut, Washington DC, Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and South Dakota.

Deep Historical Analysis of State Data by Barb Ericson

  • Barb Ericson at Georgia Tech has been doing much deeper analyses of these AP Computer Science A Exam data for many years. If you're interested in the really deep dive, check out her AP Data Page

Downloads

Code.org performed calculations and analysis on the data as provided on the public College Board AP data reports.