Teaching Computer Science: Tips and Tricks for the AP CS Principles Performance Tasks

Your most valuable resource for the performance tasks is the AP Computer Science Principles Exam page. Look for the section titled Sample Responses and Scoring Information.

There’s a rubric for performance tasks, but they’re graded by humans so scoring is somewhat subjective. This page takes the guesswork out of it.

You’ll find multiple student responses from previous exam administrations, including scoring guidelines and commentary. Some of the responses are excellent, some are bad, and the rest are somewhere in-between. But they all come with a detailed explanation for each row of the rubric as to why points were or were not awarded.

Don’t submit your performance tasks without ensuring that they most closely resemble the high-scoring examples on this page.

 

Teachers are limited in the type of questions they can answer regarding your performance tasks. It has to be your own work.

That being said, if you have a question, ask it. Let the teacher decide whether the question can be answered or partially answered.

Don’t not ask a question because you’ve heard that teachers can’t answer questions.

 

As with any standardized test graded by humans, the people grading your test are not going to be sitting in an armchair with a pipe and a gin and tonic ready to immerse themselves in your written responses.

Grading is an assembly-line process. There’s a room full of graders, they’re jacked up on coffee and doughnuts, and they’re on the clock: score a paper, pass it on, score the next one, and so on.

You must make it as easy as possible for a grader to give you the points. For example, there’s a question on the Explore Task that asks you to describe one beneficial effect and one harmful effect of a computing innovation. Use the words “beneficial effect” and “harmful effect” in your answer. Underline them! You might think I’m kidding but I’m not.

Don’t overestimate the graders. They can miss things, especially if they have to guess at or interpret what you’re trying to say.

They have the same rubric you have. They know that they’re supposed to find one beneficial effect and one harmful effect. If you use the words “beneficial effect” and “harmful effect” and underline them, you may get the points for that alone. They love you! They’re fishtailing between nausea and euphoria from the coffee and doughnuts and you’ve made their job easy.

Don’t worry about your answer being articulate or whether your favorite English teacher would consider it well-written. You are not getting style points for writing like Jane Austen. You’re not showing off your vocabulary.

You must beat the graders over the head with the expected answers. Use the words from the rubric and underline them.

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