Tag Archives: New AP CS A Labs

AP Computer Science 2 Day Workshop – San Antonio, TX – Feb 17-18

There will be an AP Computer Science 2 day workshop in San Antonio, Texas on February 17 and 18.


Lots of great sessions will be presented.
*   How to get your students ready to make 5s
*   Introducing OOP with Greenfoot
*   Teaching Arrays, Lists, and Matrices early
*   Lots of discussion of best practices

Email me if you have any questions.   stacey.armstrong@apluscompsci.com


Good luck to all on the 2015 AP Computer Science A Exam!

Good luck to all on the AP CS A Exam and on the alternate exam in a few weeks!

I will run my last review at 6am Texas time this Thursday the 7th.  My 6 am review is a tradition I started a few hundred years ago.  My students look forward to it every year.  Well, they look forward to the donuts more than anything.

What will I review at 6am you say?  Here are my predictions this year’s 4 Free Response Questions.  Obviously, I have no idea what the questions will be, but I am pretty good at predicting as I do spend considerable time looking at the past questions trying to find trends.

1.  ArrayList of Classes / References –  You gots to know how to write code to manipulate an ArrayList<NeverSeenThisClassBefore> as it is on the exam every single year going all of the way back to 2006.  This question type involves lots of drilling down to get to the various pieces.  You must be comfortable with abstraction to handle this type of question.  2010 had the CookieOrder question and 2012 had ClimbInfo if you need a few somewhat recent examples.

2.  Make a Class from scratch – Every student should know how to make a class, implement an interface, and extend an abstract class.  Last year’s Trio question marked the return of the interface FR which means an abstract class Free Response can’t be too far behind.   Be prepared to override some methods and make something new from something old.  You know you will have to create a complete class or create something really similar and it will be super!   Look at the 2005, 2006, and 2007 AP FR questions if you want some past FR examples.

3.  Processing an Array –  I reviewed the Horse[] question last year at 6am and it turned out that there wasn’t a standard array question on the test, but the Matrix question from 2014 was basically the HorseBarn in matrix form.  I was sooooooooo close.  I think there will be an array question in 2015, but it most likely will not be an array of references.  I am thinking the array question will just involve some algorithmic stuff with numbers like finding smallest, largest, difference between smallest and largest, etc.  We shall see.

4.  Matrices – I told my troops in 2013 and 2014 to be ready for a matrix of classes as I thought that would be a really cool question.  I was wrong in 2013, but in 2014 I was spot on as the there was a Student[ ][ ] question on the exam.  Finally!  There will certainly be a matrix question again this year and with PictureLab being one of the new AP CS A Labs, I am thinking a matrix of references is again a distinct possibility.

I will post follow-up comments after I see the 2015 Free Response questions.  Hopefully, my predictions will be right on this year.  I have been pretty close in the past, but this year is a new year.

If you want to see what I review with my students for the AP Computer Science A Exam,  I have quite a few of my  AP Exam review slides   posted with Java code projects ready for students to complete.  The Java code projects have runner files and everything students need to test their hand-written free response code.  Feel free to use them to help your students.  My students turn the old free response questions in working programs as part of their review.

Do you need great AP Computer Science Curriculum that covers all of the topics I have listed above?  Do you need labs, slides, tests, quizzes, and worksheets that cover arrays, arrays of references, ArrayList, ArrayList of References, Matrices, Matrices of References, Interfaces, and Abstract Classes? Take a look at the A+ Computer Science Curriculum.

The A+ Computer Science Curriculum was designed to provide students with multiple opportunities to master the core concepts covered on the AP Computer Science A Exam.

If you like my humor and want to spend a few days hearing more about how I prep students to ROCK the AP exam, check out my workshops going on over the summer or email me about setting up a custom training at your school or for several schools.  I will show you how to get any student ready to make a 5!  My system works like a champ and it is super simple to follow!

2 day APSI for AP CS A in Addison, Texas

Looking for some great professional development for AP CS A?   Look no further.

Judy Hromcik and Glen Martin will be running a spectacular 2 day event on Feb 6th and 7th in Addison, Texas.
If you need help withe AP CS A, check it out.
The new AP CS A Labs will be discussed in great detail.


If you are looking for an awesome AP CS A Summer Institute, check out my workshops page.


A+ 2015 Curriculum Materials Information Posted

2015-2016 Curriculum Material Information is now posted.

The 2015 A+ Computer Science Curriculum will include many new updates.

Intro CS Curriculum Materials

More Python materials
Multiple Python versions will be supported.

AP CS Principles

Expanded CS Principles materials
Python and Scratch materials for CS Principles

AP Computer Science A

New Java Labs, Slides, and Tests
Current exam trends are always included in updates.
Expanded support for the New AP CS A Labs – Magpie, Picture Lab, and Elevens

Advanced Computer Science

Dynamic Programming Assignments and Materials


New AP CS A Labs – Magpie, Elevens, and PictureLab Part 2

The 2014-2015 A+ Computer Science Materials are ready for download.

New Scratch materials are included!  More game projects.

Python materials are now included – slides, examples, worksheets, quizzes, and tests!

Materials for multiple Computer Science courses are fully supported!

Materials for the New AP CS A Labs – Magpie, Elevens, and PictureLab are included!


The following provides more information on the new AP CS A Labs and the A+ support provided for these new Labs.

Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, the GridWorld case study has been eliminated as a requirement for the AP Computer Science A curriculum. To ensure that students spend enough time on hands-on labs, the College Board has added a 20-hour lab requirement for students. To support the implementation of the 20-hour lab requirement, College Board has provided three exemplar labs for teachers to use. These labs will not be directly tested on the AP Computer Science A exam.

To read the official College Board announcement about this lab requirement, follow this link: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/teachers_corner/221994.html

To access resources for the new labs including student lab guides, follow this link :  http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/courses/teachers_corner/222163.html

To access source code and teacher guides for the new labs, go the AP CS A Course Audit link : http://www.collegeboard.com/html/apcourseaudit/courses/computer_science.html

It is important that you read this information and visit the AP Audit site to attest to your understanding of this requirement to use these labs in your course or submit a new syllabus that clearly indicates that you are allowing at least 20 hours of lab time for your students. You may submit one of the four approved syllabi provided by the College Board, the A+ Computer Science approved syllabus, or your create a syllabus of your own.

The goal of the A+ Computer Science materials for the New Labs is to provide support materials for Magpie, Elevens, and Picture labs and to integrate these materials with the existing A+ Computer Science materials. These new AP CS A labs are not intended to be new teaching units that must be added to your curriculum. Instead they are intended to be labs that you can use to reinforce concepts that you have already taught, much like the extensive set of labs that you find throughout the A+ Computer Science curriculum.

In the new 2014-2015 A+ Computer Science Curriculum, you will find teacher notes for each of the exemplar labs that describe what testable concepts the labs cover and when in the curriculum you might use the lab exercises. You will also find Powerpoint slides and worksheets to support each of the new exemplar labs.


Main topics covered by each of the new AP CS A Labs :

Magpie – Classes, randomness, and Strings – specifically indexOf(), substring(), and lots of Math.random()

Elevens – List of references – specifically using an ArrayList < SomeClass > / List < SomeClass >

Picture Lab – Matrices / Matrices of references – specifically using SomeClass[ ][ ] and focusing on array of arrays


A+ Computer Science Labs that cover the same concepts as the new AP CS A Labs :

Strings and randomness – HexChecker, MorseCode, Rock-Paper-Scissors, and Etch-A-Sketch

Lists of references – WordList, Numbers, Toys, Winter Scene, and BlackJack – 21

Matrices / Matrices of references – Forest, Tic-Tac-Toe, and Code and Ciphers


Free Response Questions that cover similar concepts to the new AP CS A Labs :

Strings and randomness – 14.Q1, 11.Q4, 08.Q2, 08.Q4

Lists of references – 13.Q1, 12.Q1, 11.Q3, 10.Q1, 09.Q4, 08.Q1

Matrices / Matrices of references – 14.Q3, 13.Q4, 12.Q4, 11.Q4


AP CS A Summer Institutes 2014

My Houston AP SI is in the books.  I had a very large and lively crowd.  The winner of the furthest travel was Daily who came all of the way from Nigeria.

We spent lots of time on arrays, arrays of references, lists, lists of references, matrices, matrices of references, interfaces, abstract classes, recursion, and the new AP CS A Labs.

Magpie, Elevens, and PictureLab are new and need to be examined before the 2014-2015 school year kicks off.  The updated A+ Computer Science Curriculum supports the new AP CS A Lab and it is ready for download.

We also did an extensive study of free response questions and went through many past year’s questions.  This is a good practice at workshops and in class.

Denver is up next in just over a week.  Hope to see you there.

2014 AP Computer Science A Summer Institutes – New AP CS A Labs

If you are looking for great AP Computer Science A Summer Institutes this summer, check out my workshops page.  I will spend lots of time with the new AP CS A Labs – Magpie, Elevens, and Picture Lab.  Join the fun for lots of hands-on activities.  I will make sure each participant is actively involved that each person gets their hands dirty every single day.

New AP CS A Labs – Magpie, Elevens, and PictureLab

2014 is the last run for GridWorld.  I for one am sorry to see it go.  I have had a fun time working with this case study and have found it to be the best case study of any of the AP CS Case Studies.  There are just so many things you can do with it. Rather than have case studies for the next few years and likely beyond that, there were will be new labs that will serve in the same capacity as case studies have in the past.  These labs will require that student rationalize about existing code and modify existing code.  This will help the students learn what is like to work with code created by someone else and likely work with projects bigger than what they would create on their own. Here are the basics of the 3 new labs.

  • Magpie – string lab where students work with a chatbot program
  • PictureLab – matrix lab that focuses on image manipulation
  • Elevens – card lab that uses lists of classes

Drafts of these new labs can be found at  http://www.cs.rit.edu/~ptt/apcs_labs/

A+ Computer Science Curriculum Materials will provide full support for these new labs.
I have an ap audit-approved syllabus posted that incorporates the new AP CS A Labs.

These labs will also be used at my AP Summer Institutes in the summer of 2014.