AP Computer Science Syllabus

SFHS 2022-2023
Fr Chris "Crispin" Thiel, OFMCap, MDiv, MS
cthiel@sfhs.net - (818) 790-0325 x1211
Office Hours: Monday G Block in Room 102, Tu-Fri 7:30-8 in Room 405, Day 6 G Block in 301, or by appt.

Important Links:

  1. hw.mathorama.com Assignments, Test Dates.
  2. AP Classroom Section code A3QMRE (Videos, Progress Checks, Practice Exam Questions)
  3. Socrative.com (room FRCHRIS) for Polls and Quizzes
  4. Java-SFHS Runestone Textbook/Labs/Quizzes
  5. mathorama.com/wiki My Current APCS Wiki
This is a college level course in Computer Science that focusses on Object Oriented Programming. All students are required to take the College Board's Advanced Placement Computer Science Test. Passing the AP Exam allow universities to award credit toward your Bachelors Degree for a course like CS 106. See page 13 of the student handbook for other AP Course policies:
AP instructors have the final approval on students admitted to their classes since the classes are demanding and a student's ability and motivation must be exceptional. Students in AP courses may be required to do additional academic work during the Christmas and Easter breaks. Any student who enrolls in an advanced placement course is required to take the college board examination in May.

...Any student taking Advanced Placement/Honors courses should expect to devote extra time each night beyond what is expected in standard courses.


The Textbook is Java Methods, 4th AP Edition (Green). The first chapter can be downloaded for free. You can search for a used Hardcover, or rent an e-version at RedShelf.com The companion web site is http://www.skylit.com/javamethods/, which has the starter code (student files including answers to selected questions) in a zip archive.

An optional book is for those who enjoy the first set of labs in the beginning of the year: Karel J Robot: A Gentle Introduction to the Art of Object-Oriented Programming in Java by Bergin, et al. We will only use a small set of topics as an introduction to the course, so you don't really need to buy this unless you wish to for your own interest and benefit.

It would be vital to have a computer at home to compile and experiment with the labs and textbook programs (a few each chapter) as you read, as well as work on lab assignments. I have had good luck with the $35-$100 Raspberry Pi which is ideal for those who are into having a way to programs circuits, trains, and electronic devices.

Any computer that runs Java2 1.5 (also known as Java 5 or internally named "Tiger" at Sun) or higher will do, however the current version of Java2 is higher, due in part with the separation between OpenJava and Oracle Java. Version 11.0.4 is a LTS (Long term support) version, which is more likely to be stable.

Most computers made in the last 6 or 7 years, regardless of operating system, would be fine. In class we will use computers that run on Windows 10, but I'll be happy to show you how to do your work running Linux (like Ubuntu, Mint, etc) or Mac OS X. If you have no home computer that you are allowed to install software upon, I can recommend the RaspberryPi 3B+ which has Java and the BlueJ IDE already installed in the Raspian OS. You can have your own project computer for well under $60.

As per the school policy, if you have a computer, it cannot be used during school hours. If you use it after or before school hours, you do so at your own risk.

Since we have much to do to get ready for the AP exam, I am happy to offer an occasional "Saturday Class" or a special "G Block Class" where I can spend more time with your concerns, like how to install Java, Linux, Eclipse, jEdit, JCreator, BlueJ, or XCode on your computer or help troubleshoot other problems you may be having.

Practice Exam

Students gain a lot in insight and confidence by doing this, and counts as two 90-minute tests.

Reading Assignments and Reading Quizzes

You need to read the assigned reading BEFORE the first lecture on that reading. It is VERY helpful for you to answer the "Self-Check" questions and check your answer with the book's explanation.

Complete the work you are assigned on time, and you will receive the best grade you are capable of with the least amount of effort. As Mark Twain said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started."

The course is project based, designed to show you many examples so that along the way you will discover both general truths, and subtle distinctions. This only works if you allow yourself to be exposed to something you do not at first understand (just like learning a foreign language). You need to start with reading the chapter, even if it is not completely clear (In fact, this will be the case, most of the time!). Usually you need to figure out why your "Self Check Question" is wrong before you fully understand some important (yet subtle) distictions.

Helpful Web Sites

Classroom Labs, Homework and Unit Labs

Despite the fact that the AP Exam is a written exam, programming is an activity, and best learned while working on a program. Some class lectures will explain the chapter's ideas and programs, but usually there will be a classroom lab assignment to help you practice and explore these ideas. I will circulate around the room offering my help, but it is expected that your ask help from your neighbor, as well as offer your help when a fellow student may need it. Not every topic is as quick and easy to learn as others, and different people will understand different ideas quicker than others. It is often the case that you have to finish these labs outside of class. There is a difference between helping and copying. Even if you needed to be shown a solution, it is vital that you fully UNDERSTAND the solution.

Quizzes and Tests

Class time is at a premium, but we need Quizzes and Tests to practice for the AP Exam. Tests and quizzes will be designed to simulate the AP exam, with a combination of multiple choice and free response questions, usually alternating but sometimes a combination of multiple choice and free-response. In addition to the graded homework labs (done as a group), we will ocationally do a lab Test to confirm that you understand the homework (done as an individual). There will be a 90 minute exam each quarter (October 6, December 15, March 7, May 20). If no one is enrolled in foreign language, we could use this time instead of the last class of the quarter, allowing us to have more class time. If this is the case then the Qtr exam will be in the foreign language time for each of the quarters.

My AP Formative Assessments and Personal Progress Checks

This year is the first year the college board has provided May Ap Classroom which will be used throughout the year and at the end of the year review. Topic Questions are for Formative assessment while PPC's are more for evaluating proficiency. Some college board materials used this year are secure questions that are not permitted to be photographed, scanned, copied, posted, or allowed outside classroom use. Student's work is kept on file and can be reviewed in class or appointment (G block tutoring).

Fourth Quarter Final Project

After the AP Exam, much of the class time will be working on your final project. It will be a graphics program or applet of your design. The instructor will need to approve your proposal to assure that it is challenging enough, yet not so challenging that you will not have time to complete it. Like the Graded Labs, you may choose a simple project that has a lower maximum score, or a more ambitious project that has a higher maximum score. The APCS wiki (apcs.mathorama.com) has a link to "Final Projects" and "Projects from Yesteryear" so you can get ideas.

Extra Credit

According to the Extra Credit policy of the school, Extra Credit may not exceed more than 5% of the semester grade. If you are doing poorly and wish to get more points (not to exceed 5% of the total points), you may prepare a test question from an AP Study Guide or a past AP Comp Sci A Exam to present to the class. Make a Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentation that (1) shows the class the question (so everyone can try it) and (2) clearly explains the correct answer.

Classroom Discipline

  1. DO NOT DISRUPT CLASS For the sake of the majority of the class, those who disrupt a class lesson by talking, disturbing someone, or throwing any object will not be tolerated. Disciplinary measures may include written assignments or cleaning of the classroom. Chronic disruptions warrant a phone call home and/or a "Saturday".

  2. DO NOT ABUSE SCHOOL PROPERTY You are responsible for your work place and will be held accountable to keep your desk and its environs clean. Feet should remain on the floor, never on the desk. All four feet of the desk must also remain on the floor. Be gentle when using a school computer. If you are banned from the use of a school computer, all computer based assignments are replaced with extensive written assignments, and that is no way to take a Computer Science Class!

  3. DO NOT ABUSE YOUR TIME OR ANYONE ELSE'S Take advantage of the group work sessions. This is the time to do your talking---so long as you get the work done. Abuse of this privilege will result in individual loss of the privilege as well as the disciplinary measures mentioned above. Talking without permission during quizzes or tests can and will be interpreted as cheating. Consult the student handbook for the consequences of cheating. As per the student handbook, students are responsible for work missed due to absence the day they return. If you are present and a quiz or test is scheduled, you must take it. It is a good idea to have the phone number of several classmates to see what material and assignments were covered during your absence. If you miss a quiz you cannot gain any points for it. Usually one test score and one quiz score will be dropped each quarter. If you know you will be absent for a test, you may schedule to take it before the actual test date if prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. In the case of an extended illness special arrangements should be made with the Academic Vice Principal, Mr. Trujillo.

  4. LIVE UP TO YOUR GOOD NAME You are expected to exhibit the attributes of a St. Francis Golden Knight: courteous attention, gracious cooperation, and dedicated study. Each can readily be seen in the thoroughness and orderliness of your work, as well as how you offer, ask and accept help from others.


Unit Lab (a more involved Programming Project). If you have an excused absence, you do not need to "make up" a 10 point quiz or lab, but you do need to "make up" any other evaluation that is worth more than 10 points. An Unexcused absence is an automatic zero, and late work is always a lower grade. Taking the AP Test in May is required, and an "A" in this course is worth 5 grade points, rather than four. If the AP Proctor reports that you used your test time well, more points will be awarded in the fourth quarter (you risk losing as much as an letter grade if you don't make a serious attempt during the AP exam).

Unless a student has a howework or classwork average of less then 50%, tests are "Curved" so that the equivalent of an AP score of 3 is 70-79%, 4 is 80-89% and 5 is 90-100%

Category Average Weight Points
Classwork × (0.05) =
Homework × (0.05) =
Labs × (0.05) =
Projects × (0.05) =
Quizzes × (0.15) =
Tests × (0.45) =
Qtr Exams × (0.20) =

At St Francis, the plus/minus is ignored while computing the GPA (Grade Pint Average). That said, there is a big different between a C+ and a C-, or a B+ or a B-, so I will indicate a plus if the student is almost at the next grade higher, or a minus is they are dangerously close to the next grade lower. This is an AP course, so any grade above a D scores an extra grade point in computing the GPA. The average is converted into letter grades strictly as follows:

90% to 100%
5 grade points
80% to 89.9999%
4 grade points
70% to 79.9999%
3 grade points
60% to 69.9999%
1 grade point
0% to 59.9999%
not a D
0 grade points