Lesson 1: Explore PT: Review the Task (1 hr)


This lesson contains a series of activities you can use to help students familiarize themselves with Explore Performance Task, how it is scored, and some example tasks provided by the College Board.

Students review the Submission Requirements and Scoring Guidelines for the Explore PT. Subsequently they review three example scored Explore PT submissions with commentary to better understand how the Submission Requirements and Scoring Guidelines are used together. In a wrap-up conversation they identify a piece of advice, a "gotcha", and a remaining question they have about the Explore PT.

Note: Most the exemplar task, scores, and commentary on scoring shared in this lesson come directly from the College Board. Code.org's commentary is noted where applicable.


The Explore PT is in many ways straightforward: you perform research on a computing innovation and present your findings. As you dig into the details of the task, however, you quickly come across some of the nuances of individual components of the task and how they're scored. This lesson is designed to introduce what these nuances are, and begin to provide some answers to the questions that will inevitably arise. Keep in mind that the next lesson provides a more structured set of responses to those questions, and so today students are just diving in to what the task looks like.


Getting Started (15 minutes)

Activity (45 mins)

Wrap Up (5 mins)

(Optional) AP Digital Portfolio Setup


Students will be able to:

  • Describe the major components of the Explore PT
  • Describe how the Explore PT Scoring Guidelines will be used to assess the task
  • Identify remaining questions about the Explore PT



Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Students

Teaching Guide

Getting Started (15 minutes)

Introduce the Explore PT


Today we're going to start looking more deeply at the Explore PT, focusing specifically on understanding:

  • The different components of the Explore PT
  • How the task will be scored

Don't worry, you already have much of the knowledge and skills you need to do well on this task. The hardest part might be just understanding what is required of you.

First, we'll quickly read the task description and look a some examples and how they were scored.

Review Explore PT Submission Requirements and Scoring Guidelines

Students can find links for all these activities in Code Studio. Here is what they can see:

Teaching Tip

Write Questions on the Document: If students have printed copies of the AP CSP Performance Task Directions for Students - College Board Student Handout you may wish to encourage them to underline, circle, or otherwise mark the questions they have in the following prompts.

Distibute: Students should each get printed or digital copies of AP CSP Performance Task Directions for Students - College Board Student Handout

Discussion Goal

Goal: Aim to keep this discussion relatively short. Assure students you're intending to log their questions and they will be addressed through the lesson.

Students should leave this discussion knowing they will submit:

  • a computational artifact
  • written responses
  • and citations

about a computing innovation they chose to research. They should also know the Scoring Guidelines:

  • contains 8 rows, each worth 1 point
  • sometimes several rows apply to one written response to pick out specific aspects

Students are not, however, expected to fully understand the nuances of the task or scoring.

Prompt: Read and then discuss with a partner (1) the "Submission Requirements" section on pages 5-6, and (2) the scoring guidelines on pages 22-23. For the scoring guidelines you can focus only on the first 3 columns for now: "Reporting Category", "Task", "Scoring Criteria". We'll dive into the decision rules later. Just get familiar with these documents.

After reading discuss with a partner:

  • What will you actually be turning in to the College Board?
  • What are you hoping will become more clear after looking at example projects?

Discuss: Give students time to read the pages, in pairs or individually, and then discuss both questions with one another. The first one is more important for now.


Hopefully in your reading you concluded that for the Explore PT you'll need to submit:

  • A computational artifact (though you may be wondering what this means)
  • Responses to a few written responses
  • Citations to sources for these two items.

You should also have noticed:

  • The Scoring Guidelines provide specific guidance on how each part of the task will be graded

I'm sure that right now you have a lot of questions about what this task will look like and how it will be scored. Before we answer them, let's look at some examples first.

Activity (45 mins)

Student Samples

The student samples used in this activity come directly from the AP Central website which shows in separate documents: student samples, scoring guidelines, and scoring notes. You can direct students there to find the samples, or look at others if you like.

Later in the activity we provide "annotated" versions that merge all three of these things together into one side-by-side view.

Explore PT Sample Response C

Distribute: Provide pairs of students copies of Explore Sample C (links available on student page for this lesson).

Prompt: This is a raw student submission - exactly what the student uploaded for their computational artifact and written responses. Read it first. Then with your partner spend a few minutes reviewing this exemplar. Be ready to share out the following answers.

  • Did anything surprise you in looking at this exemplar?
  • Do you think this scored well based on what you know about the scoring guidelines?

Discuss: Ask partners to spend a couple of minutes specifically discussing the prompts above. Then have the whole class quickly share the results of their discussion.

Explore PT Annotated Sample C (score: 8/8)

Discussion Goal

Goal: Students should understand from this example that the Scoring Guidelines are in many ways as important as the task description. The responses in this exemplar not only match the task description but address the particular "gotchas" of the scoring guidelines.

Students may still have questions about the individual prompts or scoring guidelines. Encourage them that you'll look at more examples which may help clarify.

Harmful effect v. Data security concern - this is one of the trickiest nuances of the task. We call it out here, but try not to dwell on it. In the next lesson an entire activity is devoted to unpacking this distinction.


This sample actually received a perfect 8/8 score. Let's look at the student response side-by-side with the scoring guidelines and the actual AP scorer's notes to see why.

Distribute: The annotated Sample C document (links available on student page).

Prompt: With your partner look over this annotated version of the sample to see how each row of the scoring guidelines was applied. You should be reading specifically to answer any of the questions you had about the task earlier. After looking it over we will discuss:

  • How does scorer differentiate between a harmful effect and a data security concern?
  • What characteristics of this response made it score well?
  • What questions do you still have about the Scoring Guidelines or Task description?

Discuss: Ask partners to spend a couple of minutes specifically discussing the prompts above. Then have the whole class share the results of their discussion.

  • Where possible call out ways that the discussion is answering questions raised earlier in the class about the Submission Requirements or Scoring Guidelines.
  • Difference between "harmful effect" and "data security concern"

    • as called out in the scorer's notes, a "harmful effect" is one that comes from using the innovation as intended, which in this case is the result of overuse (or over-reliance) on GPS. A good way to think of "harmful effect" is the unintended consequences of using the innovation as designed, which this response does.
    • A data security concern often comes from misuse of the innovation, or using it in a way that was not originally intended. The effects or risks from spying, hacking, or even accidental exposure of sensitive information or invasions of privacy are common things listed here.

Discussion Goal

Goal: Students should be gaining comfort with the structure of the task and scoring guidelines at this point. Since this task missed some points it provides a good opportunity to dive into those components of the scoring guidelines.

Here are some of the ways the samples fall short.

Sample D:

  • failed to make a few small connections
  • the harmful effect didn't come from intended use, and wasn't specific enough on who the harm would come to.

Sample E:

  • fails to identify a computing innovation - this fact alone was the source of many lost points, even though the sample itself comes close in many ways.
  • failed to list citations inline.

Sample E should be used to kick off the wrap up conversation and prime the pump for tomorrow's lesson: how to pick a strong computing innovation. We also give tips to avoid getting tripped up as they respond to the prompts.

Explore PT Annotated Samples D (5/8) and E (2/8)


Let's now take a look at some samples that didn't get a perfect score.

Distribute: Provide pairs of students copies of the Annotated Explore PT Samples D and E (student links on code studio)

Prompt: With your partner look at these samples - you can pick which to look at first. As you review this task with a partner ask yourself:

  • Where and how specifically did this fall short?
  • Was there one major problem that caused ripple effects through the scoring?
  • Or were there several smaller issues?
  • Try to point out specific aspects of the Scoring Guidelines or Submission Requirements.

Discuss: Ask partners to spend a couple minutes specifically discussing the prompt above. Then have the whole class share the results of their discussion. Where possible call out ways that the discussion is answering questions raised earlier in the class about the Submission Requirements or Scoring Guidelines.

Wrap Up (5 mins)

Explore PT: Advice, Gotchas, Questions

Discussion Goal

Goal: The next lesson is designed to address these three specific prompts. Students will have time to dive deep on what counts as a computing innovation and how to choose one wisely. They will be provided a checklist of "gotchas" next to each part of the task to use while they complete. There is also time set aside to answer remaining questions. In other words, don't feel the need to respond to all of these prompts here. Use this conversation to synthesize what they saw and remind students that tomorrow you'll investigate all these questions more deeply.

Prompt: Based on the examples that you saw today write down on separate post-its / scratch piece of paper

  • The number one piece of advice you have for the Explore PT
  • One "gotcha" to look out for
  • One question you'd still like answered about the Explore PT

Discuss: Have students share their answers with a partner. Then have them place their responses on the board somewhere where they can be seen.

Once answers are on the board quickly report back to the group the patterns or trends that you're seeing in their responses.


Next time we meet we're going to look more deeply into the Explore PT, using the three questions you just answered. To start we'll be thinking about what's probably the most important step in the whole process, picking your computing innovation in the first place. We'll also talk about strategies for avoiding many of the "gotchas" you identified in this lesson. Finally, we'll take time to address any remaining questions you have about the task.

(Optional) AP Digital Portfolio Setup

Tech Setup - AP Digital Portfolio, Making PDFs, and Videos

Teaching Tip

Pick the right time to do this tech setup. We've included the resources you need both in the AP Explore prep lessons and the AP Create prep lessons. The purpose is to have a place to go for quick links to things like setup guides and other tools.

At some point students need to setup their AP Digital Portfolio to officially submit your performance tasks and to sign up for the exam.

Doing that setup and navigating around the digital portfolio will take a little bit of time.

The resource you need for that is primarily the: AP Digital Portfolio Student Guide - College Board Handout There are also several tools you should be familiar with in order to create the necessary PDF documents and Video screen captures that you need to submit. We provide links and some other instructions around tech-related things in the first level for this lesson.

  • Explore PT - Review the Task
  • 1
  • (click tabs to see student view)
View on Code Studio

Teaching Tip

Students can find all the links they need on this page. (If you are viewing this from within the lesson plan click Student Overview to see the student view of the page).


We have *included links on this student page to the the scoring commentary for the sample tasks. If you you want students to try applying the scoring guidelines to tasks without knowing ahead of time you'll have to invoke some kind of honor system or strategy to have them hold off looking.

Student Instructions

Explore PT Prep - Reviewing the Task


This lesson contains a series of activities you can use to help students familiarize themselves with Explore Performance Task, how it is scored, and some example tasks provided by the College Board.


  • Review the Explore Performance Task.
  • Review Sample Tasks and Scoring Guidelines.


College Board Documents

College Board Explore PT Samples

Annotated Explore PT Samples:

(optional) Digital Portfolio Setup

  • Reminder: Tech Setup - AP Digital Portfolio, Making PDFs, and Videos
  • 2
  • (click tabs to see student view)
View on Code Studio

Teaching Tip

For the Teacher

Student Instructions

Tech Setup and Tools for the AP Performance Tasks


You need to setup your AP Digital Portfolio to officially submit your performance tasks and to sign up for the exam. There are also several tools you should be familiar with in order to create the necessary PDF documents and Video screen captures that you need to submit.

More Details -- Table of contents

AP Digital Portfolio Setup

Goal: Students should be aware of the Digital Portfolio and how to access it. They should know what's there and be familiar with the basic mechanics of uploading and submitting their projects.

If your students have not done this yet, they will need to register themselves with AP digital portfolio in order to upload their projects.

Follow College Board Instructions to Setup Portfolio

The digital portfolio and guide contains a few helpful other things students should know about such as:

  • Guidance about how to create a PDF
  • Templates for the written prompts
  • Ways to save drafts of written responses on the site and come back to it

Making PDFs for Written Responses

You are required to make a PDF of your written responses to prompts. It's recommended that you use the College Board templates for filling out your responses. At some point you will have your written responses in a word processing document such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Pages.

What follows is copied from the AP Student Guide for the digital portfolio

How to make a PDF

  • Recent versions of applications like: Word, PowerPoint, Pages, and Google Docs, have built-in features that allow you to save or export your file as a PDF. Instructions are provided below.
  • If your software does not have a PDF option, visit the Adobe site and learn more about whether Acrobat from Adobe Systems can convert your document to PDF.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that your file is properly formatted and readable. After you have created your PDF, be sure to check it by opening and reviewing your PDF in Adobe Reader, a free application that can be downloaded from the Adobe site.

Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint)

    • In Word, Powerpoint, and other Microsoft Office programs you will "Save as PDF." Visit the Microsoft Office support page for more information about "Save as PDF." To save a Word or Powerpoint document as PDF:
    • Open your Word or Powerpoint document.
    • From the top menu select "File," and select "Save As."
    • In the dialog window, go to the drop-down menu for "Save as type," and select "PDF."
    • Click "Save."

Google Docs

  • In Google Docs, you will "Download as" PDF. Visit the Google support page for more information on "Download a file." To download a Google Doc as a PDF:
  • Open your Google doc
    • From the top menu select "File," and select "Download as," and select "PDF Document (.pdf)"


  • In Pages, you will "Export to" PDF. Visit the Apple support page for more information or follow the steps below:

  • Open your Pages document.

  • From the top menu select "File," and select "Export to," and select "PDF."
  • In the dialogue window select "Best," image quality.
  • Choose a destination for the export and click "Export."

Making PDF of Program Code (for the Create PT)

You need to make a PDF of your code and you also draw an oval and rectangle onto the PDF to highlight certain parts. There are a few options for this.

  • Our recommendation: Use CodePrint - a tool for doing everything from the browser.
  • Option 2: Make a PDF of the Code, then Edit the PDF using a PDF editor to draw shapes
  • Option 3: Copy/Paste Code into a Word (or Google) document and add shapes there to produce PDF.

Details: how to make a pdf of your code

Step 1 - copy your code in App Lab

  • Switch App Lab into text mode
  • Select all the code(highlight all with your mouse or Ctrl+A)
  • Copy it (Edit -> Copy, or Ctrl+C)

Step 2 - paste the code into a page or doc for printing

  • If using CodePrint

    • This tool lets you draw rectangles and ovals over a pretty-ified version of the code (diagram at right)
    • If you can print a PDF from the browser, this should be all you need.
  • Other options

  • Option: Github Gist -- GitHub Gist is a tool designed to let you quickly share code. We can use it to quickly print as well.

    • Go to GitHub Gist
    • Paste your code into the code area (the large open area with line numbers)
    • Optional: In the filename box type .js -- this forces the box to recognize the code as javascript
    • Click "Create Secret Gist" - this will save the code to a new page anonymously
    • From your Browser choose "File -> Print" and use your computer's option to print to PDF.
  • Option: use a word processor Google docs or MS Word

    • This option is fine but you won't get line numbers next to your code which can be convenient.
    • If you choose this option you should add your annotations (rectangle and circle) here in the word processor.

How to add Ovals and Rectangles to a PDF

If not using CodePrint you'll need to add ovals and rectangles to the PDF of your code.


  • You need to install Adobe Acrobat (see the AP guide for students)
  • Open the PDF in Acrobat and add annotations


  • The built in Preview App allows you to add rectangles and ovals directly
  • With PDF open in Preview go to Tools -> Annotate -> Rectangle for example.

Making a Video Screen Capture

Students are required to make at least one video that is a "Screen capture" of themselves using the program they wrote for the Create PT.

How To Make a Screencast

If you have not made any screencapture videos in class to this point students may ask how to do it. You will need to use screen capture software. Here are two good options.

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

Computer Science Principles

1.1 - Creative development can be an essential process for creating computational artifacts.
1.1.1 - Apply a creative development process when creating computational artifacts. [P2]
  • 1.1.1A - A creative process in the development of a computational artifact can include, but is not limited to, employing nontraditional, nonprescribed techniques; the use of novel combinations of artifacts, tools, and techniques; and the exploration of personal cu
  • 1.1.1B - Creating computational artifacts employs an iterative and often exploratory process to translate ideas into tangible form.
1.2 - Computing enables people to use creative development processes to create computational artifacts for creative expression or to solve a problem.
1.2.1 - Create a computational artifact for creative expression. [P2]
  • 1.2.1A - A computational artifact is anything created by a human using a computer and can be, but is not limited to, a program, an image, audio, video, a presentation, or a web page file.
  • 1.2.1B - Creating computational artifacts requires understanding and using software tools and services.
  • 1.2.1C - Computing tools and techniques are used to create computational artifacts and can include, but are not limited to, programming IDEs, spreadsheets, 3D printers, or text editors.
  • 1.2.1D - A creatively developed computational artifact can be created by using nontraditional, nonprescribed computing techniques.
  • 1.2.1E - Creative expressions in a computational artifact can reflect personal expressions of ideas or interests.
7.5 - An investigative process is aided by effective organization and selection of resources. Appropriate technologies and tools facilitate the accessing of information and enable the ability to evaluate the credibility of sources.
7.5.1 - Access, manage, and attribute information using effective strategies. [P1]
  • 7.5.1C - Plagiarism is a serious offense that occurs when a person presents another's ideas or words as his or her own. Plagiarism may be avoided by accurately acknowledging sources. 7.5.2 Evaluate online and print sources for appropriateness and credibility [P5]