Young women set records in computer science exams, again!
4 min readDec 15, 2020

We just received AP Computer Science exam results for the nation, and among students. The most growth once again comes from young women!

The data from the College Board shows that the number of AP CS exams* (AP CS A and AP CS Principles exams combined) taken in the US saw 13% growth, while AP tests in every other STEM subject decreased. Just like in previous years, the number of young women taking AP CS exams is growing even faster.

In 2020, female students accounted for 31% of all AP CS test-takers (54,918), while students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups** accounted for 22% of all test-takers (39,445).

Nationally, participation among young women improved for the 7th year in a row (or, every year since launched in 2013)!

In 2020, female students accounted for 31% of all AP CS test-takers.

The greatest increase: young women from underrepresented groups

Female students from underrepresented groups showed the largest increase in growth, with exams taken by that group increasing by over 18% from the previous year (vs. 13% overall growth in the number of exams taken by all students)!

The following groups all increased in number of test taken and in percentage of tests taken:

  • Black female students — from 3,477 students (2.19% of all CS exams) to 4,090 students (2.28% of all CS exams)
  • Hispanic/Latina female students — from 8,183 students (5.16% of all CS exams) to 9,558 students (5.33% of all CS exams)
  • Native American/Alaskan female students — from 78 students (0.05% of all CS exams) to 203 students (0.11% of all CS exams)
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander female students — from 50 students (0.03% of all CS exams) to 69 students (0.04% of all CS exams)

More exciting findings

Big gains by students of both genders from indigenous groups:

  • Exams taken by Native American/Alaskan students increased (from 251 exams or 0.22% of all exams to 636 exams and 0.46% of all CS exams). Teachers/advocates did a great job reaching these students this year!
  • Exams taken by Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students increased as well (from 145 exams and 0.136% to 190 and 0.140% of all CS exams). classrooms have better diversity than the national average:

  • AP CS Principles exam results have even better diversity than the national averages: 36% of AP CS Principles test-takers were female [compared to the 33.9% of all AP CSP test-takers].
  • 50% of all URG students in AP CS Principles classes are students.

Good news: AP CS Principles sparks greater interest in CS

New research shows students who take AP CS Principles are 3 times more likely to major in computer science, and also more likely to study AP CS A (Java). And among women and students of color, the ratio is even greater.

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Even more exciting, students from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups are consistently more likely to major in CS after taking AP CS Principles.

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You can read the full findings from the College Board here.

We have a long long way to go

All of these achievements are due to a broad CS community full of partners, advocates, legislators and countless others who champion this work and make our achievements possible. And still, despite the progress, computer science in K-12 is quite far from balanced representation. We still have so far to go, but each year the new data shows that things are headed in the right direction.

We are thankful for all our supporters and the work of all the other organizations who have made this work possible.

Happy Holidays,

-Hadi Partovi,

*We use “exams” and not “students” because it’s possible a student tested for both AP CSP and AP CS A.

**URG or underrepresented racial/ethnic groups refers to students from marginalized racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in computer science including students who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx, Native American/Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.


--® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.