Ranking the Hardest and Easiest AP Classes

Ranking the Hardest and Easiest AP Classes


As high school students across the country navigate their academic pathways, one question often arises: which Advanced Placement (AP) classes should I take? The decision can be daunting, especially when trying to balance a challenging curriculum with the quest for college readiness. In this comprehensive post, we'll dive into the world of AP courses, exploring the hardest and easiest AP classes, to help you make informed decisions about your academic journey.

Advanced Placement classes offer a unique opportunity for high school students to experience college-level coursework and earn college credit before even stepping onto a university campus. However, not all AP classes are created equal. Some are notoriously challenging, while others are considered more approachable. Understanding these differences is crucial, especially for students aiming to excel in their studies while also managing a healthy academic-life balance.

In this post, we'll rank AP classes by difficulty, providing insights into which courses might demand the most time, dedication, and effort, and which might be more manageable. Whether you're a student planning your schedule or a parent helping your child navigate their choices, this guide aims to shed light on the AP curriculum, helping you make choices that align with your academic goals and interests.

Criteria for Ranking

When it comes to evaluating the difficulty of AP classes, it's essential to have a clear and objective set of criteria. In this ranking, we consider several key factors that collectively determine the challenge each course presents to students. These criteria not only help in categorizing the courses as 'hard' or 'easy' but also offer a nuanced understanding of what you might expect from each class.

  • Exam Pass Rates: One of the primary metrics we look at is the pass rate of the AP exam associated with each class. A lower pass rate often indicates a more challenging exam, which could reflect the complexity of the course material. Conversely, a higher pass rate might suggest that students find the material more manageable.
  • Course Content: The nature and volume of the course content play a significant role in determining difficulty. Courses with extensive, complex, or highly technical content are typically more challenging. This aspect of the ranking considers the depth of knowledge required, the abstractness of the concepts, and the intellectual skills needed to excel in the course.
  • Student Feedback: Students’ perspectives and experiences are invaluable in assessing the real-world difficulty of AP classes. Feedback from students who have taken these courses offers insights into how challenging the coursework felt, the amount of time and effort required, and the overall student experience.
  • Teacher Insights: Teachers who have experience in teaching these courses provide another layer of understanding. Their views on the complexity of the material, the rigor of the coursework, and the common struggles faced by students help in accurately gauging the difficulty level.
  • College Preparedness: Some AP courses are recognized for their effectiveness in preparing students for college-level academics. The degree to which a course fosters critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and independent study skills contributes to its ranking.
  • Workload: The amount of homework, projects, and reading required in an AP class is also a key factor. A heavier workload indicates a more demanding course, requiring more time and effort from the student.

By considering these diverse yet interconnected criteria, we aim to provide a well-rounded analysis of AP class difficulties. This approach ensures that our ranking is not just based on one aspect, such as exam difficulty, but on a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to succeed in these courses.

In the next sections, we will apply these criteria to rank the AP classes, starting with the most challenging ones.

The Hardest AP Classes

In the realm of Advanced Placement courses, some stand out for their rigorous demands and challenging content. Based on our criteria, here are the top 5 hardest AP classes:

  • AP Chemistry
    • Overview: AP Chemistry delves into college-level chemistry, covering topics like thermodynamics, chemical reactions, and atomic structure.
    • Challenges: Known for its heavy workload, AP Chemistry demands a strong foundation in both chemistry and algebra. The course content is not only voluminous but also conceptually challenging, requiring students to grasp complex theories and perform intricate calculations. The exam is equally demanding, testing both theoretical knowledge and practical laboratory skills.
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics
    • Overview: This course introduces students to the principles of mechanics, including motion, force, energy, and momentum.
    • Challenges: AP Physics C is math-intensive and requires a good understanding of calculus. Students often find the abstract concepts and mathematical applications challenging. The lab work and problem-solving aspects of the exam add to its difficulty.
  • AP Calculus BC
    • Overview: An extension of AP Calculus AB, this course covers advanced topics in calculus, including sequences, series, and parametric equations.
    • Challenges: The pace of AP Calculus BC is rapid, and the concepts are abstract and complex. It requires a strong mathematical foundation and the ability to comprehend advanced calculus topics. The exam tests students’ understanding at a deep level, making it one of the more challenging AP tests.
  • AP English Literature and Composition
    • Overview: This course focuses on analyzing literature and developing writing skills at a college level.
    • Challenges: The challenge in AP English Literature lies in the critical analysis of complex texts and the ability to articulate thoughts coherently in writing. Students are required to read extensively and develop strong argumentative essays, which makes the coursework and the exam particularly demanding.
  • AP United States History
    • Overview: AP US History covers the breadth of American history, from pre-Columbian times to the present.
    • Challenges: The sheer volume of historical information that students need to memorize and understand makes this course challenging. The exam requires not just factual recall but also the ability to analyze historical documents and write comprehensive essays.

Each of these courses, in their own way, presents a formidable challenge to students. They demand not only intellectual acumen but also a commitment to consistent study and practice. In the next section, we will explore the other end of the spectrum - the AP classes that are considered easier relative to their counterparts.

The Easiest AP Classes

While some AP classes are known for their rigorous demands, others are considered more accessible, often due to simpler concepts, higher pass rates, or a more straightforward curriculum. Here are the top 5 easiest AP classes, based on our criteria:

  • AP Environmental Science
    • Overview: This course explores topics related to environmental systems, ecology, and human impact on the environment.
    • Reasons for Being Easier: AP Environmental Science is often seen as more approachable because it integrates basic concepts from biology and earth sciences, making it less intimidating for students without a strong background in these areas. The exam typically requires less memorization and more application of general scientific principles.
  • AP Psychology
    • Overview: AP Psychology introduces students to the scientific study of behavior and mental processes.
    • Reasons for Being Easier: The content of AP Psychology is generally considered more straightforward and engaging. The exam focuses more on terminology and basic concepts, which can be easier for students to grasp and retain compared to the complex theories in other AP subjects.
  • AP Human Geography
    • Overview: This course examines human social organization and its environmental consequences.
    • Reasons for Being Easier: AP Human Geography is often perceived as easier due to its more relatable content that connects real-world scenarios with geographic concepts. The exam tends to be more about understanding and applying concepts than memorizing vast amounts of information.
  • AP Comparative Government and Politics
    • Overview: This course provides an introduction to the comparative study of political systems, institutions, and conflicts in different countries.
    • Reasons for Being Easier: The course is often found more approachable because it deals with contemporary and practical issues. The exam is seen as less challenging, focusing more on understanding basic political concepts and their applications in various countries.
  • AP Computer Science Principles
    • Overview: This course introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science and explores how computing and technology can impact the world.
    • Reasons for Being Easier: AP Computer Science Principles is considered one of the easier AP courses due to its more practical approach and less emphasis on in-depth programming skills. The course and exam focus on broader concepts of computing, making it accessible to students with no prior computer science background.

These courses, while not as demanding as their counterparts, still offer valuable learning experiences and can be a great way to gain exposure to college-level coursework in a more manageable setting. Next, we'll provide insights on how students can choose the right AP classes based on their interests and academic goals.

How to Choose the Right AP Classes

Selecting the right AP classes is a critical decision that can significantly impact a student's high school experience and college preparation. Here are some key considerations to help students choose AP classes that align with their strengths, interests, and future goals:

  • Assess Your Strengths and Interests:
    • Start by evaluating your academic strengths. Are you more inclined towards sciences, humanities, or arts?
    • Consider your interests and passions. Choose AP classes that align with subjects you are genuinely curious about, as this will keep you motivated.
  • Consider Your College Goals:
    • Research the requirements or preferences of the colleges you are interested in. Some colleges might give credit for certain AP courses, which can be a factor in your decision.
    • Think about your intended major. If you're planning on a STEM major, AP courses in math and science might be more beneficial.
  • Balance with Extracurricular Activities:
    • It’s important to maintain a well-rounded profile. Balance your AP courses with extracurricular activities that demonstrate your diverse interests and skills.
    • Remember that colleges look for quality over quantity. It’s better to be deeply involved in a few activities than to spread yourself too thin.
  • Understand the Workload:
    • Be realistic about the time commitment each AP class requires. Some courses have a heavier workload than others.
    • Avoid overloading yourself. It's important to maintain a healthy balance between academics, extracurriculars, and personal time.
  • Seek Guidance:
    • Consult with your high school counselors or teachers. They can provide valuable insights based on your academic record and aspirations.
    • Talk to students who have taken the AP classes you’re considering. They can offer first-hand experience on the coursework and workload.
  • Plan for the Long Term:
    • Consider how the AP classes fit into your overall high school plan. It's essential to have a balanced schedule throughout your high school years.
    • Remember, taking AP classes is about challenging yourself intellectually and preparing for college, not just about earning college credits.

By carefully considering these factors, students can make informed decisions about their AP coursework, ensuring they choose classes that not only align with their academic and college aspirations but also allow them to maintain a balanced and fulfilling high school experience.


In this comprehensive post, we've explored the spectrum of AP classes, from the most challenging to the ones considered more approachable. We delved into the intricacies of AP Chemistry, Physics C: Mechanics, Calculus BC, English Literature, and U.S. History, highlighting their demanding nature and the intellectual rigor they require. On the other end, we identified AP Environmental Science, Psychology, Human Geography, Comparative Government and Politics, and Computer Science Principles as courses that, while still offering valuable learning experiences, might be less overwhelming in terms of content and workload.

As you stand at the crossroads of selecting your AP courses, it's important to strike a balance. Challenge yourself, but also be mindful of your overall workload. AP classes can open doors to advanced learning opportunities and college credits, but they should not come at the cost of your well-being or your ability to engage in other meaningful high school experiences, including extracurricular activities and personal growth.

Remember, the journey through high school is not just about academic achievements; it's about discovering your interests, building your skills, and preparing for the future. Choose your AP classes with an eye towards cultivating a well-rounded and enriching high school experience. Strive for excellence, but also prioritize your health, happiness, and personal development.

In the end, the best AP classes for you are those that align with your strengths, ignite your passions, and help you grow both intellectually and personally. Embrace the challenge, enjoy the learning, and make the most of your high school years.

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