SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Complete List of AP Courses and Tests

Posted by Halle Edwards | Jul 6, 2017 2:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

 

main_list
Spoiler alert: You have a lot of choices!

 

Have you ever seen the full list of AP classes? Are you confused about which ones you should take? We’ll help you choose your classes by showing you a list of AP courses. We will also reveal which ones are the most popular, and which ones are the hardest to pass. Read on for advice to help you pick your advanced placement courses!

 

Complete List of AP Exams

First things first. Here is a full list of AP tests. Before we even delve into popularity and difficulty, this basic list can be really helpful. Scope it out and see which topics look interesting to you!

  • AP Research
  • AP Seminar
  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese Language and Culture
  • Computer Science A
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • Environmental Science
  • European History
  • French Language and Culture
  • German Language and Culture
  • Government and Politics - Comparative
  • Government and Politics - US
  • Human Geography
  • Italian Language and Culture
  • Japanese Language and Culture
  • Latin
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Music Theory
  • Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Physics C: Mechanics
  • Psychology
  • Spanish Language and Culture
  • Spanish Literature and Culture
  • Statistics
  • Studio Art Drawing
  • Studio Art 2D Design
  • Studio Art 3D Design
  • US History
  • World History

When reading through this list, think about subjects you already enjoy and want to delve into more. For example, if you’ve always liked math, challenging yourself with BC Calculus could be rewarding.

You can also look ahead to college. AP classes are a great way to explore subjects that aren’t usually a part of high school curriculums. Classes like AP Computer Science, Psychology, and Economics give you a taste of college courses while you’re still in high school.

 

 body_campus
 

AP Classes: Perfect if you're dreaming of life on campus. 

 

Speaking of college, think about the tests that could make you a more competitive applicant. You want to showcase your strengths. For example, if you are applying as a science major and have done science-related extracurriculars, make sure you take (and ace!) the science AP tests, like Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Before you sign up, also think about your prior preparation. In most cases, you shouldn’t jump into an AP class if you have no experience in that subject. For example, many high schools have students take a regular or honors biology class before they can take AP Biology.

Also, think about which courses are offered at your school. Most high schools don’t offer every single AP subject as a class. It is definitely possible to study on your own for a test, but it’s much easier if you take a class. This is especially true for the tougher subjects like Calculus and Literature.

For a full description of each AP class and its exam, check out the AP Student website.  

  

Which AP Tests Are The Most Popular?

Just knowing which AP classes exist doesn’t help you totally narrow down your choices. For more perspective, check out this list of AP courses, organized by the most popular courses.

 

Popularity of AP Courses, 2016

Course # of Students
English Language 547575
United States History 489291
English Literature 405446
Calculus AB 308215
Government & Politics United States 296108
Psychology 293350
World History 285351
Biology 238080
Statistics 206563
Human Geography 184663
Physics 1 169304
Spanish Language 155258
Chemistry 153465
Environmental Science 149096
Economics - Macro 134638
Calculus BC 124931
European History 109031
Economics - Micro 82388
Computer Science A 57937
Physics C Mechanics 53110
Studio Art 2-D Design 30925
Physics 2 26385
Art History 25523
Spanish Literature    24061
Physics C E&M 23347
French Language 22051
Government & Politics Comparative 22001
Music Theory 18971
Studio Art Drawing 18407
Chinese Language 12524
Seminar 12308
Latin 6584
Studio Art 3-D Design 5051
German Language 4945
Research 2842
Italian Language 2774
Japanese Language 2481

Source: College Board

Taking a more popular AP exam has a lot of benefits. The class is more likely to be offered at your local high school. There are also more dedicated study guides and resources to be found – both online and in print. It will also be easier to find other students to study with.

On the flip side, you can distinguish yourself by taking and passing a less-popular AP test. For example, having AP Japanese or AP Research under your belt can set you apart from other high-achieving students. 

 

AP Test Passing Rates

In addition to knowing all of your AP exam choices, and how popular each test is, it’s helpful to know how many students pass each exam. (AP tests are scored between 1 and 5, with anything 3 and higher considered passing.)

Most AP tests have a pass rate of around 60%. The high score of 5 is rarer, usually between 10% and 20% of a test’s scores.

Check out our table, organized in order of the passing rate of each exam. Note that on language exams, the passing rate includes students who speak that language at home and/or have completed study abroad programs. This is why many of the language exams have very high passing rates.

 

AP Test Passing Rates 2017

Exam Name Passing Rate (3+) 5 Rate
Chinese Language and Culture 92.2% 68.4%
Spanish Language and Culture 88.6% 19.5%
Seminar 86.7% 6.6%
Studio Art: Drawing 85.6% 21.9%
Studio Art: 2D Design 85.1% 19.1%
Calculus BC 80.6% 42.4%
Physics C: Mechanics 78.6% 34.7%
Japanese Language and Culture 77.2% 45.6%
German Language and Culture 75.9% 22.6%
French Language and Culture 75.3% 16.8%
Computer Science Principles 74.6% 14.0%
Spanish Literature and Culture 73.3% 19.4%
Studio Art: 3D Design 71.8% 12.1%
Italian Language and Culture 71.2% 17.8%
Research 69.9% 16.7%
Comparative Gov. and Politics 68.9% 23.7%
Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism 68.8% 28.1%
Microeconomics 68.3% 21.5%
Computer Science A 67.2% 24.4%
Psychology 64.4% 18.8%
Biology 63.8% 6.2%
Latin 63.6% 12.9%
Art History 61.4% 11.0%
Music Theory 61.1% 19.2%
Physics 2 60.8% 11.1%
Calculus AB 57.7% 18.6%
European History 56.8% 9.5%
Macroeconomics 56.7% 16.4%
World History 55.6% 8.5%
English Language and Composition 55.3% 9.1%
Statistics 53.8% 13.3%
English Literature and Composition 52.8% 6.8%
United States History 51.4% 10.9%
Chemistry 51.0% 9.2%
U.S. Gov. and Politics 49.5% 11.2%
Environmental Science 49.4% 9.4%
Human Geography 49.0% 10.6%
Physics 1 41.1% 5.0%

Source: College Board.

You might be wondering why tests like Calculus and Chinese, which seem really difficult, have some of the highest passing rates. It's not because they are the easiest AP tests. These tests have high pass rates because students who take AP Calculus or AP Chinese are much more likely to have prior experience in those subjects and are willing to take on a tough class. In other words, the students who take the hardest AP exams are a self-selecting group of high achievers.

 

body_bccalcquestion

It takes years of math classes to build up to BC Calculus questions like this one. View a whole free-response section here if you’re curious about how hard BC calculus is.

 

On the flip side, some of the most popular tests, like AP US History and AP US Government, have some of the lowest passing rates. This is likely because a wider pool of exam takers means that there are more unprepared students.

Also, note that Biology, English Literature, and World History – also some very popular tests – have very low 5 rates, under 10%. This could be because, again, a wider exam pool makes for more unprepared students. However, since so few students can pull it off, it’s still pretty hard to get a 5 on these tests. If you take those courses, be prepared to study hard, especially if you want a 5!

 

What’s Next?

Once you’ve chosen an AP class to take, you might be curious about what the test is like. Learn about how long AP tests are and get tips on managing test fatigue.

 

You're probably also wondering about your SAT and ACT score, and how to improve it. 

Also studying for the ACT? Avoid the most common ACT mistake and learn how to get a perfect 36 score.

Aiming for the SAT instead? Learn how to boost your score for each section: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math

Thinking about college? Read our guides to developing a target ACT or SAT score to get into your target colleges

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Compare Prep Methods

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Halle Edwards
About the Author

Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.



Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

You should definitely follow us on social media. You'll get updates on our latest articles right on your feed. Follow us on all 3 of our social networks:

Twitter and Google+



Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!