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Complete List of AP Courses and Tests

Posted by Halle Edwards | Sep 29, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)

 

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

 

Complete List of AP Exams

First things first: here is the full list of AP tests. Before we delve into popularity and difficulty, this basic list can be really helpful. Scope it out and see which topics look interesting to you! There are 38 exams in total:

  • 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 2-D Design
  • Studio Art 3-D Design
  • US History
  • World History (Modern)

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 the BC Calculus course (and exam) could be a rewarding experience.

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

 

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AP classes: perfect if you're dreaming of life on campus.

 

Also, think about the tests that could make you a more competitive applicant to the colleges you're applying to. You want to showcase your strengths, after all! For example, if you're applying as a science major and have done several science-related extracurriculars, it would be a smart idea to take (and ace!) the science AP tests, including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Before you sign up for an AP course or test, 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 instance, many high schools have students take a regular or honors biology class before they can take AP Biology.

Moreover, consider which AP courses are offered at your high school. Most 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 won't help you totally narrow down your choices. To give you a better perspective, check out this list of AP courses, organized by popularity (i.e., the number of students taking them):

Exam Name

# of Students Taking (2019)

English Language and Composition 573,171
United States History 496,573
English Literature and Composition 380,136
Gov. and Politics - United States 314,825
World History 313,317
Psychology 311,215
Calculus AB 300,659
Biology 260,816
Human Geography 225,235
Statistics 219,392
Spanish Language and Culture 187,133
Environmental Science 172,456
Physics 1 161,071
Chemistry 158,847
Macroeconomics 146,091
Calculus BC 139,195
European History 100,655
Computer Science Principles 96,105
Microeconomics 91,551
Computer Science A 69,685
Physics C: Mechanics 57,131
Seminar 43,441
Studio Art: 2-D Design 37,749
Spanish Literature 29,345
Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism 25,342
Art History 24,476
Physics 2 23,802
Gov. and Politics - Comparative 23,522
French Language and Culture 23,249
Studio Art: Drawing 21,769
Music Theory 18,864
Research 15,724
Chinese Language and Culture 13,853
Latin 6,083
Studio Art: 3-D Design 6,040
German Language and Culture 5,160
Italian Language and Culture 2,658
Japanese Language and Culture 2,479
Total Number of AP Exams Taken 5,098,815
Total Number of Students Taking AP Exams 2,825,710

Source: The College Board

Taking a more popular AP exam has a lot of benefits. For one, the class is more likely to be offered at your high school. Another plus is that there are more study guides and resources you can use for the test—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, especially in college applications.

 

AP Test Passing Rates

In addition to knowing all 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 65% or higher. The high score of 5 is rarer—usually between 10% and 20% of a test's scores.

Check out our table below, organized in order of the passing rate of each exam.

Note: There are two different subgroups for language exams: Standard and Total. The score rates for language exams (Standard) only include students who didn't indicate they spoke that language at home or had spent four or more weeks in a country where that language was spoken.

On the other hand, the rates for language exams (Total) also include students who speak that language at home and/or have completed study abroad programs. This is why many of the language AP exams (Total) have very high passing rates.

 

AP Test Passing Rates 2019

Exam Name

Passing Rate (3+)

5 Rate

Studio Art: Drawing 91.1% 20.8%
Chinese Language and Culture (Total Group) 89.9% 60.1%
Spanish Language and Culture (Total Group) 88.7% 25.2%
Studio Art: 2-D Design 86.4% 21.0%
Calculus BC (AB Subscore) 86.2% 49.5%
Spanish Language and Culture (Standard Group) 82.4% 15.2%
Physics C: Mechanics 81.8% 37.7%
Seminar 81.1% 7.1%
Calculus BC 81.0% 43.0%
Japanese Language and Culture (Total Group) 79.3% 45.3%
French Language and Culture (Total Group) 77.1% 16.1%
Research 75.9% 10.7%
French Language and Culture (Standard Group) 73.9% 10.1%
Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism 73.0% 37.6%
German Language and Culture (Total Group) 72.3% 21.0%
Spanish Literature 72.3% 9.5%
Computer Science Principles 71.9% 13.8%
Studio Art: 3-D Design 70.0% 10.0%
Microeconomics 69.6% 24.3%
Computer Science A 69.6% 26.7%
Chinese Language and Culture (Standard Group) 66.8% 16.3%
Italian Language and Culture (Total Group) 66.1% 13.6%
Gov. and Politics - Comparative 66.0% 22.4%
Physics 2 65.4% 14.2%
German Language and Culture (Standard Group) 65.1% 8.7%
Biology 64.7% 7.2%
Psychology 64.5% 20.5%
Music Theory (Nonaural Subscore) 64.1% 20.3%
Music Theory 63.7% 21.2%
Music Theory (Aural Subscore) 63.4% 21.5%
Art History 63.1% 11.9%
Latin 62.9% 13.0%
Japanese Language and Culture (Standard Group) 62.4% 15.5%
Italian Language and Culture (Standard Group) 62.0% 5.8%
Statistics 59.7% 14.7%
Macroeconomics 58.9% 19.1%
Calculus AB 58.4% 19.1%
European History 58.1% 11.7%
Chemistry 55.6% 11.5%
World History 55.3% 8.6%
Gov. and Politics - United States 55.1% 12.9%
English Language and Composition 54.3% 9.9%
United States History 53.7% 11.8%
English Literature and Composition 49.7% 6.2%
Environmental Science 49.2% 9.4%
Human Geography 49.1% 10.8%
Physics 1 45.4% 6.7%

Source: The College Board.

You might be wondering why tests like Physics C: Mechanics and Chinese—which seem really difficult—have some of the highest passing rates. It's not because they're the easiest AP tests. These tests have high pass rates because students who take Physics C and 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.

 

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

 

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

In addition, note that Environmental Science, English Literature, and World History—also very popular tests—have very low 5 rates, under 10%. This could be because, again, a wider test taker 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/ACT score and how to improve it. If you're taking the ACT, get tips on how to avoid the most common ACT mistakes and learn how to get a perfect 36 score.

Aiming for the SAT instead? Learn how to boost your score on each section: 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:

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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.



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