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Complete List of AP Courses and Tests

Posted by Halle Edwards | Nov 11, 2018 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

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):

AP Course/Exam # of Students Taking (2018)
English Language 580,043
United States History 501,530
English Literature 404,014
Government & Politics (United States) 326,392
Psychology 311,759
Calculus AB 308,538
World History 303,243
Biology 259,663
Statistics 222,501
Human Geography 216,783
Spanish Language 180,435
Physics 1 170,653
Environmental Science 166,433
Chemistry 161,852
Macroeconomics 146,673
Calculus BC 139,376
European History 101,740
Microeconomics 90,032
Computer Science Principles 72,187
Computer Science A 65,133
Physics C Mechanics 57,399
Studio Art 2-D Design 36,249
Seminar 30,964
Spanish Literature 27,451
Physics 2 25,741
Physics C E&M 25,074
Art History 24,964
Government & Politics (Comparative) 24,675
French Language 22,867
Studio Art Drawing 20,853
Music Theory 19,018
Chinese Language 13,825
Research 9,640
Latin 6,409
Studio Art 3-D Design 5,777
German Language 5,053
Italian Language 2,926
Japanese Language 2,459
Total Number of AP Exams Taken 5,090,324
Total Number of Students Taking AP Exams 2,808,909

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%. 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 2018

Exam Name Passing Rate (3+) 5 Rate
Chinese Language and Culture 91.3% 66.1%
Studio Art: Drawing 89.5% 22.4%
Spanish Language and Culture 88.3% 23.7%
Studio Art: 2-D Design 84.6% 17.9%
Spanish Language and Culture (Standard) 82.9% 16.5%
Seminar 82.8% 8.4%
Calculus BC 79.8% 40.4%
Japanese Language and Culture 77.8% 48.0%
French Language and Culture 77.2% 16.7%
Physics C: Mechanics 77.2% 30.2%
Research 75.2% 11.4%
French Language and Culture (Standard) 74.1% 11.0%
Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism 73.4% 37.4%
Computer Science Principles 71.2% 14.0%
German Language and Culture 71.0% 22.4%
Spanish Literature 70.3% 9.7%
Studio Art: 3-D Design 69.0% 11.4%
Chinese Language and Culture (Standard) 68.6% 20.4%
Italian Language and Culture 68.6% 18.5%
Computer Science A 67.8% 24.7%
Microeconomics 67.9% 20.9%
Latin 66.4% 14.4%
Music Theory 65.8% 22.6%
Psychology 65.6% 21.2%
Art History 64.6% 12.7%
Italian Language and Culture (Standard) 64.2% 8.1%
German Language and Culture (Standard) 63.5% 9.3%
Gov. and Politics - Comparative 63.3% 21.1%
Physics 2 63.1% 13.1%
Biology 61.5% 7.2%
Statistics 60.7% 14.6%
Japanese Language and Culture (Standard) 60.6% 21.5%
Calculus AB 57.6% 19.4%
European History 57.7% 11.9%
Macroeconomics 58.5% 19.7%
English Language and Composition 57.2% 10.6%
World History 56.2% 8.9%
Chemistry 55.9% 13.4%
Human Geography 54.4% 13.0%
Gov. and Politics - United States 53.0% 13.3%
United States History 51.8% 10.7%
Environmental Science 47.7% 8.8%
English Literature and Composition 47.3% 5.6%
Physics 1 40.6% 5.7%

Source: The 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're the easiest AP tests. These tests have high pass rates because students who take AP Calculus 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 Biology, 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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