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
- Calculus AB
- Calculus BC
- 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
- Music Theory
- Physics 1: Algebra-Based
- Physics 2: Algebra-Based
- Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
- Physics C: Mechanics
- Spanish Language and Culture
- Spanish Literature and Culture
- 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 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.
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, 2017
|Course||# of Students|
|United States History||505,302|
|Government & Politics - United States||319,612|
|Economics - Macro||141,649|
|Economics - Micro||87,858|
|Computer Science A||60,519|
|Physics C Mechanics||54,862|
|Computer Science Principles||44,544|
|Studio Art 2-D Design||32,732|
|Physics C E&M||24,249|
|Government & Politics - Comparative||22,404|
|Studio Art Drawing||19,957|
|Studio Art 3-D Design||5,571|
|Total Number of AP Exams Taken||4,957,931|
|Total Number of Students Taking AP Exams||2,741,426|
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 65%. 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 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 exams (Total) have very high passing rates.
AP Test Passing Rates 2017
|Exam Name||Passing Rate (3+)||5 Rate|
|Chinese Language and Culture (Total)||92.6%||68.8%|
|Spanish Language and Culture (Total)||88.5%||19.5%|
|Studio Art: Drawing||85.5%||21.9%|
|Calculus BC (AB Subscore)||85.1%||48.4%|
|Studio Art: 2-D Design||85.1%||19.3%|
|Spanish Language and Culture (Standard)||83.7%||15.9%|
|Physics C: Mechanics||79.4%||36.4%|
|Japanese Language and Culture (Total)||76.9%||45.1%|
|German Language and Culture (Total)||75.5%||23.0%|
|French Language and Culture (Total)||75.4%||17.0%|
|Computer Science Principles||74.5%||13.8%|
|Spanish Literature and Culture||73.2%||9.6%|
|French Language and Culture (Standard)||71.8%||11.0%|
|Studio Art: 3-D Design||71.6%||12.0%|
|Italian Language and Culture (Total)||71.5%||18.4%|
|Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism||71.4%||31.9%|
|Chinese Language and Culture (Standard)||70.3%||21.8%|
|German Language and Culture (Standard)||68.9%||9.7%|
|Italian Language and Culture (Standard)||68.4%||7.6%|
|Gov. and Politics - Comparative||68.1%||23.2%|
|Computer Science A||67.0%||24.2%|
|Music Theory (Aural Subscore)||60.7%||18.7%|
|Japanese Language and Culture (Standard)||60.6%||17.9%|
|Music Theory (Nonaural Subscore)||59.9%||19.1%|
|English Language and Composition||55.0%||9.1%|
|English Literature and Composition||52.6%||6.8%|
|United States History||50.9%||10.8%|
|Gov. and Politics - United States||49.3%||11.1%|
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.
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!
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.
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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.