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AP May Be Crazy

Top Five Hardest AP Courses

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While May is a month full of excitement for the end of the school year, graduation and summer, it is also one of the most stressful months for students taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Along with finals, AP exams create a lot of pressure among students with rigorous course contents worth an entire year. While some AP classes are relatively manageable, others are certainly not. If you are currently taking or planning to take AP classes in the future, read below to find out some of the most notoriously hard AP classes.

AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism (E&M)

While AP Physics C: E&M has a higher pass rate and perfect score rate than the average, that is primarily because this course requires more prerequisites, which means that students who are enrolled in this class tend to be better prepared for the exam because of their background knowledge. The course includes five units that explore concepts of electrostatistics, conductors, electric circuits, magnetic fields, electromagnetism and more. Because the curriculum is largely based on Calculus, students in this class might encounter mathematical concepts they are not used to, which makes the class harder than other AP Physics classes. Therefore, the College Board recommends that students take Calculus before or while they are in AP Physics C: E&M.

AP Biology

All AP science courses are known to be challenging, but AP Biology especially cannot be forgotten. AP Biology consists of eight units that cover basic chemistry, cells, genetics, evolution and ecology. In this course, students are expected not only to  comprehend biological concepts but also to perform scientific skills, such as reading scientific texts, interpreting data, constructing graphs and evaluating hypotheses. On the exam, students have to read numerous lengthy prompts to answer both multiple choice questions (MCQs) and free response questions (FRQs). Since AP Biology deals with very memorization-heavy content, the College Board recommends high school biology and chemistry as prerequisites.

AP United States History (U.S. History)

AP U.S. History is one of the AP history courses offered by the College Board, and many students agree that it is the most challenging AP history course. Compared to AP World History, AP U.S. History covers a shorter time period, ranging from 1491 to present. However, the course itself goes a lot more in depth than AP World History. In 2022, only 10.2% of students who took the exam got a five, while only 15.6% got a four; and as the score goes lower, the percentage goes higher. One thing this course shares with other AP history courses is that it does not guarantee a five by mere memorization. A big portion of this exam is the Free Response Questions (FRQs), and in order to ace this portion, students must be able to understand the big picture of all time periods and perform historical thinking skills.

AP English Literature and Composition

AP English Literature is one of only two AP English courses offered by the College Board. Most students take this course in their senior year after they take AP English Language in their junior year. In AP English Literature, students learn about short stories, poetry, and longer fiction or drama. While both AP English courses have similar exam difficulty, AP English Literature requires more reading skills. Therefore, if you are not an active reader, this course might be harder for you. However, if you are used to reading and analyzing academic texts, this course might be easier than other AP courses.

AP Calculus BC

AP Calculus BC is considered to be the most difficult math courses offered to high school students. The course is made up of 10 units that cover limits, differentiation, integration, differential equations, parametrics, polar coordinates, vectors and series. Since it has a lot of content overlapping with AP Calculus AB, students who take AP Calculus AB before taking AP Calculus BC have a relatively easier time getting through the course. Generally, AP Calculus BC has a higher pass rate than AP Calculus AB because some schools require students to take AP Calculus AB as a prerequisite. However, for students without any previous experience with Calculus, this course can be very challenging because it goes at a much faster pace compared to AP Calculus AB and covers two extra units.

While these are typically considered to be the most difficult AP courses, each individual’s background knowledge and skills also play a huge role in determining which AP’s are hardest for them. Even though most AP classes are oftentimes challenging and even frustrating, they also help students develop a variety of skills and advantages that prepare them for college. Nevertheless, in order to be successful in each AP class a student is enrolled in, it is important to be aware of the difficulty of each class to be able to adequately prepare for the AP exams in May.


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