AP classes can be your ticket to your dream college place, but can also be notoriously tricky papers. So you need to know what you’re letting yourself in for. We’ve ranked all of the 28 main AP classes by difficulty: you’ll learn EXACTLY which are the easiest AP classes, and which are the hardest!
Over 2,600 students who have taken AP exams have provided a review of their course through Reddit’s excellent r/APStudents community. We then combined these reviews with the pass rate data published by College Board.
I’ve gone deep into the data, painstakingly crunching the numbers to pick out some surprising trends.
All told, this provides an unparalleled analysis of how each AP course stacks up, so you can figure out the best classes for you to choose.
Read on for the definitive list of easiest and hardest AP classes ranked by difficulty!
- Summary: All AP Classes Ranked By Difficulty
- The Easiest AP Classes In High School – Ranked
- The Hardest AP Classes In High School – Ranked
- Which AP Classes Should I Take?
- Higher grades, less sweat
Summary: All AP Classes Ranked By Difficulty
Infographic: easy and hard AP classes by difficulty and pass rate
Here’s an overview of what the reviews said about which AP tests are easier or harder, combined with intake and pass rate data.
Here are the main things to look out for in this infographic:
- The hardest and most time-consuming AP exams are in the top-right corner. Physics C – E&M earns the top difficulty rating based on real student reviews.
- The easiest and least time-consuming are in the bottom-left corner. Computer Science Principles earns the easiest difficulty rating based on real student reviews.
- The colour indicates the pass rate for that AP exam. Red is a low pass rate, green is a high pass rate, grey is about average (College Board, 2021).
We’ve included some additional details too:
- The size of the bubbles shows how many students take exams in that AP class (College Board, 2021). The most-widely-taken AP in 2021 was English Language (476k candidates), followed by US History (“APUSH” – 399k candidates)
- You might also notice some bubbles have a red outline: this indicates an unusually high percentage – 15% or more – of class alumnae said they wouldn’t recommend the class to other students. This applied to Seminar, Music Theory, Physics 1 and 2, and English Literature. Remember, these classes were nonetheless recommended by the majority of students who took them – so don’t get discouraged too quickly!
Some AP classes were too small for us to have sufficient difficulty rating data to include in our analysis. These were either foreign languages (Spanish Literature, French, Italian Language & Culture, Latin, German, Japanese), or courses in the Art & Design programme (2D and 3D Art & Design, Drawing).
Data table: AP classes ranked by difficulty hardest to easiest
The above chart is handy, but what if you want to get into the details and compare specific classes?
We’ve got you covered: check out this information-packed data table on easy and hard APs. You can re-sort from easiest to hardest or hardest to easiest by the different metrics by clicking on the column headers.
The Easiest AP Classes In High School – Ranked
What is the easiest AP class?
AP Computer Science Principles is rated as the easiest AP class by real AP class alumnae, with an average difficulty rating of just 2.8 / 10 (1 = easiest), though the 2021 pass rate of 67% is not especially high.
The easiest AP classes – ranked by student difficulty ratings
Here are the easiest AP tests ranked by difficulty: the top 15 easiest AP classes you can take according to the 2.5k+ real student reviewers who actually took these AP exams.
The lower the score out of 10, the easier the class:
- Computer Science Principles: 2.8 – Very Easy
- Chinese: 2.9 – Very Easy with especially high pass rate 
- Psychology: 3.2 – Very Easy
- Human Geography: 4.1 – Quite Easy
- Environmental Science: 4.2 – Quite Easy, but unusual to score a 5 
- Computer Science A: 4.2 – Quite Easy
- Comparative Government and Politics: 4.2 – Quite Easy
- Microeconomics: 4.3 – Quite Easy
- Macroeconomics: 4.4 – Quite Easy
- US Government and Politics: 4.4 – Quite Easy
- Seminar: 4.8 – Quite Easy with high pass-rate, but hard to self-study 
- Statistics: 4.8 – Quite Easy
- Spanish Language: 5.1 – Moderate Difficulty with high pass rate 
- English Language: 5.1 – Moderate Difficulty, but unusual to score a 5 
- Art History: 5.2 – Moderate Difficulty, but time-intensive 
Some points you need to know about the easiest-ranked AP tests:
 AP Chinese is often taken by people already familiar with the Chinese. Perhaps this explains why it’s considered so easy (2.9 / 10), and so quick to study (3.2 / 10). Also, the average score (4.1) and rate of 5 grades (57%) are both higher than for any other class, by some margin! You’ll likely find AP Chinese much harder work than most class alumnae if you’re new to the language.
 Environmental Science class alumnae rate it as a relatively easy class (4.2 / 10 average difficulty rating) BUT the pass rate is unusually low (48%), especially for such an easy-rated class. Very few students graduate with the top grade of 5 (just 6% in 2021).
 AP Seminar is a funny one. It’s rated as quite easy overall (4.8 / 10), BUT is rated as quite challenging if you are self-studying (7.3 / 10). Most students pass (85%), but a large number (34%) don’t recommend the class.
 AP Spanish is considered moderately difficult (5.1 / 10), but has a pass rate (85%) that’s second only to Chinese. As with other AP languages, the class will be much harder if you don’t already speak some Spanish.
 It’s tough to get to the top: only 8% of AP English Language students scored a 5 in 2021.
 Clear your schedule: AP Art History is the second most time-intensive AP class (6.8 / 10 for AP Art History).
A note on our methodology for evaluating the “easiest” AP tests
We see these difficulty ratings from AP alumni as the best way to assess which AP classes are easiest.
Looking at the passing rate, or the % students scoring a certain grade (e.g. % scoring top grade of 5) is misleading for two main reasons:
- These metrics are skewed by the sort of students who take the class, and can be misleading when weighing up how easy a given AP exam will be for you.
- For example, many AP languages classes are taken by students who already speak some of that language, and will be far harder to pass if you’re a beginner.
- Research has shown that popular, widely taken AP classes tend to have lower passing rates. So a low passing rate could includate a lower-quality standard of candidate for that class, not simply a harder class per se.
Hence why Exam Study Expert uses difficulty ratings provided by students that have actually taken different AP exams to rank how difficulty each class is.
The easiest APs also tend to be the least time-consuming AP classes to study.
What are the easiest AP classes to self-study?
The 3 easiest AP exams to self-study are Psychology (3.1/10), Microeconomics (3.6/10) and Environmental Science (3.8/10), as rated by over 2,500 real AP class alumnae reviewers who rated self-study difficulty from 1 (easiest to self-study) to 10 (hardest to self-study).
These three classes are all also rated as the easiest and least time-consuming AP classes overall. It’s worth noting, though, that very few students score the top grade of a 5 in Environmental Science (just 6%).
Also rated relatively easy to self-study are:
Comparative Government and Politics (4.0), Computer Science Principles (4.0), Chinese (4.1), Computer Science A (4.3). English Language (4.3), Human Geography (4.3), US Government & Politics (4.5) and Macroeconomics (4.6).
But think carefully before self-studying:
Physics 2 (7.0), Biology (7.0), English Literature (7.0), Seminar (7.3), Physics 1 (7.5) and Physics C – E&M (7.7). All of these classes are relatively difficult AP exams to self-study for, with high self-study difficulty ratings of 7/10 or above.
The hardest AP class to self-study is Chemistry, which is rated at 8.4/10 by class alumnae. Good luck!
The easiest APs are less time-consuming: except for Physics 1
Some reviewers found AP Physics 1 was relatively less time-consuming than other courses. From my experience, harder physics courses such as the AP exams tend to split classes into two halves.
On the one hand, there are those that “get it” relatively quickly. On the other, there are those who have to persevere and sweat a bit to figure out what’s going on.
The average scores for both groups of students were pretty similar. That may be some comfort if you find yourself studying long hours on physics!
The Hardest AP Classes In High School – Ranked
What is the hardest AP class?
AP Physics C – Electricity & Magnetism (E&M) is rated as the hardest AP test by real AP class alumnae, with an average difficulty rating of 7.9 / 10 (10 = hardest). Those who stay the course often score well, though, with a 2021 pass rate of 70%.
The hardest AP classes – ranked by student difficulty ratings
Here are the hardest AP tests ranked by difficulty: the top 12 hardest AP classes you can take according to the 2.5k+ real student reviewers who actually took these AP exams. The higher the score out of 10, the easier the class:
- Physics C – E/M: 7.9 – Very Hard, but scores are often high 
- English Literature: 7.4 – Very Hard, and unusual to score a 5 
- Physics C – Mechanics: 7.2 – Very Hard, but scores are often high 
- Chemistry: 7.1 – Very Hard, especially if you’re self-studying 
- Physics 1: 7.0 – Quite Hard
- Physics 2: 6.5 – Quite Hard
- European History: 6.3 – Quite Hard
- Biology: 6.3 – Quite Hard
- World History: 6.0 – Quite Hard
- Music Theory: 5.8 – Moderate Difficulty, but very quick to study 
- US History: 5.8 – Moderate Difficulty, but time-intensive 
- Calculus AB/BC: 5.6 – Moderate Difficulty
Some points you need to know about the hardest-ranked AP tests:
 AP Physics C – Mechanics and AP Physics C – Electricity & Magnetism both rate in the top-3 hardest AP classes. But if you can get your head around the material, there’s potential to score really well (73% pass and 23% get a 5 in Mechanics, 70% pass and 33% get a 5 in E&M).
 English Literature has the 2nd highest difficulty rating of any AP class, so it makes sense that it’s also hard to score well. The average grade is the second-lowest of any class (2.5), with the lowest proportion of 5 scores of any AP (just 5%).
 AP Chemistry is rated as the hardest of all AP classes if you’re self-studying, at 8.4/10.
 Music Theory is relatively quick to study (3.9 / 10 – one of the least time-intensive of all AP classes), but many people choosing Music Theory already have a musical background. You’ll likely find it a significantly tougher class if you’ve not grown up having lessons on an instrument or singing.
 Clear your schedule: US History (APUSH) is rated as the most time-intensive AP exam to study for by students who took this class (7.1 / 10).
A note on our methodology for evaluating the “hardest” AP tests
We see these difficulty ratings from AP alumni as the best way to assess which AP classes are hardest. Data on the proportion of students who pass a class, or get a certain grade (e.g. % scoring a top grade of 5) will be skewed by the sort of students who take the class, and can therefore be misleading when weighing up how hard a given AP exam will be for you.
But you still need to be careful when making your choices. Some students tend to find certain fields easier or harder than others, based on past experience in the field. Language APs, for example, will be significantly harder for students who don’t already speak some of that language.
The hardest APs also tend to be the most time-consuming AP classes to study, though Physics 1 may be an exception. (See above section on “the easiest APs are also less time-consuming: except for Physics 1“).
Which AP Classes Should I Take?
The final section of this article offers some ideas for which AP class you should take, depending on what you’re looking for and what your interests are.
What are the benefits of AP classes in high school?
If you’ve made it this far down such a detailed article about easy or hard APs, you probably know what they are!
But before we kick off this final section about choosing the right AP classes for you, I thought it worth pausing to recap why both taking them in the first place.
So what are AP classes?
In essence, the Advanced Placement (AP) program offers US high school students the opportunity to take college-level classes and exams. They are graded on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the lowest possible score and 5 being a perfect AP exam score.
College Board, who administers the program, highlights several compelling benefits of taking AP courses and exams:
- Impress colleges: AP classes are challenging courses, and help your application stand out to college admissions officers, especially at selective colleges.
- Head start on college credit: AP scores will often count towards your credit for college. That can save you time at college, potentially allowing you the flexibility to pursue more classes at college, and may even save you money if ride the headstart to an early graduation date.
- Boost your GPA: your AP scores can often lift your GPA – check with your school / guidance counsellor for details.
- College-level learning: APs are college-level courses, so you’ll get a feel for what it’s like to work at college level. The jump between high school and college can be a difficulty one: as an AP graduate, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
- Develop skills: as well as the material you actually learn on each AP class, many AP students find they improve their ability to manage their workload, cultivate critical thinking, and write great academic pieces. All invaluable skills for success in college – and in life!
So it’s a great idea to take some APs!
But which to choose?
Let’s take a look at some common scenarios:
Looking for any AP to pick up some easy credit?
If you’re just looking for an easy AP, the following should all be good options:
- Computer Science Principles: the lowest difficulty-rating (2.8 / 10), good pass rate (67% in 2021) and lowest time-required rating (3.3 / 10) of any AP except AP Chinese.
- Psychology: a very low difficulty rating (3.2 / 10) and low time-required rating (4.3/10). Pass rates, however, are a little lower than average (55% in 2021).
- Human Geography: a low difficulty rating (4.1 / 10) and quite low time-required rating (4.8/10). Pass rates, however, are a little lower than average (54% in 2021).
- Environmental Science: a low difficulty rating (4.2 / 10) and low time-required rating (4.0/10). Pass rates, as with Psychology and Human Geography, are a little lower than average (48% in 2021).
Psychology, Human Geography and Environmental Science all show pass rates a little lower than average, despite low difficulty scores. These tests are all entered by very many candidates each year, which is likely to contribute to a lower pass rate than more niche APs that attract specialists in particular fields.
(This is one of the reasons we use alumni difficulty ratings to determine which classes are hard or easy, rather than pass rate!)
All four courses are widely recommended by course alumni, with the slight exception of Computer Science Principles which is not recommended by 14% of alumni – that’s a little higher than normal.
See also the section on “Easiest AP Classes Ranked By Student Difficulty Ratings” above.
Looking for a challenging AP class to really test yourself?
Love a challenge? Really want to impress potential college admissions committees? Then consider the following four AP classes, which rate as the hardest tests you can take:
- Physics C – E&M (Electricity & Magnetism): rated the most difficult of all AP classes (7.9 / 10), with a the joint-highest* time-required rating (7.1 / 10). Pass rates are high for those who stay the course (70% in 2021), with one of the highest perfect-score rates of any AP (33% scored a 5 in 2021).
- English Literature: rated as very hard (7.4/10) and quite time-intensive (6.3/10). Few candidates score well: the pass rate is very low (44% in 2021). Very few people indeed score the perfect grade of 5 – just 5% in 2021, the lowest of all AP classes. Partly due to the frustrations of it being so hard to score well, almost one in four alumni (24%) say they wouldn’t recommend this course to other students.
- Physics C – Mechanics: rated as very hard (7.2/10) and quite time-intensive (6.1/10). As with E&M, pass rates are high for those who stay the course (73% in 2021), with 23% earning a perfect scrore of 5.
- Chemistry: rated as very hard (7.1/10) and very time-intensive (6.7/10). Pass rates are a touch lower than typical (51% in 2021). Chemistry is also rated as the hardest of all APs if you’re self studying.
* Wondering what the other highest-rated AP class for time required is? US History (APUSH). But the overall difficulty is rated as moderate (5.8 / 10) hence why it doesn’t make this list.
What is the easiest vs hardest AP history class to take?
- US History (APUSH): the easiest history AP at 5.8 / 10 difficulty. 2021 pass rate 48%.
- World History: 6.0 / 10 difficulty, 52% pass rate.
- European History: the hardest history AP at 6.3 / 10 difficulty. 2021 pass rate 59%.
When looking at the higher pass rate for European History, bear in mind that it’s taken by a fraction of the students who take APUSH. The typical Euro candidate is therefore more likely to be a keen historian, who’s likely to score well on a history paper.
Be prepared to put in the hours with AP history – all classes are also rated as very time-consuming APs!
US Government and Politics offer a more straightforward alternative if you’re looking for an easier AP class.
Is AP Macroeconomics or Microeconomics harder?
- Microeconomics: 4.3 / 10 difficulty rating, 60% pass rate (2021)
- Macroeconomics: 4.4 / 10 difficulty rating, 52% pass rate (2021)
Other than Chinese, AP Micro is also notable as the only course to have had 100% of class alumnae reviewers say they would recommend it to other students. So it seems I’m not alone in my enthusiasm 🙂
What is the easiest vs hardest AP math class to take?
- Statistics: 4.8 / 10 difficulty rating, 58% pass rate
- Calculus AB: 5.6 / 10 difficulty rating*, 75% pass rate
- Calculus BC: 5.6 / 10 difficulty rating*, 51% pass rate
* Calculus AB and BC were asked as one subject in the alumnae review.
So if you’re just looking for an easy math class, take AP Stats. In fact, many reviewers say Stats almost doesn’t feel like a math class at all, and is very accessible to people who don’t normally feel “good at math”. (Though check out YouCubed’s article on growth mindset for math!)
However, you’ll likely want to take Calculus if you want to be well-prepared for more advanced study in Math and other quantitative subjects, like Engineering and Physics.
What is the easiest vs hardest AP science class to take?
Some of the Physics APs get very hard, with Physics C – E&M rated as the most difficult of all APs.
- Psychology: 3.2 / 10 difficulty rating (very easy), 55% pass rate
- Environmental Science: 4.2 / 10 difficulty rating (quite easy), 48% pass rate (a little low)
- Biology: 6.3 / 10 difficulty rating (quite hard), 61% pass rate
- Physics 2: 6.5 / 10 difficulty rating (quite hard), 65% pass rate
- Physics 1: 7.0 / 10 difficulty rating (quite hard), 42% pass rate (that’s low)
- Chemistry: 7.1 / 10 difficulty rating (v. hard), 51% pass rate
- Physics C – Mechanics: 7.2 / 10 difficulty rating (v. hard), 75% pass rate
- Physics C – Electricity & Magnetism: 7.9 / 10 difficulty rating (v. hard), 70% pass rate
And here’s the data for the Physics APs – they’re all considered hard!
Perhaps because Physics and Chemistry are tough, they are not universally recommended. 14% of Chemistry and 27% of Physics 2 class alumnae said they wouldn’t recommend that other students take these classes.
Don’t let that put you off though: the majority of students are still very glad they took the course. Definitely give take these classes if they appeal, but don’t worry if you find the going tough – you’re not alone!
What is the easiest AP English class to take?
- English Language: 5.1 / 10 difficulty rating (moderate), 57% pass rate
- English Literature: 7.4 / 10 difficulty rating (very hard), 44% pass rate (that’s low)
What’s changed since our last update?
Been here before? Here’s a summary of the data we originally published in the 2019 edition of this article:
Explore all the data and reviews for individual classes right here:
We want to give you the best picture of each AP class possible, so we’ve created in-depth guides for the 28 largest AP classes where you can explore the data in more detail. We’ve also included lots of alumnae reviews and advice, and all the College Board details you’ll need to pick your AP classes -good luck!
- Physics 1 and 2
- Physics C – E/M and Mechanics
- Environmental Science
- Human Geography
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