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 2,900 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.
We’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?
- The Science Of Studying Smart
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, brown is about average (College Board, 2022).
We’ve included some additional details too:
- The size of the bubbles shows how many students take exams in that AP class (College Board, 2022). The most-widely-taken AP in 2022 was English Language (523k candidates), followed by US History (“APUSH” – 460k 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, 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.
Tip: 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), and the 2022 pass rate of 69% is about average.
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 2.9k+ 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
- Psychology: 3.5 – Very Easy
- Chinese: 3.9 – Very Easy with especially high pass rate 
- Human Geography: 4.2 – Quite Easy
- Comparative Government and Politics: 4.2 – Quite Easy
- Computer Science A: 4.3 – Quite Easy
- Environmental Science: 4.4 – Quite Easy, but unusual to score a 5 
- Microeconomics: 4.4 – Quite Easy
- US Government and Politics: 4.4 – Quite Easy
- Macroeconomics: 4.6 – Quite Easy
- Statistics: 4.8 – Quite Easy
- Seminar: 5.0 – Moderate Difficulty with the highest pass-rate, but hard to self-study 
- English Language: 5.2 – Moderate Difficulty, but unusual to score a 5 
- Spanish Language: 5.2 – Moderate Difficulty with high pass rate 
- Art History: 5.3 – Moderate Difficulty and 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 easy (3.9 / 10) and so quick to study (3.5 / 10), and has the second highest pass rate (84%). Also, the average score (3.9) and rate of 5 grades (45%) are very high compared to other classes! 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 (4.4 / 10 average difficulty rating) BUT the pass rate is fairly low (54%), especially for such an easy-rated class. Very few students graduate with the top grade of 5 (just 9% in 2022).
 AP Seminar is a funny one. It’s rated as moderate difficulty overall (5.0 / 10), and has the highest pass rate of all the main AP classes (88%). However, it is rated as one of the most challenging if you are self-studying (7.1 / 10), and a large number of alumnae (33%) don’t recommend the class.
 AP Spanish is considered moderately difficult (5.2 / 10), but has the third highest pass rate (82%). 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 10% of AP English Language students scored a 5 in 2022.
A note on our methodology for evaluating the “easiest” and 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.
N.B. 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 4 easiest AP exams to self-study are Psychology (3.4/10), Computer Science Principles (3.8 / 10), Microeconomics (3.9/10) and Environmental Science (3.9/10), as rated by over 2,900 real AP class alumnae reviewers who rated self-study difficulty from 1 (easiest to self-study) to 10 (hardest to self-study).
Also rated relatively easy to self-study are:
But think carefully before self-studying:
Physics 2 (7.0), Seminar (7.1), Physics 1 (7.5) and Physics C – E&M (7.8). All 4 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 8.3/10 by class alumnae. Good luck!
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 8.1 / 10 (10 = hardest). Those who stay the course often score well, though, with a 2022 pass rate of 69%, and 30% of students earning a 5.
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 2.9k+ real student reviewers who actually took these AP exams. The higher the score out of 10, the easier the class:
- Physics C – E/M: 8.1 – Very Hard, but scores are often high 
- English Literature: 7.5 – Very Hard, but the pass rate rose considerably in 2022 
- Physics C – Mechanics: 7.4 – Very Hard, but scores are often high 
- Chemistry: 7.3 – Very Hard, especially if you’re self-studying 
- Physics 1: 7.2 – Very Hard
- Physics 2: 6.5 – Quite Hard
- European History: 6.5 – Quite Hard and time-intensive 
- Biology: 6.4 – Quite Hard
- Music Theory: 6.2 – Quite Hard, but quick to study 
- World History: 6.1 – Quite Hard and time-intensive 
- US History: 5.9 – Moderate Difficulty, but time-intensive 
- Calculus AB/BC: 5.5 – 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 (74% pass and 25% get a 5 in Mechanics, 69% pass and 30% get a 5 in E&M).
 English Literature has the 2nd highest difficulty rating of any AP class, and 26% of alumnae don’t recommend the class. However, the pass rate rose by a substantial 34% to 78% in 2022 (the fourth highest result), from just 44% in 2021. So it might be worth considering if past data had put you off in previous years!
 AP Chemistry is rated as the hardest of all AP classes if you’re self-studying, at 8.3 / 10.
 Music Theory is relatively quick to study (4.6 / 10 – especially compared to other harder APs), 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 2nd most time-intensive AP exam to study for by students who took this class (7.2/ 10). European History and World History are also considered time-intensive classes, both scoring 6.8 / 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 type 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.
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.
But before we kick off this final section about choosing the right AP classes for you, I thought it worth pausing to recap why it’s worth taking them in the first place.
So what are AP classes?
If you’ve made it this far down such a detailed article about easy or hard APs, you probably know what they are:
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.
What are the benefits of taking AP classes in high school?
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), an average pass rate (69% in 2022) and the lowest time-required rating (3.2 / 10) of any AP.
- Psychology: a very low difficulty rating (3.5 / 10) and low time-required rating (4.6 / 10). Pass rates, however, are a little lower than average (59% in 2022).
- Human Geography: a low difficulty rating (4.2 / 10) and quite low time-required rating (4.8 / 10). Pass rates, however, are a little lower than average (53% in 2022).
N.B. Psychology and Human Geography 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 three 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 (8.1 / 10), with a the highest time-required rating (7.4 / 10). Pass rates are high for those who stay the course (69% in 2022), with one of the highest perfect-score rates of any AP (30% scored a 5 in 2022).
- English Literature: rated as very hard (7.5 / 10) and quite time-intensive (6.3 / 10). The pass rate rose from 44% in 2021 to 78% in 2022, but 26% of alumnae say they wouldn’t recommend this course to other students.
- Physics C – Mechanics: rated as very hard (7.4 / 10) and quite time-intensive (6.1 / 10). As with E&M, pass rates are high for those who stay the course (74% in 2022), with 25% earning a perfect scrore of 5.
- Chemistry: rated as very hard (7.3 / 10) and very time-intensive (6.8 / 10). Pass rates are a touch lower than typical (53% in 2022). Chemistry is also rated as the hardest of all APs if you’re self studying.
What is the easiest vs hardest AP history class to take?
US History (APUSH), World History and European History are all similarly ranked as quite hard APs:
- US History (APUSH): the easiest history AP at 5.9 / 10 difficulty. The 2022 pass rate was just 48%.
- World History: 6.1 / 10 difficulty, 62% pass rate.
- European History: the hardest history AP at 6.5 / 10 difficulty. The 2022 pass rate was 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?
Macroeconomics and Microeconomics offer a similar, relatively easy, difficulty level:
- Microeconomics: 4.4 / 10 difficulty rating, 57% pass rate (2022)
- Macroeconomics: 4.6 / 10 difficulty rating, 51% pass rate (2022)
Microeconomics (“Micro”) is rated ever so slightly more time consuming than “Macro”. Though Micro is also more interesting, in my personal opinion – I love microeconomics, such a cool field!
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 is much easier than Calculus:
- Statistics: 4.8 / 10 difficulty rating, 60% pass rate in 2022
- Calculus AB: 5.5 / 10 difficulty rating*, 55% pass rate in 2022
- Calculus BC: 5.5 / 10 difficulty rating*, 77% pass rate in 2022
* 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?
Biology, Chemistry and Physics 1 are all very popular courses. Of these, Biology ranks as a little easier than Chemistry and Physics.
Psychology and Environmental Science are far easier than the other science courses, and are among the easiest of all classes.
Some of the Physics APs get very hard, with Physics C – E&M rated as the most difficult of all APs.
- Psychology: 3.5 / 10 difficulty rating (very easy), 59% pass rate
- Environmental Science: 4.4 / 10 difficulty rating (quite easy), 54% pass rate (a little low)
- Biology: 6.4 / 10 difficulty rating (quite hard), 68% pass rate
- Physics 2: 6.5 / 10 difficulty rating (quite hard), 69% pass rate
- Physics 1: 7.2 / 10 difficulty rating (very hard), 42% pass rate (that’s low)
- Chemistry: 7.3 / 10 difficulty rating (very hard), 53% pass rate
- Physics C – Mechanics: 7.4 / 10 difficulty rating (very hard), 74% pass rate
- Physics C – Electricity & Magnetism: 8.1 / 10 difficulty rating (very hard), 69% pass rate
Psychology and Environment are rated very easy to self-study, all others as hard to self-study, especially Chemistry.
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. 13% 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?
Literature is much harder than Language, and requires more study time. But if you can handle the Literature course, you’ll likely stand out from the crowd!
- English Language: 5.2 / 10 difficulty rating (moderate), 56% pass rate in 2022
- English Literature: 7.5 / 10 difficulty rating (very hard), 78% pass rate in 2022
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
- US History (APUSH)
- World History
- European History
- English Literature
- English Language
- Art History
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