AP Classes Ranked By Difficulty!

hardest AP classes

AP courses are college-level classes that you can take in high school. These courses can help you prepare for the rigors of college, improve your college application, and raise your GPA. You can earn AP credits and skip the affiliated general education class if you score a 3 or higher. Consider your interests as well as the difficulty level of AP classes when making a decision about which AP courses to take.

With this blog, we will help you in deciding which is the ideal Advanced Placement class for you along with the list of hardest AP classes ranked by difficulty.

AP classes ranked by difficulty: Hardest to Easiest

AP exams pass rates and the frequency of perfect scores can help you determine the hardest AP classes. The pass rate represents the percentage of students who received a 3 or higher, whereas the perfect score rate represents the percentage of students who received a 5 or higher (i.e., the highest possible score).

The table below lists the most difficult AP classes in terms of exam pass rate for the year 2022:

AP examExam pass rate (3+)% of students who scored 5
AP 3-D Art and Design6.40%28.60%
AP Physics 17.90%17.00%
AP Spanish Literature and Culture8.10%22.80%
AP Environmental Science8.90%27.40%
AP English Language and Composition10.40%21.10%
AP United States History10.80%15.60%
AP 2-D Art and Design10.80%35.50%
AP Latin11.20%16.10%
AP Computer Science Principles11.40%21.00%
AP Seminar11.60%19.20%
AP United States Government and Politics12.00%10.90%
AP Chemistry12.50%17.00%
AP Research12.60%25.80%
AP French Language and Culture13.10%23.70%
AP World History13.20%21.90%
AP European History13.50%21.00%
AP Art History14.10%21.00%
AP Drawing14.60%38.10%
AP Statistics14.80%22.20%
AP Human Geography14.90%18.70%
AP Biology15.00%23.10%
AP Comparative Government and Politics15.90%24.30%
AP Physics 216.30%18.10%
AP Macroeconomics16.40%20.00%
AP English Literature and Composition16.90%27.30%
AP Psychology17.00%22.20%
AP Microeconomics17.70%22.50%
AP Music Theory18.70%17.70%
AP German Language and Culture20.00%19.10%
AP Calculus AB20.40%16.10%
AP Italian Language and Culture22.60%20.60%
AP Spanish Language and Culture23.60%28.50%
AP Physics C: Mechanics26.40%25.70%
AP Computer Science A27.30%20.40%
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism31.50%23.60%
AP Calculus BC41.20%15.60%
AP Japanese Language and Culture48.50%9.80%
AP Chinese Language and Culture49.30%19.60%
AP courses ranked by difficulty

Source: College Board

There are many factors that influence the difficulty of a subject. The assessment, based on each AP course’s passing marks, is highly subjective. The lower passing rate does indicate the difficulty level of the subject but not necessarily. This low passing rate can be a result of other reasons like low intake or only high-achieving students taking the course.

As you can see from the above table, some classes like AP Research and AP Seminar have passing rates of 12.60% and 11.60% respectively. Despite having a low passing rate, these courses are considered to be one of the easiest AP classes. So, this goes on to show that a lower passing rate doesn’t automatically imply that the course is difficult.

So, the best way to determine which are the hardest AP classes is to analyze students’ surveys and read about their experiences on different online forums. These experiences and opinions are personal and real and when combined with the statistical data will give you the correct information about the hardest AP classes.

chemistry class

Hardest AP exams by student’s review

We have taken the passing rate into consideration and drawn out a chart of the easiest AP classes based on the percentage of students who have secured passing scores in the respective AP classes. But this list is very subjective and is also influenced by many factors.

For example, if you look at the passing rate for AP Seminar it is 11.60% which goes on to say that it is a difficult subject for students to even secure a passing score in but if we go by the popular opinion of students who have taken AP courses and share their thoughts of the easiest and hardest AP classes.

But if we read about students’ views and opinions through popular surveys and discussion forums like Reddit or YouTube videos, we can get a somewhat better idea of which are the hardest AP classes. So, we have gone through some popular channels like Reddit’s r/APStudents, Mahad Khan’s YouTube channel mahadthementor, and others and compiled a list of the hardest AP classes based on the opinions and experiences of students who took the AP courses and exams.

AP Class/ExamLevel of difficulty
1. AP Physics 1Very difficult
2. AP Calculus BCVery difficult
3. AP ChemistryVery difficult
4. AP Physics C: Electricity and MagnetismVery difficult
5. AP English LiteratureVery difficult
6. AP Physics C: MechanicsVery difficult
7. AP U.S. Government and PoliticsDifficult
8. AP U.S. HistoryDifficult
9. AP Calculus ABDifficult
10. AP Human GeographyDifficult
Hardest AP classes in student’s opinion

Top 5 hardest AP exams

We have compiled a list of the top 5 hardest AP exams based on past passing rates and students’ opinions.

1. AP Physics 1

All the AP Physics classes are usually considered tough. AP Physics 1 class has the lowest passing rate, ie., 7.90%. Also, you consider students’ opinions, many have ranked the subject as “very difficult” in different surveys. The difficulty of the subject arises from its content. Students need a high degree of critical thinking and problem-solving abilities as they are tested on the grounds of both mathematical knowledge and concept knowledge.

2. AP Calculus BC

Among all the AP math courses, AP Calculus BC is considered the hardest. When compared with AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC dives a bit deeper into the world of calculus. This course deals with both differential and integral calculus, including topics such as limits, derivatives, integrals, and series. Students who opt for this course need to have a strong foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and geometry.

3. AP Chemistry

Not only does AP Chemistry has one of the lowest passing rate, i.e., 12.50%, it is also regarded as one of the hardest AP classes by students and is regarded as a “very difficult” AP course. According to a study conducted by examstudyexpert.com, class alumni gave AP Chemistry a rating of 7.3/10 for overall difficulty, making it the 4th difficult AP course.

4. AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism comes under the top 3 hardest AP classes (with AP English Literature and AP Physics C Mechanics being the other two courses). It has a low passing rate of 31.50% and is rated 8.1 out of 10 on the difficulty level.

5. AP Physics C: Mechanics

AP Physics C: Mechanics is an advanced-level Physics course. AP Physics C courses are generally considered tough. It has a low passing rate which is 26.40% and is rated 7.4 out of 10 in terms of overall difficulty.

How to choose the ideal AP class for yourself?

There are 38 AP courses that students can choose from and sometimes that decision can be hard and confusing. Here are some tips for helping you in choosing the ideal AP class for yourself.

1. Take your strength into account

The most important things to think about when selecting an AP class are your own strengths and flaws. After all, you’re more likely to do well on a test in a subject that interests and excites you. So, even though the Physics 1 AP exam is reportedly difficult, if you’re strong in numerical subjects and enjoy physics, you might want to take it.

However, if you struggle with art history, you may not want to take a course in this subject, even if many students pass the AP exam. When in doubt, take AP classes in the fields in which you are most interested and willing to work.

2. Learn more about a class

To learn more about an AP class, speak with your guidance counselor first. Inquire about the syllabus, the class’s AP exam pass rate over the last few years, and what other students have to say about the class. This will give you an idea of how well a class is taught. Your guidance counselor can also suggest appropriate set criteria and teachers.

Next, if possible, speak with the teacher or a teacher who teaches the prerequisite class (for example, the Honors Biology teacher if you’re considering AP Biology). The teacher can tell you about the workload, what they expect from their students, and how much work they have.

At last, talk to senior kids at your school to find out what the buzz is about the class. Don’t rely on a single person’s opinion because students can overstate it, but instead look for general trends. For example, if everyone says AP Biology is extremely difficult, but they learned a great deal and passed the AP exam, it’s a sign that the class is worthwhile.

3. Examine educator experience

While students’ strengths should be considered when selecting AP classes, they should also consider the experience level of their faculty members. In general, the longer a teacher has been teaching an AP subject, the better the students who performed on the exam. So, if you have the option of taking a “harder” subject like Physics with a teacher who has 10 + years of experience or an “easier” subject like Art History with someone who has only two years of experience, you should probably choose the former.

4. Consider your overall schedule

Your schedule may also influence how well you perform in a difficult AP class. For example, AP Biology may be more feasible in your sophomore or senior year because you will not be concerned with the ACT/SAT. However, if you take it junior year, you may find balancing ACT or SAT prep with the AP Biology class difficult.

Before enrolling in any of the AP class, consider your other classes, extracurricular activities, work schedule, and family obligations. You don’t want a difficult AP class to add to your hectic schedule. Similarly, do not feel obligated to overload AP classes in general. Even if you are under duress, more is not always better.


Studying for an AP exam can be stressful and one of the most difficult challenges, especially for first-time AP test takers. Preparing ahead of time will help you overcome test-day nerves and put your knowledge from the previous year to use. We recommend that AP students take several AP practice tests prior to their big test day.

Practice tests are typically AP exams from a few years ago, and they will provide you with the correct answers once you’re finished. Students can practice the types of questions, formatting, and the time frame allotted for their test. When the big day arrives, students will feel at ease and confident while taking the test, allowing them to achieve a higher score.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the most difficult AP exam to get a 5 on?

Only 8.8% of students who took the AP Physics 1 exam in May 2020 received a perfect score of 5. It is also worth noting that only 6.4%, 7.2%, and 8.8% of students enrolled in AP Seminars, AP 3-D Art and Design, and AP Research courses received a 5, despite the fact that these are specialized, portfolio-based classes.

Is AP Calculus hard?

In May 2020, 61.4% of AP Calculus AB students managed to pass, while 81.6% of AP Calculus BC students passed. Although these scores do not appear to be particularly low, calculus can be a hard concept for many students to grasp. Before taking AP Calculus, the College Board recommends that students have four years of secondary-school-level mathematics.

What is the AP score release date in 2023?

Depending on the type of test you are taking, and your test day, you can expect your AP scores delivered between April 2023 (digital scores) to July 2023.

Which are the hardest AP exams?

Some of the hardest AP exams are AP Calculus BC, AP United States History, AP English Literature, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics C.

What are the most commonly failed AP Exams?

All AP exams have a minimum passing rate of 50%. Physics 1 (failed by 48.4% of all students), Environmental Science (failed by 46.6% of all students), and Chemistry (failed by 43.9% of all students) are the most commonly failed AP exams.

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