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Advanced Placement

Which AP Classes Should You Take?

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

Updated on: 01 Jul 2024


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  • AP classes can help you enhance your college applications and earn college credit.
  • Consider factors like your workload, strengths, and interests when choosing AP courses.
  • The more competitive your target colleges, the more AP classes you should consider taking.

Taking AP classes in high school is a great way to make your portfolio, challenge yourself and make a good impression in front of college admission officers. These classes also advance your career and give you advanced knowledge in a particular subject. But more often than not, students usually get confused as to which AP classes they should go for and how many they should opt for in different school years.

So whether you have just started thinking about applying for AP or have already done it. We will help you in figuring out which AP classes should you take, what factors to keep in mind while choosing your AP class, and how many AP classes you should go for.

Factors to keep in mind to choose your AP classes

Although choosing an AP class is your personal choice if you are confused or need a little guidance. We can help you decide which AP class to take.

1. Your total workload

High school students can have unreal expectations of themselves, especially when it comes to attending a prestigious college or university. Instead of success, this can lead to stress and burnout.

Examine your overall workload. Consider your extra activities, volunteer work, other student activities, and any family or personal obligations. Enrolling in too many AP classes may deter your goals if you are already overburdened.

2. Your academic strong points and weak points

First, examine your academic strengths and weaknesses objectively. If you excel in math, for example, you should consider taking AP courses in calculus, computer science, and statistics. However, if you know math isn’t your strong suit, you might not want to put yourself under additional stress.

If you enjoy science, you could take AP Chemistry or AP Physics. A student who excels in the arts and humanities may prefer advanced placement courses in art history, foreign languages, music theory, or English literature.

3. Reputation of your school and teachers

Each teacher and school has their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some teachers have a natural talent for teaching a specific subject. Some schools are better known for specific AP classes.

Choose a teacher with a good reputation if you can, as they are more likely to help you succeed in your AP class. Inquire with your school about the pass rates for specific AP classes and exams. These pass rates can be used to assess a teacher’s abilities.

4. AP credit policies of your prospective colleges

Each college establishes its policies for awarding college credit for AP classes. Some limit the number of AP credits students can earn, while others only accept credit for specific classes.

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How many AP Classes should you take?

The number of AP courses you should take is determined by your goals. Consider the competitiveness of your prospective colleges, for example. The more AP classes you take, the more selective the school. Furthermore, many scholarships recognize students who push themselves academically by enrolling in AP classes.

1. For highly competitive colleges and universities

If you want to apply to some of the most productive schools in the country, you can demonstrate to admissions officers that you are capable of taking difficult courses. When applying to some of the best schools, students may take as many as seven, eight, or even twelve AP courses during their senior year. Selective state schools may also prefer applicants who have completed 4-6 AP courses.

You can improve your transcript even more by earning an AP Scholar Award. These awards honor students who “showed exemplary college-level achievement on AP exams.” Students who score well on multiple exams may be eligible for an AP Scholar Award.

2. For less competitive colleges and universities

Schools may be pleased to see AP courses on an applicant’s transcript, but they may not be required or expected. Of course, these courses can still help you get in, especially if you pass 2-4 exams or more.

Furthermore, you can reap the benefits of AP classes in other ways, such as by improving your study skills. AP classes can assist you in gaining college credit, and you may be eligible for scholarships to help cover some of your college expenses.

3. Scholarships

Even if you make a choice not to apply to the most selective schools in the country, taking multiple AP classes can still benefit you. Many scholarship committees award monetary awards based on merit. They enjoy seeing high school students push themselves academically.

According to a College Board study, 31% of colleges consider students’ AP achievements when making scholarship decisions. Having to pass several AP classes may help you save money on college in the long run.

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How should you pace your AP classes in each year of high school?

You should push yourself but not overburden your schedule. Keep in mind that your target schedule is determined by the type of college you want to attend and the AP availability at your school. As a general rule, you should aim for the AP class numbers listed below:

Most Selective Schools (Top 20): APs in most or all core courses (English, Mathematics, Science, History, and Foreign Language), as well as additional AP courses related to your goals, future major, or interests. This will amount to between 7 and 12 AP courses.

  • Selective Schools (Top 100): APs in the majority of core courses, plus one or two electives. This will amount to between 4 and 8 AP courses.
  • Less Competitive Schools: APs in some core courses or courses related to your intended major. This will amount to between one and five AP courses.

But how do these courses fit into a four-year high school curriculum? This is our recommended schedule for a reasonably ambitious student:

Freshman year

Take one or two AP classes that are less demanding and build on middle school skills, such as Environmental Science, Human Geography, or Psychology.

Take honors classes in your core courses if possible so that you can start earning prerequisite skills for more difficult AP classes later on.

Sophomore year

Take one to three AP classes during your sophomore year. Consider taking a more difficult AP class, such as World History or US History, as well as one or two less difficult APs. If possible, continue to take honors courses in your other core classes.

Junior year

Based on your freshman and sophomore year experience and scores, begin taking APs in core classes, such as AP English, AP Calculus, or AP Biology. Take as many classes as you can without becoming overburdened, and make sure you have time to study for the ACT or SAT this year. An Ivy League candidate might take 3 to 5 AP classes, whereas 2 to 4 would suffice for less-selective schools.

Senior year

Take more APs in core and elective subjects, taking care not to overstretch your timeline and leaving time for college applications. It’s common for candidates in highly selective schools to take 5 or 6 AP classes their senior year, but maintain your timetable and limitations in mind. Adding one more AP class will not have a significant impact on your college chances at this time, but it may significantly decrease the time you spend on applications, lowering your chances of admission.

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Sample AP Class Schedule

According to College Board, these are the recommended AP classes planned for each year of high school.

Freshman year and Sophomore yearJunior yearSenior year
AP Human GeographyAP English Language and CompositionAP English Literature and Composition
AP World History: ModernAP U.S. HistoryAP U.S. Government and Politics
AP European HistoryAP PsychologyAP Calculus AB or AP Statistics
AP SeminarAP Biology/AP Physics 1AP Psychology
AP Computer Science PrinciplesAP Seminar/AP ResearchAP Research
AP World Languages and Cultures coursesAP Computer Science PrinciplesAP Computer Science Principles or AP Computer Science A
AP World Languages and Cultures coursesAP World Languages and Cultures courses
AP Art and Design ProgramAP Art and Design Program
AP Class Schedule


Choosing AP classes should you take can be a daunting task, but it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all. The best AP classes for you will depend on your individual interests, strengths, and college goals.
Out of the 39 AP classes something AP classes can be hard for you and some AP classes can be easy.

With that said, there are a few general tips that can help you make the best decision. First, consider your interests and strengths. What are you passionate about? What are you good at? AP classes that align with your interests and strengths will be more enjoyable and easier to succeed in.

Second, think about your college goals. What colleges are you interested in? What are their AP credit requirements? Some colleges require a certain number of AP credits for admission, so it’s important to factor this into your decision.

Finally, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. AP classes can be challenging, but they can also be very rewarding. If you’re looking for a way to boost your academic record and earn college credit, taking AP classes is a great option.

Frequently asked questions (FAQS)

Which AP classes should you take to look best to colleges?

If you are going for the most competitive colleges, you should take the toughest core courses available at your school—including AP English Literature and/or Language, Calculus or Statistics, US, World, or European History, and at least one of the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics).

How many AP classes should you take for Harvard?

Going up the selectivity chain, the average at Harvard is eight AP classes. To be competitive at some of the most highly selective colleges in the country, 8-12 AP courses may be the sweet spot amount, assuming the student can handle that level of rigor.

Are 3 AP classes too much for the junior year?

Depending on what kind of school you want to go to, you should be taking between 3 and 5 AP classes this year. 

Are 7 AP classes enough?

Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years. For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools.

Written by by

Apoorvaa Agarwal

Reviewed by by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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