Are some AP exams easier than others? Which are the "easy" ones? Which are known to be more difficult?


Adrian Dingle, Author of Crash Course AP Chemistry prep book

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The answer to your question in one sense is very easy to give, and in one sense basically impossible!

First the easy part. I absolutely defy anyone to tell me that AP Environmental Science (for example) is a harder exam than say, AP Physics C E&M - I just don't think it's a contest, and looking at the intellectual ability of the two groups that generally take those exams is a dead giveaway. It's also reflected in the way that some colleges view AP exams in terms of granting credit, in as much as they don't necessarily treat all subjects in the same way. So I would say the answer to your first question in a general sense is a resounding 'yes'.

On the other hand of course, your personal aptitude is actually what is going to determine how easy or difficult that you find any given AP course/exam; in that respect there are different answers to your questions for different people, and no one, simple answer that fits all.

One interesting resource is Total Registration that lists AP Score distributions by subject since 2011. It is sortable, so allows you to see which exams had more/less 5's etc. than others. HOWEVER, I would suggest GREAT caution when reading the data there, and be careful about drawing too many definitive conclusions. A couple of examples of what I mean;

  1. In 2015, the subjects with the highest proportion of 5's are Chinese and Japanese. This is almost certainly because there are a LOT of native speakers that take these exams, and not because they are 'easy' exams!

  2. Calculus and Physics C also appear high on that list, again, not because they are 'easy' per se, but almost certainly because it tends to be mainly intellectually stronger students that take those exams.

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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A great deal of success on AP exams depends on two factors:

1) The student's commitment to studying the subject matter and preparing for the test 2) The teacher's ability to prepare the student for the test.

I want to be clear that this is a two-way street for both teacher and student. It would be very challenging to do well on an AP test without preparing for it. This means group study sessions, flashcard apps (I had to use actual flashcards), creating resources and having the content memorized so that you can apply it in the tests. AP tests require you to apply material rather than regurgitate it, so the better you have the content down the easier it will be.

On the teachers' side, one way that they prepare you for the test is being realistic about your work. If you get a B or a C in an AP class it is a way of preparing you for the rigors of the test. It doesn't help students to get A's all year if their work isn't reflective of a 5 on an AP exam. So don't get upset about lower grades in AP because it will drive you to higher levels of excellence for the exam. Also if the tests are challenging in the AP class the teacher is aligning assessments to your exam which will leave you better prepared. Practice tests and exam items are great for both teachers and students to determine readiness on AP exams.

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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Hi, There aren't really any easy AP exams. They are essentially college-level exams that a high school student takes. Taking this type of exam at age 15-17 is a challenge regardless of the subject. The best way to think about it is to investigate which ones are easier for you. Start by looking at your grade sheets from previous years. If, for example, you get straight As in all of your math classes but tend to get a C or B in English and science, then an AP math course may be the way to go. You can also think about which courses are more time consuming. For instance, AP Literature requires extensive reading outside of the actual assignments. If you happen to be a speed reader, then this may not be an issue but if reading tends to take up more time than you have, it may be better to look at other courses.

Start by taking an abridged practice exam for a couple of different subjects to give you an idea which topics may be harder or easier for you as an individual.

More info:

Good luck!

Michael Schoch, Answers questions on Noodle

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That's a really interesting question, but one that, unfortunately, doesn't really have a definitive answer. I did some research to see if there was a consensus among test-takers that certain AP exams were easier than others, but I couldn't find any.

The difficulty of a test will depend on your skill and interest in a given subject, as well as the experience of your teachers and your school's resources. For example, if your AP classes offer plenty of practice tests and are generally challenging and demanding, the test itself will likely seem easy by comparison. When I was in high school I took an AP History course that I didn't enjoy nearly as much as my AP Literature and Writing courses; however, the class was consistently rigorous and challenging so that by the time the test came around I found it relatively easy and straightforward.

Of course, no test is an accurate measure of your intelligence or aptitude, and some people suffer from testing anxiety regardless of the subject. That said, the way you perceive the difficulty of each test will, to some degree, reflect your strength and confidence in that subject. My best advice would be to learn as much as possible about the test itself while also doing a lot of test prep in your weakest subjects.

There are a lot of free learning materials on Noodle to help you study, but If you're really worried about your performance you might want to hire a tutor. Ultimately, you can only do your best, as trite as that sounds.

Best of luck! If you want more resources or if you still have questions about the test, feel free to ask away!

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