Are you starting high school this year or have already started it? If yes, is the question – what are AP classes, bothering you? In case your answer to this too is yes, you are in the right place. For those who are not aware, AP classes are the most crucial classes high schoolers need to take for that extra college credit. 

However, before you decide to take an AP class for any subject, there are a lot of things you must know about these classes. In this post today, we are here to tell you about the same. Read ahead to find out What AP classes are, the benefits of taking them, total AP courses available, how to enroll in them, the role they play in college applications, and a lot more. 

Let the scrolling begin! 

What Are AP Classes? 

For all those wondering what AP courses or classes are, these are the classes run by the College Board that allow you to take some special courses in high school. The specialty of these courses is that they can earn you college credit. Also, in some cases, these classes can qualify you for more advanced classes in college. 

In simple words, AP classes provide intro-level college class experience in high school. Further, a good AP score can get your advanced placements in the college of your choice. When it comes to the history of AP classes, it goes back to the mid-1950s. During that time, a similar type of classes came to origin in order to lessen the gap between high school (secondary school) and college. 

Further, the 1952 pilot program had 11 subjects in total. The term AP, however, was associated with these classes in the year 1956 – the period when they were taken over and renamed the College Board Advanced Placement Program by the College Board. Then, over the years, these classes grew rapidly and today, nearly 2.8 million students take them for 38 subjects each year. 

Is It Necessary to Attend AP Classes? 

No, it is not necessary to take up AP classes even if you want to take the AP exam independently. While it is possible to skip these classes, we strongly recommend attending the classes. After all, not everyone can study independently for the AP exam. 

These classes, on the other hand, are specifically designed to help you with the preparation, make your work easier, pass the AP exam, and strengthen your college application. Also, when you take these classes, you must know how to balance regular and AP classes along with having time for extracurriculars. 

Top Benefits of Taking AP Classes 

Now that you know the answer to “what are Ap courses,” let us tell you why you should take these classes. Have a look: 

Reason 1: Taking AP Classes Boosts Your College Applications 

If you want to show colleges how determined and serious you are about your education, challenge yourself academically. The best way to do so is by taking up AP classes – one or several – that’s completely up to you! When you take these classes and add them to your application, it is a clear indication of strong academic training. This can especially be true if you have an AP score of four or five (3 is the passing score). 

If you manage to get a score of 5 in your exam, it is great. That is because it clearly proves that you are more advanced in that particular subject than 80 to 90 percent of the other advanced students. It sure does look impressive in college applications. After all, AP courses are not at all easy. Also, they help you challenge yourself academically and then perform better in college. 

Reason 2: Taking AP Classes Indicate Your Passion 

Now, the AP course you choose also demonstrates your academic interest in the subject. Let us say that you are serious about engineering. For this, a great way to prove your skills and interest to the colleges is by taking AP Calculus and AP Physics in high school. 

Further, for those who want to take pre-med classes, AP Chemistry and AP Biology are excellent options. Pre-law aspirants can choose AP US History, AP Statistics, AP US Government, and AP Economics. All of this will show that you can handle the subjects later. Also, it shows you have the necessary skills and background for your desired course. 

Reason 3: Taking AP Classes Can Get You College Credit 

AP classes are also a great option for those who wish to save money on college and finish it early. It is because some colleges give credit for AP classes. Some such institutions that use AP credits to fulfill graduation requirements are the University of Michigan and Harvard University. 

Then, there are some colleges like Washington University that do not offer this. Instead, they use the AP score to place students in higher-level classes. Also, there are colleges like a that have limits about which AP exam they will accept. 

For instance, Stanford University accepts AP credits from certain languages, math, and science. However, it is not the same for English and History AP courses. Whatever be the AP credit acceptance in the college, taking AP classes is sure to boost your college application as mentioned earlier. 

How do AP classes work? 

Now, you know the answer to “what are AP classes,” and why you should opt for them. So, let us move on to finding how they work. Here is what happens. Each school decides what classes out of all the AP courses they can offer to their students. The majority of students take them in junior and senior years of high school. 

Further, the content for each AP course is decided by the College Board. They do this with the help of inputs from both high school teachers and college faculty. Also, both of them take part in the scoring of exams with the College Board. 

Complete List of All AP Courses and Exams 

After what AP classes are, and how they work, let us take a look at all the AP courses that the college board offers. Later in the post, we will also find out about the popularity and difficulty of these courses. But first, let us see what are the 38 AP classes that you can take. Keep scrolling! 

  1. Art and Design (formerly Studio Art): 2-D Design 
  2. Art and Design (formerly Studio Art): 3-D Design 
  3. Art and Design (formerly Studio Art): Drawing 
  4. Research 
  5. Seminar 
  6. Art History 
  7. Biology 
  8. Chemistry 
  9. Chinese Language and Culture 
  10. English Language and Composition 
  11. English Literature and Composition 
  12. Environmental Science 
  13. French Language and Culture 
  14. German Language and Culture 
  15. Human Geography 
  16. Italian Language and Culture 
  17. Japanese Language and Culture 
  18. Latin 
  19. Music Theory 
  20. Physics 1: Algebra-Based 
  21. Physics 2: Algebra-Based 
  22. Statistics 
  23. US History 
  24. World History: Modern 
  25. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 
  26. Physics C: Mechanics 
  27. Psychology 
  28. Calculus AB 
  29. Calculus BC 
  30. Computer Science A 
  31. Computer Science Principles 
  32. European History 
  33. Government and Politics (Comparative) 
  34. Government and Politics (US) 
  35. Macroeconomics 
  36. Microeconomics 
  37. Spanish Language and Culture 
  38. Spanish Literature and Culture 

Out of this list, you can take up any of the AP courses that your school has to offer. A simple way to decide about the same is by choosing the subjects you enjoy studying and want to delve further into. Let us say that you love Math and want to pursue it in college, as well. 

For it, you can challenge yourself by taking AP classes and exams like BC Calculus. Most of the AP classes are a great way to get a taste of college courses while you are still in school. Along with this, they also make your college application strong. 

How Can You Sign Up for AP Classes and Tests? 

Signing up for AP courses is not a difficult process. You can simply sign up for them through your high school registration process. Therefore, you need to take into consideration your school’s rules. For instance, some schools ask their students to take some prerequisite courses before signing up for any AP class. Your guidance counselor/ AP coordinator can help you with all these details. And you can sign up for your AP classes and tests under their guidance only. 

Which Are the Most Popular AP Tests? 

By now, you know the names of all AP courses. However, just by the names, you can never know what classes you want to take. In order to narrow down your choices, the best way is to keep your interests in mind. Also, to help you, we have the number of students per AP course list for the year 2021. We hope this list helps you to determine the popularity of each AP class. Have a look: 

  1. English Language and Composition: 476,735 students 
  2. United States History: 399,676 students 
  3. English Literature and Composition: 297,009 students 
  4. World History: 264,254 students 
  5. Psychology: 262,700 students 
  6. Gov. and Politics – United States: 260,941 students 
  7. Calculus AB: 249,762 students 
  8. Biology: 212,198 students 
  9. Human Geography: 193,660 students 
  10. Statistics: 183,181 students 
  11. Environmental Science: 149,106 students 
  12. Spanish Language and Culture: 148,040 students 
  13. Physics 1: 136,238 students 
  14. Chemistry: 134,316 students 
  15. Calculus BC: 124,335 students 
  16. Macroeconomics: 112,644 students 
  17. Computer Science Principles: 102,610 students 
  18. European History: 74,202 students 
  19. Microeconomics: 73,461 students 
  20. Computer Science A: 63,980 students 
  21. Physics C: Mechanics: 48,171 students 
  22. Seminar: 46,840 students 
  23. Art and Design (2-D Design): 34,481 students 
  24. Research: 24,049 students 
  25. Spanish Literature: 21,787 students 
  26. Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism: 19,944 students 
  27. Art and Design: Drawing: 18,907 students 
  28. Art History: 18,552 students 
  29. Physics 2: 18,449 students 
  30. French Language and Culture: 18,312 students 
  31. Gov. and Politics – Comparative: 17,750 students 
  32. Music Theory: 16,169 students 
  33. Chinese Language and Culture: 13,328 students 
  34. Latin: 4,892 students 
  35. Art and Design: 3-D Design: 4,568 students 
  36. German Language and Culture: 4,275 students 
  37. Japanese Language and Culture: 2,208 students 
  38. Italian Language and Culture: 2,098 students 

The source of this data is the College Board, and the list is in ascending order for the number of students who took the particular course. Here, you can clearly see that the maximum number of students opted for English Language and Composition while the least number of them took up Italian Language and Culture. 

Again, these numbers do not determine whether or not you should take up any AP class or not. Follow your interests to determine the same. Typically, students may also take more than one course. After all, doing so has a lot of benefits. 

Which Are the Most Difficult AP Tests? 

Now that you know what were the popular AP courses for the year 2021, let us find out the most difficult one. An easy way to determine it is by seeing how many students pass each exam (got a 3+ score).  

Here is the percentage of students who got a passing (3+) score for each AP test in the year 2021: 

AP Test Passing Rates 2021 

  1. Chinese Language and Culture: 88% of students 
  2. Art and Design: Drawing: 87% of students 
  3. Art and Design: 2-D Design: 87% of students 
  4. Seminar: 85% of students 
  5. Research: 82% of students 
  6. Spanish Language and Culture: 80% of students 
  7. Calculus BC: 75% of students 
  8. Japanese Language and Culture: 74% of students 
  9. Physics C: Mechanics: 73% of students 
  10. Italian Language and Culture: 73% of students 
  11. Gov. and Politics – Comparative: 72% of students 
  12. Art and Design: 3-D Design: 72% of students 
  13. French Language and Culture: 71% of students 
  14. Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism: 70% of students 
  15. Computer Science A: 67% of students 
  16. Computer Science Principles: 67% of students 
  17. German Language and Culture: 65% of students 
  18. Physics 2: 65% of students 
  19. Spanish Literature: 65% of students 
  20. Music Theory: 61% of students 
  21. Biology: 61% of students 
  22. Microeconomics: 60% of students 
  23. European History: 59% of students 
  24. Statistics: 58% of students 
  25. Latin: 57% of students 
  26. English Language and Composition: 57% of students 
  27. Psychology: 55% of students 
  28. Human Geography: 54% of students 
  29. Art History: 54% of students 
  30. Macroeconomics: 52% of students 
  31. World History: 52% of students 
  32. Calculus AB: 51% of students 
  33. Chemistry: 51% of students 
  34. Gov. and Politics – United States: 49% of students 
  35. United States History: 48% of students 
  36. Environmental Science: 48% of students 
  37. English Literature and Composition: 44% of students 
  38. Physics 1: 42% of students 

From here, you can see that most of the AP exams have a pass rate of 60% or higher. However, when it comes to the high score – 5, not many get it. Usually, the percentage of students who get 5 in their APs is 10% and 20%. Let us have a look at the same for the year 2021. 

AP Test High Score Rates 2021 

  1. Chinese Language and Culture: 57% of students 
  2. Japanese Language and Culture: 47% of students 
  3. Calculus BC: 38% of students 
  4. Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism: 33% of students 
  5. Computer Science A: 25% of students 
  6. Physics C: Mechanics: 23% of students 
  7. Italian Language and Culture: 21% of students 
  8. Microeconomics: 20% of students 
  9. Music Theory: 20% of students 
  10. German Language and Culture: 18% of students 
  11. Macroeconomics: 18% of students 
  12. Calculus AB: 18% of students 
  13. Spanish Language and Culture: 17% of students 
  14. Gov. and Politics – Comparative: 17% of students 
  15. Statistics: 16% of students 
  16. Physics 2: 15% of students 
  17. Psychology: 15% of students 
  18. Human Geography: 15% of students 
  19. European History: 14% of students 
  20. Art and Design: Drawing: 14% of students 
  21. Research: 14% of students 
  22. Computer Science Principles: 13% of students 
  23. French Language and Culture: 13% of students 
  24. Seminar: 11% of students 
  25. Art History: 11% of students 
  26. Chemistry: 11% of students 
  27. Gov. and Politics – United States: 11% of students 
  28. United States History: 11% of students 
  29. World History: 10% of students 
  30. Latin: 10% of students 
  31. Art and Design: 2-D Design: 10% of students 
  32. Spanish Literature: 8% of students 
  33. Art and Design: 3-D Design: 7% of students 
  34. English Language and Composition: 8% of students 
  35. Biology: 7% of students  
  36. Physics 1: 7% of students 
  37. Environmental Science: 6% of students 
  38. English Literature and Composition: 5% of students 

Clearly, not many students get a 5 score in their APs. If you manage to get one, it can boost your college application to a great extent. Therefore, if you are really interested in a subject, take the AP classes for the same without any worry. Prepare for the exam, and who knows you might be able to get the highest score. 

One thing you need to note here is that just because a lesser number of students have a high score in a particular AP course, it does not mean you should not take it. What if you are good in that subject and not in the one that has the highest AP test high score rate? Make sure to choose your AP course depending on the area you like studying and are good at. 

How and When to Give AP Exams? 

Students can give AP exams when they are in high school. Usually, these exams take place during the first two weeks of May. For the first week, Administration 1 and 2 exams take place while for the second, Administration 3 and 4. You can readily find the detailed schedule for the same online. Also, you will know if there are any changes (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) like they happened in the year 2021.  

Also, most of the APs are in the paper and pencil format only. Once you appear for your APs in May, the results will come out in July. It usually is around July 15 and you can check your score online. For it, you will need the username and password for your College Board account. Also, you will need to have your AP number or the Student ID number used on the AP answer sheet handy. Once the score comes out in your state, it can be easily accessed using all this. 

Why Does It Always Take So Long to Grade AP Exam Papers? 

Unlike the past year, AP scores come out online now. This does save a lot of time as compared to getting the results in the mail. Still, the results do come out quite late – almost 2 months after taking the test. A major reason behind this is the test format. The AP exams have both multiple-choice and free-response questions. 

While the former can be graded by computer, the free-response questions have to be checked manually by the teachers. Also, this happens in a special annual AP Reading conference that occurs in June (to fit the schedule of the teachers). Then, after the conference, the College Board gets into action and combines both multiple-choice and free-response scores to publish the result. 

Clearly, manual grading and the availability of the teachers is a major reason for the long wait for the AP results. Also, you need to keep in mind that each year more than four million students appear for AP exams, and grading all these by real graders is not a child’s play. Therefore, the long wait for the AP results is genuine and valid. 

They combine the scores of the free-response questions with the multiple-choice scores after the two-week process. Once all of this is settled, the final AP scores (1-5, out of which 3 is the passing score) are posted online – usually in July. For the long duration of the checking process, you must also keep in mind that the real graders have to grade more than four million AP exams each year! 

AP Classes: The Bottom Line 

By now, we are confident you have your answer to the question: what are AP classes? You must have understood that these classes are crucial if you want to boost your GPA and thereby strengthen your college application. Also, the advanced courses you take should depend on your schedule and academic interests. You can also consider their popularity and difficulty. Whatever course you choose, make sure to prepare for it well, and perform the best in it. Good luck!