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Is AP Economics a Hard Exam To Pass?

Is AP Economics a Hard Exam To Pass?

4 min Read|February 07 2024
|Written by:

George Christofi


AP subjects are all scored on a scale of 1-5, with 1 and 2 being a failing mark and 3 or above being a pass. Students that receive a 5 are highly equipped to deal will college-level problems within that subject, this often being used as proof that a student would perform well when studying a certain major at university. Out of all the AP subjects, one that is routinely taken by students around America is AP Economics.

AP Economics is split into two courses – Macro and Micro – which receive roughly the same amount of students every single year. Both subjects focus on general Economics and mathematical skills, sharing the same four common knowledge areas that students will need to learn about:

  • Economic models and principles
  • Economic outcomes and explaining outcome
  • Outcomes of specific economic situations
  • Modeling economic situations with visual representations

However, apart from the four key skills, the two courses are not identical, covering different content knowledge. With different content, the difficulty of these subjects equally varies, with one AP Economics course being considered slightly harder than the other. In this article, we’ll be telling you everything you need to know about AP economics, pointing out the differences between the two courses and outlining whether this is a hard AP course to take.

How is AP Economics structured?

The AP Economics exam, no matter whether you end up sitting AP Micro or AP Macro, has a fairly standard structure that you’ll likely experience in the vast majority of your AP exams. The exam is split into two sections, the first of which is a multiple-choice answer system and the second of which is composed of free-response questions.

  • Section 1 - This multiple-choice section has 60 questions, which you’ll have 70 minutes in total to work through. This section is worth a total of 66% of the exam.
  • Section 2 - This section of the paper is made up of only three free-response question, two of which are short answers and one which is long-answer. This section of the exam is worth the remaining 33% of the exam.

Across these two sections, students will have to demonstrate a strong knowledge of economics and basic mathematical skills. Luckily, no matter which exam you opt for, you’ll be learning the same exam structure, so there won’t be any confusion if you accidentally study a question or two from Macro when you’re studying micro or vice versa.

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Is AP Economics Hard?

AP Economics is a fairly middle of the range AP exam, as far as some of the other subjects go. Across both Macro and Microeconomics at the AP level, there is consistently around 20% of students that achieve a 5, which is much higher than other subjects where only 5-10% of students manage this top grade.

Each year, there are around 75,000 students that take AP Economics - Macro, and 55,000 students that take AP Economics - Micro. Across the two subjects, Micro typically scores better every single year, but only by a few percentages.

For example, in the 2020 year of results, 63.2% of students passed with a three or higher in AP Macro, while 68.9% of students passed AP Micro. Equally, only 19.7% of students got a 5 in AP Macroeconomics, while 23.3% got a 5 in AP Microeconomics.

Student Score Distributions - AP Exams


From these statistics, we can see that Macroeconomics is slightly more difficult than Micro. However, 2020 is a slight outliner in the sense that the gap is much larger when compared to previous years. Most commonly, the two subjects closely mirror each other, with the percentages only being 1-2% apart.

For students who find the subject difficult, an AP tutor can provide personalized guidance and support, making challenging AP courses more manageable. They help students master the material, improve their study strategies, and excel in their exams.

What’s The Difference Between AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics?

As previously stated, both AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics cover the same four key skills, requiring students to brush up on many of the same critical thinking skills in both subjects. However, the main area where the two subjects vary is their unit content, with this being the main point of departure for the AP courses.

Within AP Microeconomics, there are six units:

1. Basic Economic Concepts

2. Supply and Demand

3. Cost, Production, and the Perfect Competition Model

4. Imperfect Competition

5. Factor Markets

6. Market Failure and the Role of Government

Microeconomics also has points of crossover with other subjects, and may be more useful if you’re not going to be directly studying Economics.

On the other hand, the six core units that the AP Macroeconomics course covers are:

1. Basic Economic Concepts (same as Micro)

2. Economic Indicators and the Business Cycle

3. National Income and Price Determination

4. Financial Sector

5. Long-Run Consequences of Stabilization Policies

6. Open-Economy – International Trade and Finance

While there are elements of crossover between these two subjects, AP Macroeconomics is much more business-focused, often sharing many ideas with business studies courses. These are large-scale topics impacting the whole economy of a country, and often, therefore, being much more general than Micro.

Depending on which of these two subjects you find more interesting, you may want to opt for AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, or both.

Final Thoughts

No matter whether you’re studying AP Microeconomics or AP Macroeconomics, one of the most effective ways of streamlining your study plan and getting through all the content in time is to work with an online AP Economics tutor. Online tutoring can help you focus your studies, with your additional work with a tutor helping you to clarify any concepts you find difficult while brushing up on the basics.

Students that work with a TutorChase online AP Economics tutor have access to ex-students that received a 5 in their own AP Economics exams. From there, all of our tutors went on to work at some of the top universities in the States, making them the perfect person to help you work through your AP Economics course.

Get in contact with us today and we’ll find the perfect online tutor for you.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

George Christofi

Written by: George Christofi

Oxford University - Masters Philosophy

George studied undergraduate and masters degrees in Classics and Philosophy at Oxford, as well as spending time at Yale. He specialises in helping students with UK and US university applications, including Oxbridge and the Ivy League. He writes extensively on education including on schools, universities, and pedagogy.

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