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Top 10 Easiest AP Courses

Top 10 Easiest AP Courses

10 min Read|February 26 2024
|Written by:

George Christofi


Are you a high school student looking to push your academic boundaries and gain a head start in college? AP courses offer just that, but with so many options, where do you begin? The challenge of AP courses might seem overwhelming, but did you know that not all AP subjects are equally daunting? This article sheds light on the top 10 easiest AP subjects, tailored for various interests, from languages to sciences. It's a guide for students charting their academic journey, parents seeking the best for their children, and teachers advising their students.

But what makes an AP course "easy"? Is it the content, the teaching style, or how it aligns with your interests? As you read on, you'll discover AP courses that align with your strengths and passions. This isn't just about choosing the easiest path; it's about finding the right fit for a fulfilling and successful high school experience. Let's dive in and explore which AP courses might be your stepping stones to academic success.

Criteria for Determining the Top 10 Easiest AP Courses

Determining the "easiest" AP courses involves analyzing various statistical data and expert opinions on how to achieve the best AP grades. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Percentages of Students Passing: Courses with higher pass rates suggest that students generally find the material more manageable. For instance, AP Chinese Language and Culture often boasts a high pass rate, with approximately 90% of students passing in recent years.
  • Mean Scores: The average score across all test-takers can indicate the relative difficulty of the course. A higher mean score typically signifies that students are able to grasp and apply the course material effectively.
  • Students Who Got a Score of 5: The percentage of students achieving the top score of 5 can reveal how attainable excellence is in a course. Courses like AP Calculus and AP Chinese Language and Culture often have a substantial proportion of students scoring a 5, indicating a well-structured curriculum that prepares students for success.

Educational experts suggest that these metrics, while useful, should be contextualized with the student's strengths and interests. A course might statistically seem easier, but individual aptitude and passion play a crucial role in a student's success.

Here is the advice of an expert AP tutor:

"I've found AP Chinese Language and Art related subjects are often easiest for students, while AP Physics and United States Government & Politics pose greater challenges for many. However, by using the right study practices and resources, you will find that all subjects become easier."

What are the Benefits of Taking AP Classes in High School?

Choosing your AP courses can be at times difficult, however, enrolling in the right Advanced Placement (AP) classes during high school offers several significant benefits:

  • College Credit and Advanced Placement: Many colleges accept AP scores for college credit, potentially saving students time and tuition costs. For example, a score of 4 or 5 on an AP exam can equate to a semester's worth of college coursework.
  • Enhanced College Applications: AP courses are viewed favorably on college applications, showcasing a student's willingness to undertake challenging academic work. According to the College Board, students who take AP courses and exams are more likely to graduate from college in four years.
  • Skill Development: AP courses help students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are vital for college success.
  • Potential for Scholarships: Some scholarship programs consider AP courses and exam scores as part of their selection criteria.

Experts emphasize that the rigor of AP courses better prepares students for the academic challenges of college, providing a valuable head start in their higher education journey. The statistics sourced from the College Board's AP Score Distributions for examinations of 2023 show the following results:

Top 10 easiest AP courses by passing percentage

Bar chart showing passing percentage of the top 10 easiest AP classes

1 - Chinese Language and Culture

AP Chinese Language and Culture is a course that combines language skills with an immersive cultural experience and tops the list as being the easiest of them all. The 2023 exam statistics highlight its success among students:

  • Total Students: 16,495 students enrolled in this course.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was an impressive 4.09.
  • Scoring 5: A substantial 54.2% of students achieved the highest score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: A notable 88.4% of students scored 3 or higher.

The course curriculum includes:

  • Language Proficiency: Emphasis on developing skills in Mandarin Chinese through listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
  • Cultural Understanding: Exploring Chinese traditions, history, and contemporary society.
  • Practical Application: Focus on using Chinese in real-life situations.

This course's combination of language instruction and cultural education, as evidenced by the high scores and pass rates, makes it a fulfilling and accessible option for students interested in Chinese language and culture.

2 - Drawing

AP Drawing is among the easier AP courses and it is unique course that caters to the creatively inclined, blending artistic expression with academic rigor. The course's statistics from 2023 paint a picture of its accessibility:

  • Total Students: 22,555 students enrolled in the course.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was a solid 3.47, reflecting a good understanding of the subject matter.
  • Scoring 5: 15.7% of students achieved the highest score.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: A notable 84.8% of students scored a 3 or higher, suggesting a high success rate.

AP Drawing encourages students to develop their skills in visual observation and artistic creation. The curriculum focuses on:

  • Developing a Portfolio: Students create a collection of artwork that demonstrates their skills and personal voice.
  • Exploration of Techniques: Students experiment with various drawing mediums and techniques.
  • Conceptual Understanding: The course emphasizes understanding and implementing artistic concepts.

This course's blend of practical skills and theoretical knowledge makes it an appealing choice for students passionate about art, helping them develop a strong artistic foundation.

3 - Spanish Language and Culture

AP Spanish Language and Culture is a popular course for students interested in both language acquisition and cultural immersion. The 2023 statistics for this AP course are telling:

  • Total Students: 164,434 students took the exam.
  • Mean Score: The course had a mean score of 3.60, indicative of a good grasp of the subject by the majority.
  • Scoring 5: Notably, 24.3% of students achieved the highest score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: An impressive 83.8% of students scored 3 or higher.

The course curriculum includes:

  • Advanced Language Skills: Emphasis on refining speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills in Spanish.
  • Cultural Studies: Exploration of the diverse Spanish-speaking world, including its literature, history, and societal issues.
  • Real-World Application: Focus on using Spanish in practical, real-life situations.

This blend of linguistic skills and cultural knowledge, as reflected in the encouraging statistics, makes AP Spanish Language and Culture an accessible and rewarding course for many students.

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4 - 2D Art & Design

AP 2D Art & Design is an engaging course that allows students to express creativity while gaining valuable artistic skills. The course's popularity and success are reflected in the 2023 statistics:

  • Total Students: 43,854 students participated in the course.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was 3.36, indicating a strong performance across the board.
  • Scoring 5: 11.5% of students achieved the top score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: Impressively, 83.6 of students scored 3 or higher.

The curriculum of AP 2D Art & Design is focused on:

  • Creative Expression: Students are encouraged to develop their unique artistic voice.
  • Technical Skills: Mastery of 2D design principles and techniques is emphasized.
  • Portfolio Development: A significant component involves creating a portfolio that showcases a range of works.

This course's blend of creativity, skill development, and portfolio creation makes it an accessible and highly rewarding choice for students inclined towards visual arts.

5 - Calculus BC

AP Calculus BC is renowned for its comprehensive coverage of advanced calculus topics. Despite its challenging curriculum, the course statistics from 2023 reveal its accessibility:

  • Total Students: A substantial 135,458 students enrolled in the course.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was an impressive 3.75, showing strong student performance.
  • Scoring 5: A remarkable 43.5% of students earned the top score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: An overwhelming 78.5% of students scored 3 or higher.

AP Calculus BC covers:

  • Advanced Integrals and Derivatives: Deep dive into complex calculus concepts.
  • Series and Sequences: Comprehensive exploration of convergence and divergence.
  • Polar Coordinates and Parametric Equations: Extending calculus to new coordinate systems.

The high mean score and significant percentage of students scoring 5 reflect the course's effective curriculum and students' adeptness at handling advanced mathematical concepts. These elements contribute to its unexpected accessibility.

Number of test takers of the top 10 easiest AP subjects

Graph showing number of students who gave the AP exams of the top 10 easiest subjects

Dr Zhen Shao, (PhD Mathematics), a lecturer at the University of Oxford, said the following:

"In my experience, I've seen students get intimidated by Calculus BC at the start because it has more advanced units, only to discover it's much more manageable and enjoyable than they expected. Around 80% of the students clearing the exam this year is just remarkable!"

6 - English Literature & Composition

AP English Literature and Composition is a course that dives deep into the analysis of literary texts from various periods. The 2023 data for this AP course are insightful:

  • Total Students: 356,043 students undertook this challenging yet rewarding course.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was 3.26, a testament to the students' solid understanding of complex literary concepts.
  • Scoring 5: 14.9% of students achieved the highest score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: 77.2% of students scored 3 or higher, indicating a majority found success in the course.

The curriculum emphasizes:

  • Critical Analysis: Developing skills to interpret and analyze literary works.
  • Diverse Literary Works: Studying a range of texts from different historical periods and genres.
  • Writing Skills: Enhancing the ability to write clear, analytical essays.

The course's structure aims to cultivate a deep appreciation of literature while developing critical thinking and writing skills, as reflected in the considerable percentage of students scoring 3 or higher.

7 - Japanese Language and Culture

AP Japanese Language and Culture is a course designed for students to not only learn the language but also to immerse themselves in Japan's rich cultural heritage. The 2023 AP exam statistics highlight its approachability:

  • Total Students: The number of students enrolled was 3,089.
  • Mean Score: The mean score of 3.72 is indicative of the overall performance level.
  • Scoring 5: The 50.8% of students achieving a score of 5 reflects the course's manageability.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: The proportion of 76.9% students scoring 3 or higher is a key indicator of success in the course.

The curriculum of this course focuses on:

  • Language Proficiency: Developing skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in Japanese.
  • Cultural Understanding: Gaining insights into Japanese traditions, history, and contemporary society.
  • Practical Application: Emphasizing the use of Japanese in real-world scenarios.

This course's balance of language education and cultural studies makes it an enriching and accessible option for students interested in exploring Japanese language and culture. Unfortunately, specific statistics were not available in the provided document.

8 - Chemistry

AP Chemistry is a course that challenges students with its rigorous curriculum covering a broad range of chemical concepts. The 2023 statistics for AP Chemistry are as follows:

  • Total Students: A significant number of 139,448 students took the exam.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was 3.26, suggesting a solid understanding of the subject by the student cohort.
  • Scoring 5: 16.0% of students achieved the top score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: A notable 75.1% of students scored 3 or higher.

The course focuses on:

  • Fundamental Concepts: Understanding the basic principles of chemistry.
  • Laboratory Skills: Developing hands-on experience through lab work.
  • Analytical Thinking: Applying chemical knowledge to solve complex problems.

These statistics reflect the course's challenging nature but also its attainability, as evidenced by the high percentage of students scoring 3 or higher.

9 - French Language and Culture

AP French Language and Culture is a course that combines the intricacies of language learning with an immersive cultural experience. The statistics from the 2023 exam session provide insights into its approachability:

  • Total Students: A substantial number of students, 18,655, took the exam.
  • Mean Score: The mean score was 3.21, indicating a high level of proficiency among the students.
  • Scoring 5: 13.2% of students achieved the highest score of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: A significant 74.7% of students scored 3 or higher, reflecting a good understanding of the course material.

Key aspects of the curriculum include:

  • Language Proficiency: Emphasis on developing advanced skills in French communication.
  • Cultural Literacy: Learning about French-speaking cultures, including literature, history, and contemporary issues.
  • Real-World Application: The course often involves using French in practical, real-life scenarios.

This blend of linguistic and cultural education, as evidenced by the encouraging exam results, makes AP French Language and Culture a popular and accessible choice for students.

10 - Physics C: Mechanics

AP Physics C: Mechanics is a course that delves into the principles of mechanics, providing a solid foundation in physics for students. The 2023 exam data reflects its challenging yet manageable nature:

  • Total Students: 55,602 students took the exam, a testament to its popularity.
  • Mean Score: The course had a mean score of 3.40, suggesting a strong grasp of physics concepts by students.
  • Scoring 5: An impressive 26.4% of students scored the highest mark of 5.
  • % Scoring 3 or Higher: A remarkable 73.5% of students scored 3 or higher.

The curriculum covers essential topics such as:

  • Kinematics and Dynamics: Understanding motion and forces.
  • Energy and Momentum: Delving into work, energy, and the conservation of momentum.
  • Rotation and Gravitation: Exploring rotational motion and gravitational forces.

AP Physics C: Mechanics is known for its rigorous content but, as the statistics show, is highly achievable for students committed to understanding the fundamentals of physics.

Mean scores of the 10 easiest AP courses

Table showing mean scores of the 10 easiest AP subjects

Is it easy to get a 5 in AP?

Achieving the top score of 5 on an AP exam is a significant accomplishment that requires a comprehensive understanding of the course material. The ease of obtaining this score varies by subject and student:

  • Course Difficulty: Some AP courses have higher rates of students scoring 5, indicating varying levels of challenge across subjects.
  • Student Preparation: A strong grasp of the content, effective study habits, help from online resources such as AP study notes, AP tutoring, along with AP-style questions practice can help you achieve this score.
  • Exam Performance: Excelling in both the multiple-choice and free-response sections is essential for a top score.

Data shows that courses like AP Calculus BC and AP Chinese Language and Culture often see higher percentages of students achieving a score of 5, but this is not universal across all AP subjects. Ultimately, scoring a 5 is challenging and requires dedication, thorough preparation, and a deep understanding of the course content.

Conclusion: Making the Right Choice for Your Academic Path

Selecting the right AP courses is a critical step in shaping your high school experience and future academic journey. While this guide has explored what are considered the top 10 easiest AP courses based on statistics and data, the ultimate choice should hinge on more than just perceived ease. It's essential to factor in your personal interests, strengths, and academic aspirations. What might be easy for one student could be challenging for another, and vice versa. Success in AP classes is largely influenced by your dedication, study habits, and genuine interest in the subject matter. The most beneficial AP course for you is one that not only aligns with your future goals but also challenges and engages you, fostering both personal and academic growth. Remember, the aim is to build a foundation that prepares you for college and beyond, making each course selection a pivotal part of your educational pathway.


What are the easiest AP courses for STEM students?

For STEM-oriented students, AP courses like Calculus BC, Statistics, and Environmental Science are often considered easier. These courses focus more on practical application and problem-solving, which aligns well with the analytical skills typically found in STEM students. However, 'easy' is subjective and depends on each student's strengths and interests.

Are there online resources for AP course preparation?

Yes, there are numerous online resources available for both AP tests and course preparation. Websites like Coursera and the College Board's own AP Classroom offer comprehensive materials, including lectures, practice tests, and study guides. Additionally, many educational forums and YouTube channels provide valuable insights and tips for AP exams.

How many AP courses should I take for college readiness?

The ideal number of AP courses varies depending on the student's capabilities and college goals. Generally, competitive colleges look for students who challenge themselves, so taking 3-5 AP courses throughout high school can demonstrate academic rigor. It's important to balance course load with extracurricular activities and personal well-being.

Can I take AP exams without enrolling in the course?

Yes, students can take AP exams without enrolling in the corresponding AP course. This is common for students who have studied the material independently or have covered it in non-AP classes. However, self-study requires discipline and a thorough understanding of the exam content and format.

What is the least passed AP class?

The least passed AP class often varies from year to year. However, historically, some of the more challenging AP class with lower pass rate is AP Physics 1 which tops the list of top 10 hardest AP courses. These subjects require a strong foundation in mathematics and science, making them more challenging for many students.

Is AP Biology easy?

AP Biology, with a 59.4% pass rate in 2023, presents a moderate challenge. It covers a wide range of topics, from cellular biology to ecology, requiring both memorization and understanding of complex concepts. Students with strong study habits and an interest in science tend to do the well, but it's not typically considered one of the 'easiest' AP courses​​.

Is AP Psychology easy?

AP Psychology is often perceived as one of the more accessible AP courses. It focuses on concepts and terminology in psychology, which are generally straightforward to grasp. The content is less technical compared to other AP sciences or math courses, making it a popular choice for students looking for an engaging yet manageable AP subject.

What are the most APs taken as a freshman?

Freshmen typically take 1 or 2 AP courses, often starting with subjects that align with their strengths and interests. Common choices include English Language & Comp, English Literature & Comp and United States History. However, the number and type of AP courses vary based on the school's offerings and the student's readiness.

How many APs for top schools?

Top universities don't specify a required number of AP courses, but competitive applicants often have 5 to 8 AP classes throughout high school. These schools look for rigor and depth in academic coursework. However, quality over quantity is key; it's crucial to maintain strong grades and balance with extracurricular commitments.

Is a 4 too low on an AP exam?

A score of 4 on an AP exam is considered very good and is well above the global average. Most colleges and universities in the United States award college credit for scores of 4 and 5, and some may even for a 3. A 4 demonstrates a strong understanding of the subject matter.

Is AP actually college level?

AP courses are designed to emulate the rigor of college-level courses and are recognized by colleges for their challenging curriculum. They cover extensive material at a faster pace than typical high school courses and include comprehensive exams. Success in AP courses is often a good indicator of readiness for college academics.

Is AP Bio or Chem easier?

The perceived difficulty between AP Biology and AP Chemistry varies. Statistically, AP Chemistry is considered easier due to it's higher mean score as well as passing rate. AP Biology focuses more on concepts and large amounts of content, while AP Chemistry involves complex problem-solving and mathematical applications. Students' preferences between memorization (Biology) and problem-solving (Chemistry) often determine which is easier for them.

What is the least popular AP class?

The least popular AP class changes year to year based on student interest and school offerings. Historically, subjects like AP Latin, AP Japanese Language and Culture and AP Studio Art: 3-D Design have had fewer enrollments compared to more common courses like AP English and AP History classes.

What is the lowest AP exam 5 rate?

Based on the 2023 AP exam data, AP Physics 1 had one of the lowest rate of only 8.8% of students scoring a 5, indicating its difficulty level. The course's focus on conceptual understanding and application of principles in physics makes it challenging for many students, resulting in fewer top scores​​.

Is 10 AP classes enough?

Ten AP classes can be enough for competitive college applications, especially if they align with your interests and strengths. However, focus on maintaining a strong GPA and a balanced schedule with extracurricular activities, rather than just the number of AP courses.

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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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