What AP Classes Should I Take? Guide To Pick The Right AP Classes.

According to the College Board, nearly 1.7 million high school students took Advanced Placement (AP) courses in 2009. That number increased to roughly 2.8 million ten years later.

A growing number of students sign up for AP courses to increase their chances of getting into college and to receive college credit while still in high school. These classes could be difficult. But many students find that the difficulty of AP classes is worthwhile.

Planning your high school schedule to include AP classes can be challenging. How many AP courses exist? How many AP courses should you enroll in? What AP classes should you take?

What Are AP Classes?

Students can receive college credit for taking high school courses through the College Board’s AP program. English, social science, math, and many languages are among the 38 subjects students can enroll in AP classes.

The appropriate AP exam for their topic is taken by pupils at the end of the school year, earning them college credit. But only some schools provide AP courses.

For several reasons, high school students enroll in AP courses. Students can save time and money by earning credit for their college degrees by passing the AP exams, to start with.

Students pay one exam fee instead of a class’s college tuition. Similarly to this, AP credits enable students to forego introductory courses once they enroll in college.

Lastly, these courses assist high school students in getting into selective schools. An AP course demonstrates to institutions that a candidate can finish college-level work. Learn more about the college application process.

On a scale of 1 to 5, the College Board rates AP exams. A group of AP teachers and college academics who specialize in the subject area score these exams. Many universities give credit for scores of 3 or higher, which the College Board deems to be a passing grade.

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Choosing Your AP Courses

Every year in May, AP tests are given and typically include both a multiple-choice and a free-response section. 

AP classes are best suited for students in their junior and senior years, although depending on your school’s rules, you can start earlier. 

Some schools limit the number of AP classes any student may enroll in, and the year they may be taking. 

To browse and plan which classes would be best for you, research your school’s policies online or speak with your counselor.

Know Which Courses Your School Offers

The College Board offers ‌38 AP courses. Most colleges provide a variety of disciplines, so you have options even if your school does not offer all of them. Discover how many APs most students at your school take and decide how many you should sign up for to stand out. 

The College Board offers the following AP courses, listed alphabetically below:

  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese Language & Culture
  • Comparative Government & Politics
  • Computer Science A
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • Environmental Science
  • European History
  • French Language & Culture
  • German Language & Culture
  • Human Geography
  • Italian Language & Culture
  • Japanese Language and Culture
  • Latin
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Music Theory
  • Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism
  • Physics C: Mechanics
  • Psychology
  • Research
  • Seminar
  • Spanish Language & Culture
  • Spanish Literature & Culture
  • Statistics
  • Studio Art: 2-D Design
  • Studio Art: 3-D Design
  • Studio Art: Drawing
  • U.S. Government & Politics
  • U.S. History
  • World History

How Scoring Works

They digitally grade the AP examinations’ multiple-choice sections. According to their areas of expertise, seasoned AP teachers and college academics grade the free-response portions.

For free-response questions, a Chief Reader for each exam determines grading criteria and is always a professor from a university. The cutoff scores for AP grades depend on many variables:

  • How many students over the past three years obtained each AP grade?
  • how well students performed on the test’s multiple-choice questions and other components
  • How the examiners rated the free-response questions’ overall quality of answers
  • How did college students who took the test as part of an experiment fare

The scores are reported on a 5-point scale at the end of July:

5 = Extremely well qualified

4 = Well qualified

3 = Qualified

2 = Possibly qualified

1 = No recommendation 

While top colleges aim for higher scores or don’t provide credit, some universities accept a three or above to grant college credit. 

You should strive for those 5s because they could compare to an A in college. However, you should note that colleges have been awarding fewer and fewer advanced credits for AP courses, as many institutions believe that AP courses do not equal college-level course quality. 

Sometimes, they require students who use their AP credits for college credit to take fewer classes and graduate sooner. Restricting AP credit is seen by colleges as a way to maintain a particular level of tuition and income. 

Even colleges that do not grant credit may utilize AP scores to determine where students should be placed in certain courses. This can be your best choice if you are a top student and wish to skip lower-level prerequisites.

Also, read this: 10 Benefits of Taking AP Classes in High School | Pros and Cons

What are the Strategic Tips for Choosing AP Classes?

How do you select your AP courses from the large selection to ensure you can study to the best of your ability and earn those 5s? Below are some suggestions to assist you in reducing your options:

  • Consider Previous Courses – Often, honors-level courses in the same subject areas are required, or you must achieve a certain GPA or grade to be eligible for AP classes. Therefore, be careful to base your AP course selection on the subjects you performed exceptionally well in during your first or second year. Take AP Literature if you’ve found that you’re remarkably good at English. Take that as a sign that you might achieve well in AP Physics if physics was your most vital subject!
  • Consider Your Future Plans–This is essential when choosing advanced high school courses. What subject do you intend to major in when you enter college? Do you have a career goal? What academic fields are you most interested in? You may choose the route you want to go by asking these questions to yourself. You will undoubtedly require AP Calculus to demonstrate your aptitude to admissions officers if you intend to major in a STEM discipline in college. A smart place to start is by taking AP Biology and AP Chemistry if you want to attend medical school eventually.
  • Avoid attempting to self-study for AP tests. Taking only the AP examinations you have registered for at your school is crucial. Try not to self-study; extra points are typically not regarded as time well spent. You won’t stand out with even a few more extra 5-star ratings. Using that time to make a difference in your neighborhood would be far preferable. Additionally, since your professors have much experience, studying with an instructor will help you learn more quickly and effectively. Also, do you still have those letters of recommendation? If your teachers haven’t directly taught you, they can’t write them. You should choose the courses you are most interested in taking to perform well on your tests at your school.
  • Utilize the tenth grade – In some high schools; you can choose your AP classes as early as the tenth or ninth grade. Even while you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself at this point, enrolling in one or two early AP courses might be beneficial to get a taste of what’s to come without the stress of upcoming college applications. Your sophomore year is a beautiful time to complete one of the three popular AP science classes—Physics, Chemistry, and Biology—if you intend to take all three. Or you might try enrolling in the tenth grade if you want to study AP World History or AP European History. To carefully arrange your course load, discuss which is best for you early on with your counselor.
  • Don’t Put It Off – There’s no need to cram all your AP subjects into your final year, as you can take them in different high school years. You’ll be occupied attempting to draft your statement and putting a lot of effort into extracurricular activities. So, utilize all of your options and distribute those APs. If you can, select a few students in the tenth grade, a select group in the eleventh, and the remainder in the twelfth. Colleges understand that you are a human being and do not anticipate that you will have taken 10 AP classes in your final year. Additionally, your performance will improve if you have fewer exams to prepare for each year.
  • Maintain Balance: Balance is vital when choosing your courses and dividing out your AP classes over the years. Colleges are interested in knowing if you succeed in your chosen subject and learning about your abilities in other fields. What better way to prove that than by performing exceptionally well on your AP exams? For instance, you should undoubtedly achieve high scores in AP US History and AP World History if you plan to major in history. 

How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

Your objectives will determine how many AP courses you should enroll in. Take your potential colleges’ level of competition, for instance. The more AP classes you want to take, the more selective the school.

Many scholarships also pay attention to students who push themselves academically by enrolling in AP programs.

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For Highly Competitive Colleges and Universities

You can demonstrate to the admissions offices that you can take challenging courses if you wish to apply to some of the most competitive colleges in the country. 

Students occasionally enroll in seven, eight, or even up to 12 AP classes during their senior year of high school in preparation for applying to some of the best colleges. Selective state colleges may also prefer applicants with 4-6 AP classes.

By receiving an AP Scholar Award, you can further improve your transcript. The recipients of these prizes “have demonstrated exemplary college-level achievement on AP exams.” Students who score well on several examinations may be eligible for an AP Scholar Award.

For Less Competitive Colleges

Although they would not be necessary or expected, less selective colleges might be delighted to discover AP coursework on applicants’ transcripts. However, taking these classes can still increase your chances of getting accepted, especially if you pass at least 2-4 examinations.

Additionally, taking AP classes might benefit you in other ways, like developing your study habits. You might be eligible for scholarships to help with part of the college costs, or you could use AP classes to get college credit.

For Scholarships

Multiple AP classes can benefit you even if you decide not to apply to the most elite universities in the nation. Many scholarship committees award money by merit. They enjoy seeing high school students push themselves intellectually.

According to College Board research, 31% of universities consider students’ AP achievements when awarding scholarships. Therefore, completing numerous AP subjects could lower your college expenses.

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When Should I Take AP Classes?

Students frequently used the first year of high school to lay a foundation and become used to the more challenging coursework. Many freshmen want to ease into high school before enrolling in AP subjects. In some schools, they don’t offer ninth graders AP subjects.

As an alternative, students usually begin by enrolling in 1-3 AP classes during their sophomore year, starting with some of the easier classes. After that, they might accelerate their junior year by enrolling in more challenging courses. These programs can improve your academic record and raise your GPA.

Your junior year is the ideal time to make a strong impression because your senior year is when you’ll submit college applications. Don’t let up, though, as you enter your senior year. 

The amount of college credit you receive can still be impacted by your AP test results, even if specific AP courses have less impact on college admissions choices.

Furthermore, try to balance your AP classes, honors classes, extracurricular activities, SAT/ACT preparation, volunteer work, and other personal obligations without over-committing yourself.

Are there Alternatives for AP?

Many states provide alternatives to the AP. In certain jurisdictions, for instance, the Running Start program enables high school students to obtain college credit by enrolling in college classes at nearby community colleges.

The Running Start program was first implemented in Washington State and currently runs in Hawaii, Montana, Illinois, and New Hampshire. The dual-credit classes award college credits and count toward high school graduation requirements.

So, to take an AP exam, keep in mind that you do not need to register for an official AP course. Even if their schools don’t offer AP programs on that topic, students can take an AP exam and get credits for passing grades.

Lastly, high school students can still stand out in their college applications without receiving AP credit.

Related post: Which are Better: Honors Vs. AP Classes In High School? | Best Guides

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does taking an AP class require you to sit for the exam?

Usually, you can enroll in a non-AP course without taking the associated exam. However, to earn college credit, you must take a test. A strong exam performance might also aid with college applications. To ensure that you are adequately prepared, taking the course before the exam is also advisable.

When should AP courses be taken?

Some high school students might be eligible to enroll in AP classes their first year, although most wait until their sophomore year. Typically, students take most AP courses in their junior and senior years.

How many AP courses are required for Harvard?

Although AP coursework is not required at Harvard, the typical new student has taken eight AP classes. If you want to get into Harvard, keep in mind that the admissions office considers many different variables, so you shouldn’t rely just on your AP coursework.

Is there a maximum number of AP classes you can enroll in?

The College Board does not cap the number of AP classes you can enroll in, but certain restrictions may exist. For instance, not all AP classes may be offered at your institution. You could need help with some subjects. And if you sign up for too many courses, you could become overburdened.


Whatever AP coursework you choose, it’s crucial that you enroll in classes that will push you to achieve your best. Consider your future ambitions, your strongest areas, and how to maintain balance by demonstrating a depth of understanding in various subjects while selecting your AP classes. 

Don’t choose anything at random. Choose the classes that will benefit you the best to help you get to the top of the applicant pool by trying to predict which subjects would be helpful to you when you’re going through the Common App in a few years.



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