What Are the Easiest AP Classes and Tests?

What Are the Easiest AP Classes and Tests?

By Megan Whitenton

Published on August 31, 2021

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Several factors can help determine which AP classes are the easiest and hardest. These factors include a student's academic strengths and weaknesses and the volume and nature of the course material.

Keep in mind that identifying easy AP courses is a subjective process. Students tend to do well in classes where they excel and have great interest in the subject matter.

While no single statistic can fully indicate the level of difficulty of an AP class, a high pass rate provides a starting point for narrowing course options. Students also can explore subjects of interest, self-study classes, and quick study courses while looking for the easiest AP classes.

Top 10 Easiest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate

Students can look at a variety of factors when exploring which AP classes might be easiest. Exam pass rates and perfect score rates can be instructive values to consider when trying to determine the difficulty of a given class.

As shown below, classes with higher percentages of students earning a passing score of 3 or above and a top score of 5 on the exam may be viewed as relatively "easy" by test-takers.

Note that we excluded AP Seminar, AP Research, and AP Art and Design classes since these are specialized and portfolio-based instead of exam-based. AP Art and Design classes are intended for students experienced in developing a portfolio over time — not novices or newcomers. We also excluded AP Language classes from consideration because students may take language courses across multiple years or may be native speakers.

AP Class/Exam* Pass Rate (3+) Perfect Score (5)
1. Physics C: Mechanics 84.3% 41.6%
2. Calculus BC 81.6% 44.6%
3. Spanish Literature 75.1% 17.6%
4. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 74.4% 40.4%
5. Physics 2 73.3% 14.0%
6. Computer Science Principles 71.6% 10.9%
7. Psychology 71.3% 22.4%
8. Computer Science A 70.4% 25.6%
9. Comparative Government and Politics 70.2% 24.4%
10. Music Theory 69.2% 24.2%

Source: College Board, May 2020
*Excludes AP Seminar, AP Research, AP Art and Design, and AP Language Exams

1. Physics C: Mechanics

Students with an aptitude in math and science may be naturally suited to this course. The typical Physics C: Mechanics student is not only academically gifted but well prepared for the exam. This results in a very high pass rate and a perfect score rate above 40%.

AP Physics C: Mechanics is recommended for students planning to pursue a physics, math, or engineering degree, as is Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. This class combines hands-on labs with coursework in topics like kinematics, Newton's laws, and systems of particles and linear momentum.

2. Calculus BC

AP Calculus BC has earned a reputation as an easy AP course because many of its students master the material. Most AP Calculus BC students perform at an advanced level — at least one year ahead of their high school class in math — helping them achieve a high pass rate.

The course covers college-level differential and integral calculus concepts and functions. The exam lasts for roughly three hours and includes both multiple-choice and free-range questions. It is administered both in person and in a digital format.

3. Spanish Literature

AP Spanish Literature coursework is often easier for students fluent in the language. Native speakers can earn "easy" college credit through this course, contributing to a high pass rate; however, literary analysis can still prove difficult for some students, even if they are fluent.

Course content typically explores six major Spanish literary themes and reading comprehension. The exam consists of two sections of multiple-choice questions and a free-response section, which includes a text-based prompt and essay questions.

4. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

Often paired with Physics C: Mechanics, this course is a good choice for students planning to enroll in a college-level math or engineering program. Like other advanced exams, however, AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism boasts an especially high pass rate in part because it is self-selective — students who sit for this exam have typically taken multiple physics classes.

Rooted in calculus, this course explores topics like force interactions, change, and conservation. Coursework also includes hands-on labs. The exam covers five weighted content units, including electromagnetism, magnetic fields, and conductors, capacitors, and dielectrics.

5. Physics 2

Compared to other AP Physics courses, Physics 2 is longer (a year instead of six months) and based in algebra, not calculus. The ability to spend more time on different topics may help students become more familiar with the material, which may be partially responsible for the relatively high pass rate.

The AP Physics 2 course curriculum includes at least 25% hands-on, lab-based coursework. The three-hour Physics 2 exam has both multiple-choice and free-response questions covering topics like experimental design, mathematical solutions, and quantitative/qualitative translation.

6. Computer Science Principles

Aspiring computer science majors interested in mastering broad computing concepts often pursue this course. AP Computer Science Principles can be considered an easier AP class because it features digestible study requirements.

The course culminates in a multiple-choice exam, which counts for 70% of a student's overall score. Additionally, the test requires a "performance task" component, during which students must develop a computer program within 12 hours.

7. Psychology

AP Psychology maintains its reputation as an "easy" course due to its relatively uncomplicated course content. Students complete projects, tests, and quizzes throughout the year as they prepare for the exam.

Students can take the AP Psychology exam on paper or in a digital format. The two-hour exam features a combination of multiple-choice questions and a free-response section, and covers content like psychological case studies, theory, and quantitative data.

8. Computer Science A

With only a slightly lower pass rate than AP Computer Science Principles, AP Computer Science A develops students' understanding of Java programming languages, including writing, testing, and analyzing code. This course is known as the "old standard" among aspiring computer science majors.

The exam spans three hours and includes multiple-choice and free-response sections. Students can take the exam on paper or in a digital format. Topics covered include writing program code, method and control structures, and 2D arrays.

9. Comparative Government and Politics

AP Comparative Government and Politics compares and contrasts the governmental systems of countries like China, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The curriculum touches lightly on each of these governments. Many students find the coursework less rigorous than that of the AP U.S. Government class.

The course and exam explore subjects such as political institutions, party and electoral systems, and political culture and participation. The 2.5-hour exam is available in paper and digital formats and consists of both multiple-choice and free-response questions.

10. Music Theory

AP Music Theory is typically an easier course for established music students. Aspiring music composers and instrumentalists tend to find AP Music Theory coursework easy.

The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and a free-response written section. It also includes a sight-singing component that's worth 10% of your score. The exam lasts two hours and 40 minutes and must be completed at a school or proctored location.

Factors That Affect Which AP Classes Are Easiest

While many factors affect which AP classes are easiest, this classification is highly subjective. We referenced statistics like the pass rates and perfect score rates to identify potentially easy AP classes.

Although these numbers can be influenced by factors directly related to the AP class and exam, such as the volume and depth of course material, they also depend on things like the quality of the teacher and the typical student's previous experience with that subject.

AP exams should be challenging to adequately test for college-level skills. As a result, an easy AP class does not always mean an easy AP exam. Exams that rely heavily on memorization may prove easier for some students, while exams that ask students to justify their reasoning by writing essays may be easier for others. Individual teachers may also implement unique teaching or scoring styles in the classroom.

Generally, a high pass rate indicates an increased likelihood of a favorable outcome for students considering that AP course. Nevertheless, the pass rate is just one of many variables worth considering.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Easiest AP Classes

What is the easiest AP Physics class? true

While the process of identifying easy AP classes is subjective, looking at the pass rate may help students assess the potential difficulty. According to the table above, more than 84% of students passed the Physics C: Mechanics exam in May 2020. Based on this result, a large number of test-takers might classify this course as being easy.

Is it hard to pass AP classes? true

Many high school students find AP classes challenging, especially if they aren't already familiar with the subject at hand. That said, students who prepare accordingly and set aside enough time to study and complete course material can position themselves for success.

Can I take an AP test without taking classes? true

Yes. Students can access test guides and sample tests that outline the subjects required to pass the exam. Taking the class is not required to take or pass the test. However, self-study is not always easy and requires additional discipline, time, and determination.

What are the easiest AP courses to self-study for? true

Students commonly self-study for classes like AP Psychology, AP Environmental Science, and AP Human Geography. The exams for these subjects are relatively short and generally require little to no prior knowledge of the subject matter. This favors students who can learn the vocabulary and memorize the material.

Feature Image: Peter Cade / Stone / Getty Images

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