Is AP Macroeconomics Hard? A Complete 2022 Guide

Several factors help determine the difficulty of an AP course and exam. Learn about the pass rate, perfect score, and course material for AP Macroeconomics.

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by Marisa Upson

Updated April 7, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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Is AP Macroeconomics Hard? A Complete 2022 Guide


In AP Macroeconomics, you learn about the economy on a broad scale. Students interested in accounting, finance, public policy, economics, and business administration may find this course helps prepare them for their college studies. For many, the goal is to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both.

Several key factors help determine the difficulty of AP classes and tests. These include the pass rate, exam score, content difficulty, and your academic strengths. According to the College Board, 122,639 students took the AP Macroeconomics exam in 2020, and 63.2% received a passing score of 3 or higher.

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What Does AP Macroeconomics Cover?

AP Macroeconomics focuses on the economies of countries and the world at large. The course starts with basic economic concepts like supply and demand and focuses on national income and price-level determination. Students also learn about the key economic performance indicators, including inflation, unemployment, and gross domestic product.

The course also covers topics like fiscal and monetary policy, the central bank's control of the money supply, and producing long-run economic growth. Students gain an understanding of economic principles, models, and outcomes, and how to use graphs and visuals to model economic situations.

Commonly, the course content includes the following topics:

What Determines the Difficulty of AP Macroeconomics? 3 Key Factors

A good place to start when determining the difficulty of AP Macroeconomics is the pass and perfect score rates. Other key indicators include the course's curriculum and your academic strengths. Consider asking yourself these five questions before taking an AP class.

The Pass Rate

Students must receive a score of 3 or higher to pass AP exams. The pass rate refers to the percentage of students who obtained 3 or better, while the perfect score reflects the percentage of students who received the top score of 5.

The following chart reveals that the AP Macroeconomics pass rate is about 8% lower than the average for all AP exams, while the number that achieved the perfect score aligns with the average. These numbers suggest that AP Macroeconomics falls into the slightly harder than average range.

AP Macroeconomics Exam Pass Rates
AP Class/Exam Pass Rate (3 or Higher) Perfect Score (5)
AP Macroeconomics 63.2% 19.7%
All AP Classes 71.13% 19.57%

Source: College Board

Keep in mind that several other factors play a considerable role in how you do on this exam. These include the strength of the teacher and school. If the class consistently demonstrates low pass rates, it may allude to experience level of the teacher. Of course, self-study can fill in the gaps.

The Course Material

For many students, this course is their first introduction to economics. This may mean that, while not overly complex, it requires studying and learning new concepts.

The good news is that the course starts with the basics and builds from there. Taking the time to grasp the concepts as the class progresses can help develop the knowledge required to pass this exam. Additionally, you'll cover less material when compared to content-heavy courses like AP U.S. History.

Your Subject Skills

Your academic strengths and background knowledge carry a bit of weight when determining the difficulty level of an AP course and exam. In AP Macroeconomics, students use charts, graphs, and data to explain economic concepts. They may also determine economic outcomes based on certain situations.

This type of exam requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. If you consider these your strong suits, you may find this exam easier than others.

When Should You Take AP Macroeconomics?

Students typically take AP Macroeconomics in their senior year, though some students may choose to take it in their junior year. If you take easier AP courses in your sophomore or junior year, you may feel more prepared for this advanced course.

Taking an AP course in your senior year means that you'll need to study during a very busy time. Take into account your schedule and extracurricular activities when deciding which AP classes to pursue.

That said, if you're aiming for a highly selective school, admissions may expect to see at least 3-5 AP classes. Some students take AP Macroeconomics in the fall and AP Microeconomics in the spring.

AP Macroeconomics Exam: What You Need to Know

According to the chart below, 19.7% of students who took the AP Macroeconomics exam in 2020 received the top score of 5, and 63.2% passed the test with a score of 3 or better. This places the AP Macroeconomics exam in the medium-difficulty level. Knowing what to expect can help you direct your studies and manage your time.

AP Macroeconomics
Exam Score Number of Students Percentage of Students
5 24,176 19.7%
4 30,667 25.0%
3 22,715 18.5%
2 19,894 16.2%
1 25,187 20.5%

Source: College Board

How Is the AP Macroeconomics Exam Structured?

The AP Macroeconomics exam contains the following two sections:

The multiple-choice questions make up a little over 66% of the exam score. About one-fifth of these questions involve analyzing data or performing calculations. This section requires knowledge of economic principles and models and determining economic outcomes when given certain situations.

The free-response questions consist of one long-response question that carries 50% of the section's score and two short-response questions. These questions may include visual data displays or graphs, essays, or an economic problem requiring a solution.

How Is the AP Macroeconomics Exam Scored?

AP exams are scored on a scale of 1-5. A score of 3 translates to a college course grade of B-, C+, or C. An exam score of 5 equals an A or A+. Students must receive a score of 3 to pass.

The 60 multiple-choice questions make up about 66% of the exam score. You have just over a minute to answer each question. The free-response section is equally divided between a long question and two short questions with a time limit of 60 minutes. Students who struggle with essays may find this section more challenging.

How the AP Macroeconomics Exam is Scored
Section 1 66.65%
Multiple-Choice Questions 66.65%
Section 2 33.35%
Free-Response Long Question 16.675%
Free-Response Short Questions (2) 16.675%

Source: College Board

AP Macroeconomics: What Score Do I Need for College Credit?

Your AP score may earn you college credit, advanced placement, or both. Advanced placement allows you to skip certain courses.

The minimum score required to earn college credits or advanced placement ranges from 3-5. Of the 1,999 colleges listed in the College Board, 1,451 required a minimum passing score of 3. Some colleges also require higher scores if the credit meets a student's course requirement for their major. A few colleges do not award credits for AP exams.

Should I Take AP Macroeconomics?

When deciding which AP classes to take, consider your interests and potential major. If your interests lie in the fields of economics, business, or finance, AP Macroeconomics may get you further along in your college studies.

If you know which colleges you'll be applying to, make sure to check their policies regarding AP classes and granting college credits or advanced placement.

Additionally, asking fellow students and teachers about the AP Macroeconomics class at your school can give you a clue about the difficulty level and how well the teacher prepares students for the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP Macroeconomics

Is AP Macroeconomics worth taking?

Taking AP Macroeconomics helps you understand the economic principles and outcomes that shape the world's economy. Additionally, you learn essential skills like problem-solving and using graphs and data to analyze economic concepts. These skills can translate to real-world applications and shape political viewpoints.

AP courses also look good on your college application. Earning a score of 3 or better may also qualify you for advanced placement, making an AP class worth taking. However, it's important to consider your schedule, academic strengths, and your school's passing rate to make sure you can earn a good score on the exam.

Is AP Macroeconomics harder than AP Microeconomics?

In 2020, 82,415 students took the AP Microeconomics exam. Of these, 68.9% received a passing score of 3 or better and 23.3% earned a score of 5.

In comparison, 122,639 students took the AP Macroeconomics test, and 63.2% received a 3 or better, while 19.7% earned the top score. These figures suggest that AP Macroeconomics may be slightly harder.

However, you should consider several other criteria. For example, if you possess strong math skills, you may enjoy the mathematical relationships more common to micro models. Conversely, if your strong suits lie in history and government, macro may be easier for you due to the political and economic theories.

Do colleges care about AP Macroeconomics?

For students considering a major in business, economics, finance, and public policy, taking and earning a high score on the AP Macroeconomics exam can demonstrate your level of commitment. Additionally, AP courses on your transcript lets colleges know you took the most challenging classes available.

On the other hand, AP Macroeconomics may not correspond to the content in a college course as readily as courses like AP Calculus and AP Biology. This may make it more difficult to earn credits or advanced placement. It's a good idea to check AP requirements if you know which colleges you hope to attend.

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