Is AP Microeconomics Hard? A Complete Guide

Thinking about taking AP Microeconomics but want to learn more about what to expect? Keep reading for an insider's look at the AP Microeconomics exam.
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  • AP Microeconomics is a great choice for those interested in studying economics, business, or finance in college.
  • Microeconomics requires knowledge of calculus, which makes some students say it is more difficult than macroeconomics.
  • Students must earn a score of at least three to pass, though some schools require a four or five.

CollegeBoard reported that 73,461 students took the AP Microeconomics exam in 2021, with 20% receiving a perfect score of five and a combined 60% scored a three or higher. Many students considering taking AP Microeconomics wonder whether the exam is hard and if they should take this course or an easier one.

Microeconomics may not be one of the hardest AP subjects, but students need to make sure they are prepared before enrolling. Keep reading to get answers to common questions about the AP Microeconomics exam and develop a test-taking strategy. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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What Does AP Microeconomics Cover?

Designed to mimic an introductory college-level microeconomics course, AP Microeconomics covers income distributions, scarcity and markets, production choices and behaviors, and market inefficiency and public policy.

AP Microeconomics takes a close look at principles of economics, unlike its counterpart AP Macroeconomics, which offers a more big-picture view. Learners also become familiar with using data to analyze economic concepts. Units included in this class include:

  • Basic Economic Concepts
  • Supply and Demand
  • Production, Cost, and the Perfect Competition Model
  • Imperfect Competition
  • Factor Markets
  • Market Failure and the Role of Government

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What Determines the Difficulty of AP Microeconomics? 3 Key Factors

Before enrolling in AP Microeconomics, students must assess the difficulty of this course and make an informed decision about whether it's a good fit for their abilities and academic ambitions.

The Pass Rate

As the CollegeBoard data below demonstrates, the AP Microeconomics exam has a slightly lower pass rate than the average pass rate across all AP class exams. That said, while 16.8% of AP exam-takers receive a perfect score on average across all exams, 18.5% receive a perfect score on the AP Microeconomics exam. Students looking for an AP exam that aligns with their academic interests but doesn't seem impossible to pass often decide microeconomics works for their needs.

AP Microeconomics Exam Pass Rates
AP Class/Exam Pass Rate (3 or Higher) Perfect Score (5)
AP Microeconomics 59.1% 18.5%
All AP Classes 64.2% 16.8%
Source: College Board

Reviewing exam pass rates for the microeconomics AP exam provides a good place for students to start when assessing difficulty level, but in reality, how challenging both the course and the exam are depends on the strength of both the student and the teacher.

The Course Material

As mentioned previously, AP Microeconomics course material was designed to mimic an introductory college-level course, so it will certainly be more difficult than a standard high school class. Students unfamiliar with economic topics — or how to work with data — may find it challenging.

That said, this class has fewer units of study than some other AP classes and explores a narrower topic than other AP courses like environmental science or chemistry.

Your Subject Skills

Before enrolling in an AP Microeconomics class, students should consider whether their existing subject skills align with course content. If not, learners may want to take a standard high school course in microeconomics first.

According to CollegeBoard, skills that will help students do well in this course include an ability to define economic principles, explain and determine outcomes of specific economic situations, and model economic situations using graphs or visual representations.

When Should You Take AP Microeconomics?

Unlike with some other AP courses, CollegeBoard does not provide suggestions on when students should take AP Microeconomics. Many experts recommend holding off on taking AP classes during their first year of high school, as students may need time to adjust.

Many students decide to take AP Microeconomics in their junior or senior year, as this allows them more time to take other classes that can help with their understanding of microeconomics content. Some students decide to take AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics concurrently since they will already be focused on the subject.

AP Microeconomics Exam: What You Need to Know

As the table below demonstrates, around 41% of students who took the AP Microeconomics exam failed to score a three or higher. When thinking about taking this course, students should consider how strongly they feel about their ability to earn a minimum passing grade.

AP Microeconomics
Exam Score Number of Students Percentage of Students
5 14,845 18.5%
4 19,266 24.0%
3 13,315 16.6%
2 13,600 17%
1 19,173 23.9%
Source: College Board

How Is the AP Microeconomics Exam Structured?

The AP Microeconomics exam contains two sections. The first section is composed of 60 multiple-choice questions which students have 70 minutes to answer. These questions assess how well students can define economic principles, anticipate outcomes of specified economic situations, and explain those outcomes.

The second section consists of three free-response questions and lasts 60 minutes. The first question requires a long-form answer, while the second and third require shorter answers.

  • Section I: 60 multiple-choice questions (70 minutes)
  • Section II: 3 free-response questions (60 minutes)

How Is the AP Microeconomics Exam Scored?

All AP examinations are scored using numbers ranging from one to five, with five being the highest score possible. The two sections of the AP Microeconomics exam are scored differently.

The multiple choice section accounts for 66.65% of the total grade, while the free-response question section accounts for the remaining 33.35%. If a student thinks they may struggle on the exam, it may help them to know that they should spend more time preparing for the first section.

How the AP Microeconomics Exam is Scored
Section 1 66.65%
Multiple-choice questions (60) 66.65%
Section 2 33.35%
Free-response long question (1) 16.675%
Free-response short questions (2) 16.675%
Source: College Board

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

The score required to receive college credit varies based on the institution. CollegeBoard provides an AP credit policy search database that allows students to check the minimum score requirements for their prospective schools.

For instance, Allegheny College in Pennsylvania requires students to score at least a four, while Bakersfield College in California requires a three or above.

Should I Take AP Microeconomics?

When deciding whether to take AP Microeconomics, students must consider several factors. For starters, they must figure out where they have a good chance of receiving a passing score based on their subject strengths and academic workload.

Secondly, they should consider how taking the AP Microeconomics exam supports their future college career. The majority of students who take this course plan to study economics, finance, business, or a related subject in school. For those who plan to study an unrelated topic, they may be better served by a different AP subject.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP Microeconomics

Is AP Microeconomics worth taking?

Many students may wonder whether AP classes are worth taking, and some may question specifically whether AP Microeconomics is worth the effort. In short, it depends on the student. A learner who plans to study fine art or nursing may find less value in taking this course than someone considering a major in economics or business administration.

In short, students need to consider how taking a course in microeconomics benefits their future selves. If they feel that knowledge of microeconomics can prove valuable to their future endeavors, taking AP Microeconomics is worth it.

Is AP Microeconomics harder than AP Macroeconomics?

According to score distribution data provided by CollegeBoard, roughly 51% of students scored a three or higher on the AP Macroeconomics exam, while about 59% of students scored a three or higher on the AP Microeconomics exam. Based on this data, students could fairly assume that AP Microeconomics is not harder than AP Macroeconomics.

Do colleges care about AP Microeconomics?

The answer to this question depends on several factors. If a student applies to study economics, business, finance, or a related subject and received a low score on the AP Microeconomics exam, this could reflect poorly on the prospective learner.

That said, a student applying to study a topic like theater arts or religion may earn a high score on the AP Microeconomics exam, but this will mean less to admission officers since it doesn't relate to their chosen major at all. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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