Hardest AP classes, as voted on by students

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From AP Physics to AP European History, College Board’s Advanced Placement classes offer something for almost every dedicated learner regardless of interest. Their relative difficulty is subjective to each student, but, generally speaking, a good teacher can make a hard class seem tolerable, while a bad one can make an easy class challenging. (Photo/Ella Gohari)

AP classes allow students to receive college credit in high school, but this headstart comes at a price: these are widely considered to be some of the most difficult classes offered to high schoolers. Heritage offers 28 AP courses with an overall pass rate of 94% with a three or higher, well above average. However, this begs the question: which AP class is the hardest? I surveyed every AP student at the school to find out.

While not every AP student answered the survey, I received 194 responses (freshmen taking solely AP Human Geography were not included since they only have one option as their hardest class, but freshmen simultaneously taking another AP class were). The vast majority of respondents took “starter” AP classes, like AP Human Geography and AP World History, meaning there was a natural bias toward those classes being ranked the “hardest” due to the larger sample size. In order to mitigate this bias, classes were instead ranked by dividing the number of people who indicated the class was the hardest by the number of people who took or are taking the class. This evened out the scoring since it ensured hard classes who did not have as many participants could still be ranked fairly. Without further ado, here are the results:

#5 — AP Spanish Literature and Culture

AP Spanish Literature and Culture goes above and beyond the limits of AP Spanish Language and Culture, as it explores significant literary works in Spanish. It is very difficult to take this class without Spanish fluency, hence why only four respondents take or have taken it, one of the smallest sample sizes. AP foreign language classes in general were designed for bilingual and bilingual-adjacent students to enrich themselves in the language, but Spanish is the only foreign language to have two AP classes revolving around it. Just like how AP English Language is almost like a “preview” to AP English Literature, the two AP Spanish classes function the same way. Since one student of the four considered AP Spanish Literature the hardest, it ends in 5th place.

#4 — AP European History

AP European History (AP Euro) is a voluntary, year-long elective, but unlike other voluntary AP electives like AP Comparative Government or AP Psychology, which are ranked as two of the easiest classes, 30% of current or prior AP Euro students consider it the hardest. Students repeatedly cited AP Euro’s emphasis on “small details,” “abstract topics” and “specific concepts,” which are allegedly difficult to memorize, as reasons for its high ranking.

#3 — AP Chemistry

The top three hardest AP classes are all science-related, with AP Chemistry (AP Chem) at 3rd place. 34% of students who have taken or are taking the class regard it as the most challenging. One student is “praying just to pass at this point,” claiming AP Chem’s curriculum has “so much content to memorize… that it’s almost impossible to know how to answer the question in the time given.” Other students who consider AP Chem the hardest share similar sentiments, citing specifically the lack of sufficient time to answer. 

#2 — AP Physics C: Mechanics

Runner-up hardest class AP Physics C: Mechanics (AP Phys Mech) is one of four AP Physics classes (Heritage offers three of the four). 56% of AP Phys Mech students believe it to be the hardest AP class overall, a stark contrast to the other two physics classes offered, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C: Electricity, with percentages of 10% and 0% respectively. Students lamented AP Physics C’s “combination of Physics and Calculus.” Another reason for its high ranking was the sheer number of multiple choice and free response questions, requiring one student to “randomly guess at the end” due to a lack of time.

#1 — AP Biology

With the reputation AP Biology (AP Bio) gets at this school, it comes as no surprise that Bio takes the crown as the hardest AP class. Not only did 64% of current or prior AP Bio students think it was the hardest class, making it the winner by a large margin, but AP Bio won outright even before adjusting for sample size bias, beating even AP Human Geography and AP World History in raw percentage despite the latter two’s more-than-double sample size. When giving reasons for its ranking, multiple students claimed Mrs. Joykutty’s teaching style made AP Bio very difficult, with one student humorously parodying a question on one of her tests: “John is carrying a cup of distilled water. How does this affect his mitochondrial ribosomes?”

Looking for an easier AP class to beef up your college resume? No student who took AP Psychology or AP Computer Science A considered those classes the hardest. You can find all the percentages here.

As a sophomore, Ella Gohari is entering her second year on the Patriot Post staff as the co-Editor-in-Chief for the print newsmagazine. A lover of words, Ella spends much of her time writing, whether it be an article, poem, short story or science research paper. She often writes while listening (and singing her heart out) to music, and is particularly fond of rock bands like Metallica, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Her ultimate favorite; however, is Queen. Juggling many interests at once, she has been a science researcher with Mrs. Joykutty since 6th grade, and is now a part of the Sigma Xi Science Society. On the weekends, she volunteers with Village Book Builders and OTTER to teach underprivileged children in Florida and around the world. She is excited to co-lead the newsmagazine and can’t wait to see where the year goes.

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