How Many AP® Classes Should I Take? | (2024)

How many Advanced Placement classes is too many?

Do I even need to take AP® classes at all?

If you have ever wondered these things, then you are not alonebecause they have crossed the mind of pretty much every high school student ever. Luckily for you, all of us at are here to answer all of your questions. This article will walk you through everything that you need to know about planning your AP® course load with success at college in mind.

We will cover the basics ofwhy you should even take even AP® classes in the first place, how you can space them out through your high school career so you don’t get overwhelmed by your course load, how AP® classes can help you get into different types of colleges, and, finally, how you can study for them to get the score that you need to achieve.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start reading!

What are AP® Classes?

As you probably already know, AP® is short for Advanced Placement. It is the name for a group of courses that was created by in the 1950’s to ease the academic transition from high school to college for students.

Essentially, an AP® course covers the same amount of material that a 100-level college course would. Students who take AP® classes in high school tend to be better prepared to handle the stress and academic workload of college than those who did not. This is because of the core purpose of AP® classes, in the words of the College Board:

Educators recommended that secondary schools and colleges work together to avoid repetition in course work at the high school and college levels and to allow motivated students to work at the height of their capabilities and advance as quickly as possible.

Students are required to think at a high level and take charge of their own education. Because of this, AP® classes are often viewed as overwhelming and intimidating. Somestudents avoid them at all costs. You may currently be in this group and think that AP® classes are not for you, that they will be too hard, or that you can’t do well in them, but we want to make sure that you know that is not true.

While it is true that AP® classes require a lot of work, they also teach you the study skills you need to manage it, so feeling “unprepared” is not an excuse to avoid them. AP® classes give you “soft skills” like organization and collaboration, as well as time management and critical thinking abilities that will serve you outside of the classroom as well. They can also make you a better overall student and employee by giving you an edge over your less-educated peers.

Why Should I Take AP® Exams?

There are plenty of reasons why you should take Advanced Placement exams. The most obvious reasonis that since you have spent the entire school year diligently working to keep up with the material in your AP® class, you have nothing to lose by taking the exam, even if you feel uncertain about your mastery of the test’s content. If you receive a score lower than you need for college, usually a three or below, then you can simply choose not to report the score. It will be as if you never took the exam.

However, if you do feel confident in your knowledge of the material and are able to perform well on the AP® exam, then you are setting yourself up for collegiate success. Depending on the college you want to go to, a score of three, four, or five on the test can give you lots of options.

Great AP® scores can enable you to graduate from college early, saving you lots of money on both tuition now and student loans later on. Depending on your school’s policy, you can bring in enough AP® credits to finish a semester, or even an entire year, early.

You can also use your AP® test scores to test out of introductory level college classes, so you can start taking classes that interest you sooner. Even if the college you end up attending does not allow AP® course credit to count towards your bachelor’s degree, most schools encourage their students to take advanced courses earlier if they are able to. For example, this means that you will not have to take Spanish 101 your freshman year of college if you achieved near fluency in high school, saving you quite a bit of frustration.

Why are AP® Classes Important for College Admissions?

So now you know how taking Advanced Placement classes in high school can help you out academically when you are in college, but do you understand why AP® classes are so essential to getting into college in the first place? If you don’t, then you are about to!

Taking AP® classes is essential for college admission, no matter what kind of school you end up attending.This is because AP® classes require that students develop their critical thinking skills and hold a bigger commitment to the material at hand. Because of this, students who choose to take AP® classes are making a big statement to admissions committees.

If you take AP® classes, you are telling admissions officers that your take your academics seriously. If you earn a good grade in an AP® class or a 4 or 5 on the AP® exam, you are also demonstrating that a college course load will not overwhelm you and that you will be able to successfully complete the work that will be required of you there.

Advanced Placement grades also pull a lot more weight in the admissions office than academic grades. You might have wondered which one looks better on a college application: an “A” in an academic class or a “A” in an AP® class. The answer is that an “A” in an AP® class looks best. But, you will never have the opportunity to even earn this grade if you do not take a chance on yourself and enroll in an AP® course in the first place.

You might also wonder “Why do I need to take AP® classes if I don’t want to go to a selective school?” The answer is simple: money. While taking AP® classes may be the norm for every single applicant to Harvard, AP® students will stand out from the crowd for local colleges, making them more competitive candidates for better scholarships.

How Many AP® Classes Should I Take before I graduate?

The answer to this question is not one size fits all. You may have heard an overzealous guidance counselor, parent, or even older sibling tell you that you have to take as many AP® classes as you possibly can.While that might be the case if you what to go to an Ivy League or comparable university, just a few will suffice if you plan to go to a state school, while you might not need to take any if you just want to go to community college.

Check out the table below to let us break it down for you:

How many AP® classes should I take?

Ivy LeagueMinimum of 8 AP® Classes
Top 20 schoolsMinimum of 6 AP® Classes
Top 100 schoolsMinimum of 4 AP® Classes
All other schoolsMinimum of 1 AP® Class

Ivy League

Ivy League schools expect excellence from their applicants. Because of this, you will need to decide quite early on that this is the kind of school you wish to attend, so you can plan your time accordingly. To be a competitive candidate for admission, you will need to take at least 8 AP® classes, more if you can. It is a good idea to take 1 AP® course in each of the following core disciplines: English, Foreign Language, History, Math, and Science to impress the admissions officers.

You can read more about the Ivy League here.

Top 20 Schools

These are schools like MIT and Stanford. They are not a part of the Ivy League, but their academics are on par with the members. Because of this, you need to prepare for them the same way by taking AP® courses in each of the core subjects and excelling in them. You should aim to take 7-8 AP® classes as a minimum to be considered a competitive candidate for admission.

Top 100 schools

For these schools, often large state research universities or small liberal arts colleges, a minimum of 4 AP® classes should do the trick, as long as you excel in them. You should dip your toes into at least 2 of the 5 recommended core courses, as well as exploring an AP® class or 2 that could relate to your intended college major.

All Other Schools

It is always a good idea to take at least 1 AP® class while you are in high school for the learning experience. As we have mentioned, you will gain better thinking, studying, and collaborating skills in addition to basically becoming an expert in the particular subject. If you apply to less competitive schools with a good grade in an AP® class or two on your transcript, you are even more likely to be admitted, as well as qualify for scholarships that other, less-qualified students would not be eligible to receive.

How Many AP® Classes Should I Take Each Year?

You should not ever overload yourself with AP® classes, or your grades will suffer and it will defeat the purpose of taking them in the first place.You should also ease into taking AP® classes, with your junior year being the one with the heaviest course load.

Take a look at this suggested timeline:

Freshman Year

If you are ambitious, you should take at least 1 AP® class this year to get a feel for the workload and study process, so you are not blindsided by it later on.

Sophom*ore Year

If you are interested in attending a highly selective school, you should take 2 or 3 AP® classes your sophom*ore year. If not, you might want to take your first AP® class in a subject that you enjoy this year to begin to learn about the process.

Junior Year

This is the big year for all levels of student. Depending on what kind of school you want to go to, you should be taking between 3 and 5 AP® classes this year. You will need to manage your time well, however, as you also need to study for the SAT® or ACT® during this time.

Senior Year

Although you will be busy with college applications, you still have time to finish strong. Even if you find yourself suffering from Senioritis, you can be motivated by the fact that good AP® scores will positively impact your undergraduate experience. If you are going to a less selective school, you will be okay dropping back down to 1 or 2 AP® classes, but if you have Ivy League dreams, you will need to take at least 3 or 4.

Can I Self-Study for the AP® Exams?

The short answer is yes, yes you can. But, to ensure that you are completely aware of all of your options, we still want to give you the long answer.

Self-studying is when you do not take the Advanced Placement class to prepare for an AP® exam, but instead opt to prepare for the test on your own, often without any guidance. While you can join a study group or hire a private tutor, most of the test revision is done on your own time and is completely self-structured.Because of this, only committed students will be able to excel.

Self-studying for the AP® exams is a great option for those highly motivated students who fall into any of the following categories:

– Their school offers the AP® class, but they cannot fit it into their schedule.

– Their school does not offer the AP® class, but it essential for the college of their choice.

– They are home schooled and do not have access to AP® classes, but still want the college credit that they provide.

Certain AP® exams are definitely easier to self-study for than others. But we do want to warn you: even if your friend self-studied for the AP® United States History test and got a 5 after prepping for a week, it will probably not be as easy for you.

While there are certain memorization-heavy tests that all types of students can excel on, youroverall background in and passion for a particular subject will definitely color your experience.

To study, we recommend searching for the topic you wish to review. You can also use books from The Princeton Review, Barron’s, or even the College Board itself.

How Should I Prepare for the AP® Exams?

We are your number one resource for AP® test preparation.

Before you register for any AP® classes, you need to read through our lists of the easiest AP® classes and the hardest AP® classes. This way, you can know what you are getting yourself into before the first day of class. A quick caveat: these lists are based on national averages of students who take the AP® exams. You need to keep your personal academic preferences and strengths in mind when registering for AP® classes. That is, you should not take AP® Calculus if you got a C in Algebra I.

You should also read our piece about how to study for the AP® tests. From how to form a study group to note-taking skills, we cover all the tips and tricks you need to know to stay on top of the material and ace both the class and corresponding test without all the stress.

We also put together a timeline of when you should start studying for the AP® tests to avoid stress and reach your peak performance. Spoiler alert: the key is starting early.

After you have looked through the resources above, it is time to begin using our class-specific test prep content. If you need a little help filling in content holes for the APUSH exam, we have you covered. We even have test prep content for AP® Chemistry, AP® Biology, AP® Calculus (AB and BC), AP® Human Geography, and even AP® United States Government.

You name it – we have the resources you need to ensure you excel. Just do a quick search of the site to find the specific information you are looking for. If it’s not there yet, keep checking back with us, because it will be added soon.

A Quick Review

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your AP® course load:

– AP® classes bridge the academic gap between high school and college.

– AP® exams can make college easier, shorter, and cheaper.

– Good grades in AP® classes make you a competitive candidate for college admissions.

– How many AP® classes you take depends on what kind of college you want to attend.

– has everything you need to prepare for the AP® exams.

There you have it. Good luck out there!

Looking for APpractice?

Kickstartyour APprepwith Albert. Start your AP® exam prep today.

How Many AP® Classes Should I Take? | (2024)


How Many AP® Classes Should I Take? | ›

Top 20 Schools

How many AP classes should I take in total? ›

College counselors recommend that students strive to take 5-8 AP classes throughout their high school career, especially if they are interested in attending a highly-selective institution such as an Ivy League college.

Is 2 APs enough sophom*ore year? ›

Instead, students typically start by taking 1-3 AP classes during their sophom*ore year, beginning with some of the less demanding courses. They may then pick up the pace during their junior year, enrolling in more challenging options. These courses can enhance your transcript and boost your GPA.

Is 10 AP classes enough for Ivy League? ›

How Many AP Classes Should You Take for Ivy Leagues and Other Top US Universities? For students aiming for the Ivy League and Top 20 schools in the United States, a good target is to take (and pass) 10-14 AP classes throughout your high school career — or 3-4 each year.

Is 11 AP classes enough? ›

Many competitive applicants at top universities take anywhere from 7 – 12 AP classes throughout high school. In fact, some universities even require students to take multiple AP classes in order for any of them to count as college credit.

Is 4 APs too much junior year? ›

Junior Year

Depending on what kind of school you want to go to, you should be taking between 3 and 5 AP® classes this year. You will need to manage your time well, however, as you also need to study for the SAT® or ACT® during this time.

Is taking 7 AP classes too much? ›

Most Selective Schools (Top 20): APs in most or all of the core courses (English, Mathematics, Science, History, and Foreign Language), plus additional AP courses that relate to your goals, future major, or interests. This will end up being between 7 and 12 AP courses.

Is a 2.5 GPA bad for a sophom*ore? ›

Sophom*ore: To summarize this article's material, a 2.5 GPA as a sophom*ore isn't a problem, but it will significantly limit your college search if it doesn't improve before senior year. You still have the rest of your junior year to raise your GPA, so make the most of it. Start thinking about standardized tests.

Is a 2.0 GPA bad for a sophom*ore? ›

Even if your odds don't look great right now, remember that things can easily change in the next couple years. If you have a 2.0 GPA your sophom*ore year, you could be heading towards a difficult time with college applications.

Which AP is easiest? ›

Easiest AP exams by pass rate
AP SubjectPass Rate (Exam Score of 3+)Median Score
Ap Physics C Mechanics73.4%3.41
AP Psychology58.3%2.71
AP Research82.7%3.3
AP Seminar82.6%3.19
34 more rows
Jan 13, 2023

Is 5 AP classes too much junior year? ›

Applicants aiming for highly selective colleges usually take 5-6 AP classes this year, but keep your limits and schedule in mind. At this point, adding one more AP class might not have a huge impact on your college chances, but it could reduce the time spent on applications to a great extent.

What AP classes impress colleges? ›

The best AP classes to take for college are those that relate to your area of study in some way. Some of the most common major- or career-related AP classes include: AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science. AP Environmental Science and AP Human Geography.

Is 7 AP classes enough for Harvard? ›

Going up the selectivity chain, the average at Harvard is eight AP classes. To be competitive at some of the most highly selective colleges in the country, 8-12 AP courses may be the sweet spot amount, assuming the student can handle that level of rigor.

Is 12 AP classes impressive? ›

Students looking to earn admission to highly selective colleges should take multiple AP classes to bolster their applications and demonstrate they can handle challenging coursework. Some college admissions experts recommend taking as many as 7-12 AP courses before applying to the most elite universities.

What is the hardest AP class? ›

United States History, Biology, English Literature, Calculus BC, Physics C, and Chemistry are often named as the hardest AP classes and tests. These classes have large curriculums, tough tests, and conceptually difficult material.

Is taking 3 AP classes too little? ›

'No magic number' for students

Students and counselors alike agree that AP courses offer many academic benefits beyond college admissions to students in terms of the skills including time management, critical thinking, and writing skills they learn in these courses that prepare them for college work.

How many AP classes does the average person take? ›

The Key Number

If that answer isn't fully satisfying, here is a look at the average number of APs students tend to take over the course of their high school years, broken down by college selectivity: Selective schools: around 7–12 APs. Semi-selective schools: 4–8 APs. Less selective schools: 1–5 APs.

Is 4 AP classes too much? ›

However, students who take 4-5 AP courses can still qualify for good schools, including many of the country's top public research institutions. Students should balance taking AP courses with maintaining a healthy schedule to avoid burnout.

Is 13 AP classes good? ›

3 answers. Don't worry 13 APs is definitely a good amount and makes you competitive in terms of academic rigor for top colleges. In fact, it is recommended that you have at least 7-9 APs for selective schools.

How many AP classes is considered impressive? ›

To be competitive at some of the most highly selective colleges in the country, 8-12 AP courses may be the sweet spot amount, assuming the student can handle that level of rigor. There are no colleges out there that require you to take 14, 17, or some other obscene number of Advanced Placement offerings.

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