Rebecca has taken 11 Advanced Placement courses and has a ton of inside information to share. Here's her guide on all your AP choices, from Math to English and everything in between.
’Tis the season for choosing next year’s classes for all you incoming high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Some of you may have already submitted your choices and could be questioning them, while others are entirely lost on how to structure the next year of their lives.
Many of you will be taking AP classes next semester, and it can be stressful deciding which ones to take. That’s what this guide is for! I’ll help you map out the different choices for each subject and offer some insight as to what I think are the best choices for each grade level and interest. The College Board also provides some wonderful information about each AP class, and I received some of my information from that website as well.
Disclaimer: this is based off my own personal experience and opinions, plus what I have heard from others. For more factually based information, you should consult the College Board or teachers/counselors at your school.
Related: Should I Take AP Courses?
AP Calculus AB
This is a great course to take before college if you have the time in your schedule! I would recommend this for upperclassmen, unless you are a very talented sophomore. Pre-calculus is a prerequisite for AP Calc AB, and you also need trigonometry and algebra experience.
AP Calculus BC
This is the course after AP Calc AB. At my school, students can take AP Calc BC without taking AB first, but it is not recommended. I would definitely suggest taking AP Calc AB before trying your hand at BC! It’s a tricky class and is only for people who are really serious about math. Seniors are best suited for this class, besides the occasional daring junior.
I personally did not take this class as one of my 11 APs, but it is a wonderful course to include in your high school career! In some schools statistics is required, but in others it is optional. Statistics is a great class for those who are interested in biology or economics especially. It is mostly calculator based and doesn’t require too much algebraic thinking. This class can be taken by almost anyone in any grade level, although it might be a bit tricky for freshmen as a first-time AP class.
This class was one of my personal favorites! It is definitely for students who are interested in STEM in general. To prepare, you should take a normal biology class first, as well as a chemistry class. AP Biology is fast paced, but there are tons of labs that make it really interesting. If you are considering a career in the lab sciences, you should try to fit this course in before college. Juniors and seniors are best suited for this class, as I would not recommend taking it without normal bio and chemistry. This class also involves basic statistics, but you do not need to have taken statistics beforehand.
I loved this course as well, and it’s what helped me choose my career path! AP Chem is a difficult class, but it’s worth it if you are at all interested in the sciences. The labs are very fun, and the subject matter is also really interesting. There is more math involved in this one than in AP Bio, but it’s not too difficult. I’d recommend students take normal bio and chem before taking AP Chem as juniors or seniors.
AP Environmental Science
This is another interesting AP class that is not too difficult. Many students at my school take this course when they want another science class but don’t know what to take. There aren’t really any prerequisites, but I would recommend taking normal biology first. This class is lab based and may include fun field trips as well. If you are a student who is interested in conservation, or simply does not want to take any of the other AP science classes, APES is a great choice.
AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
This is a class that students should highly consider if they are at all interested in engineering. AP Physics 1 can be very challenging and requires quite a bit of math, so if you shy away from equations, this class may not be the right fit for you. You need to take algebra and trigonometry before this class, and a normal physics class is recommended. You don’t necessarily need that normal physics class, but it can ease your transition to AP Physics 1. I would recommend this course for juniors and seniors.
AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
I don’t have a ton of information about this course, but the gist of it is that it goes deeper into the topics covered in AP Physics 1. This course doesn’t use calculus, as AP Physics C does, but you still need advanced algebra and trigonometry. AP Physics 1 is also a prerequisite, and this class is only for those who are really serious about looking at a career in engineering or physics. Seniors should think about taking this class, plus juniors who are prepared to work diligently.
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism; AP Physics C: Mechanics
My school only offers Electricity and Magnetism, and I have not taken this course myself, so I don’t have much inside info on it. Check College Board! However, I do know this class uses calculus, so you should take a calculus class before or concurrently with AP Physics C. Once again, this course is mainly for those who are seriously considering a career in engineering or physics, and you must take AP Physics 1 first. This is probably only a course for seniors and the daring junior.
History and Social Science
AP Comparative Government and Politics
This course explores “governments, politics, and societies from countries around the world including Great Britain, China, Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, and Iran,” according to the College Board. My school doesn’t offer this class, so I can’t provide any more details, but you can read more about it here.
AP European History
This is a very interesting class that, at my school, is only open to sophomores. I would highly recommend taking this class. It’s interesting even to those who aren’t history buffs, so everyone should try to take AP Euro if they have time. As I said, this class is only for sophomores at my school, but I’ve known it to be open to juniors at other schools as well. No prerequisites!
AP Human Geography
This course involves studying the “distribution, processes, and effects of the human population on our planet” using maps, GIS, and other geographical tools. This class isn’t offered to students at my school either, so you should check College Board for more details!
AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics
In these courses you’ll learn about economic concepts on a large and small scale, respectively, through group research projects, current events discussions, and more. Some of these AP classes are very rarely offered, so I’m sorry for the gaps! Again, College Board is your best friend if you want to learn more.
This is one of the most interesting classes available for high school students, in my opinion. There are no prerequisites, and just about any grade level can take this class. It covers a variety of subjects, from perception to mental disorders. Definitely think about taking this class if you are considering becoming going into psychology or medicine in college.
AP United States Government and Politics
This is a really wonderful class. At my school, it’s only offered for seniors, and you definitely need background from United States History (AP or not). The class goes into some history but mainly covers the idea of politics in society and how you can be more involved. This class is not too difficult, so even if you are not normally an “AP student,” consider taking AP Gov!
AP United States History
This class is for juniors only at my school, and I would tell all juniors to take it. While it is difficult and involves a large amount of vocabulary, it goes in-depth into what you may have learned in fifth grade. In my opinion, this was the most interesting history class I took, as it focuses on our own country.
AP World History
This is a required class at quite a few schools, and freshmen and sophomores at my school take it. It was not my favorite class, but it is a wonderful first AP class, as it is not too difficult and tends to ease you in. AP World covers a huge amount of time, but it is fairly surface level, so don’t stress!
AP English Language and Composition
This is a class for juniors at my school and was really useful for improving my own writing skills., It focuses on analyzing different works of literature and can be especially helpful as you’re writing your college essays. I very much enjoyed the books that I read in this class, although selections may vary from school to school.
AP English Literature and Composition
This is a senior class at my school and is also great for improving your writing skills. I would recommend taking AP Lang before this, but it is not required. It continues on from AP Lang and once again looks at analysis, especially for poetry. As with AP Lang, this class can vary greatly from school to school, so talk to your counselor and teachers to see what is right for you.
AP Computer Science A
This class is really interesting and definitely recommended for people who want to study computer science in college. You don’t have to know how to code beforehand, although it’s recommended that you study up before the class begins. It goes over how to use Java, and typically juniors and seniors take this class. If you’re worried about not knowing how to code, read about the next class.
AP Computer Science Principles
From what I’ve heard, this class is an easier version of AP CSA. It’s for beginners and involves very basic coding. Others have told me it’s a fun class and isn’t too much work compared to other courses. Juniors and seniors tend to take this class and then go on to AP CSA, so it’s a good place to start if you want to get into computer science.
World Languages and Cultures
I won’t go in-depth with any specific class, as all schools offer different languages (including Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish). In general, AP Language courses are very difficult and strive for fluency. I would only take these courses if you plan on working hard and being serious about your studies. The classes do not simply go over the nuances of the language—they also cover culture and current events. They’re probably only for juniors and seniors, unless you are very advanced as a sophomore.
A lot of schools don’t offer AP Arts courses—which include Art History, Music Theory, 2D Design, 3D Design, and Drawing—but if yours does, they are a great way to fulfill your arts requirement. I haven’t taken any AP art classes, but if you’re interested in going into the arts or simply want to appreciate the arts, these classes are good options.
Related: How to Put the “A” in AP Courses
Once again, this is a subjective guide based on my own experiences at my school. Things could differ at your own school, so be sure to check with your teachers and counselors. They will have the best information for your circumstances. And, I repeat, College Board is your best friend. If you feel like you’ve made all the wrong choices, don’t stress! Talk to your academic advisor as soon as possible, and they can help you change your courses if you need to. Don’t be afraid to start preparing for your future now!