The Hardest High School Classes

December 17, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The Hardest High School Classes

Students who enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) courses can earn college credit while still in high school; however, this head start comes at a cost, as these courses are often regarded as being among the hardest high school classes that can be taken. To this aim, it is crucial to select the appropriate advanced placement courses to enroll in.

In light of the fact that the College Board administers a plethora of standardized tests on an annual basis, it is only natural that students have difficulty determining which courses they should sign up for.

Students can be concerned about the difficulty of the relevant examinations, but they might also be curious about what are the hardest high school classes to pass. After all, the marks they receive in their AP classes will factor into their overall grade point averages and may have an effect on their chances of being accepted to the colleges and institutions of their dreams.

What are the hardest AP classes by exam pass rate?

What are the hardest AP classes by exam pass rate? You may get an idea of which is the hardest high school classes are the most challenging by looking at the percentage of students who pass the exam and the number of students who get perfect scores.

two high school students in front of their laptops

The pass rate is the percentage of students who achieved a passing score of three or higher, while the perfect score rate is the percentage of students who achieved a score of five or higher (i.e., the highest possible score).

You should also take into consideration the academic strengths you possess as well as the instructor of the advanced placement course. These are two crucial aspects that may influence the level of difficulty of AP classes.

The table that follows provides a ranking of the most difficult Advanced Placement classes according to the percentage of students that pass each exam.

AP Class/Exam Pass Rate (3+) Perfect Score (5)
Physics 1 51.6% 8.8%
Environmental Science 53.4% 11.9%
Chemistry 56.1% 10.6%
U.S. Government and Politics 57.5% 15.5%
U.S. History 58.7% 13.0%
Human Geography 59.0% 11.8%
European History 59.3% 13.7%
Statistics 60.0% 16.2%
English Literature 60.1% 9.3%
World History 60.2% 9.2%

Physics 1

As one of the hardest high school classes, this course includes not only algebra but also scientific inquiry and physics. The Advanced Placement (AP) Physics 1 course, which covers topics such as Newtonian physics and electrical charge and force, is often regarded as one of the most challenging AP courses.

In addition, students devote around a quarter of their total class time to writing reports and doing college-level laboratory experiments.

Students will be asked to describe physical events, solve mathematical equations, evaluate conceptual models, and organize experiments over the course of this Advanced Placement exam, which is comprised of five free-response questions and fifty multiple-choice questions (MCQs).

Environmental Science

Because environmental science is such a large discipline—it incorporates not only biology and geology but also chemistry and mathematics—it is among the hardest high school classes and it is necessary for instructors to cover a significant amount of ground in their lessons.

Two students walking in the school campus.

The AP Environmental Science course focuses, in part, on the investigation of the planet and its resources, the analysis of environmental issues, and the use of quantitative tools in the pursuit of potential solutions. Students also participate in both fieldwork and laboratory experiments.

The Advanced Placement exam is comprised of three free-response questions and 80 multiple-choice questions (MCQs). These questions assess a student’s capacity to analyze research, comprehend data, and solve problems using mathematical equations. Participants also do an environmental problem analysis and suggest a possible remedy.


An extensive background in chemistry, as well as algebra, is required for AP Chemistry. Students gain an understanding of complex chemical processes and the skills necessary to construct experiments to test theories and support evidence-based scientific assertions across the course of their education.

Among the hardest high school classes, this one is infamous for requiring students to memorize material and complete extensive homework assignments.

There are 60 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and seven free-response items on the exam. It examines a student’s capacity to defend scientific assertions and evaluate conceptual representations of chemical characteristics. Participants in the examination will not only solve problems but will also develop experiments and employ mathematical relationships.

U.S. Government and Politics

The political system of the United States, national government institutions, the process of public policymaking, and civil rights are only some of the topics that are covered in this Advanced Placement class.

Students use fundamental papers and decisions from the United States Supreme Court as a basis for making comparisons, interpreting facts, and writing evidence-based arguments.

The AP Examination in United States Government and Politics consists of 55 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and four free-response questions. These questions measure a student’s comprehension of political concepts as well as their ability to analyze documents and judicial decisions.

U.S. History

The period from 1491 up until the present day is covered in depth throughout the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History course. With the lengthy span of time covered by this study, there is a wealth of knowledge to acquire.

In one of the hardest high school classes, students in this subject make connections between the outcomes of historical events and the ways in which individuals and policies built the foundation of the United States.

Female student smiling with her classmates.

The test consists of 55 multiple-choice questions, three questions with short-answer options, one extended essay question, and one document-based question (DBQ).

Students are tasked with formulating and defending an argument using seven different documents as part of the DBQ. In addition to this, students are evaluated on their knowledge of historical facts as well as their capacity to comprehend historical narratives.

Human Geography

Students typically begin their AP testing career with the Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography exam. The course investigates human migration and land use, as well as the ways in which these interactions affect the landscape and resources of the Earth.

Students develop skills in data analysis, map interpretation, and pattern recognition through the study of geospatial information.

There are a total of 63 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions on the Advanced Placement exam. Migration, as well as cultural, political, and agricultural land-use patterns and linkages, are topics that will be covered in the exam.

Participants in the exam interpret spatial relationships through the use of maps, graphs, and satellite pictures.

European History

This course examines the history of Europe beginning in the middle of the 15th century and continuing up to the present day. Topics covered include the cultural, economic, and political evolution of Europe during this time period.

Students are required to not only learn a significant amount of information by heart but also demonstrate critical thinking skills and construct arguments based on historical patterns and evidence.

Students are required to understand historical themes and establish connections in order to pass the AP European History exam, which is structured in a manner that is comparable to the AP United States History exam. One of the most difficult tasks, in the eyes of many students, is to write the DBQ within the allotted amount of time.


The concepts of gathering, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting qualitative and quantitative data are covered in the AP Statistics course. Students who are particularly skilled at solving mathematical problems may find the qualitative side of statistics to be perplexing.

Given that it is among the hardest high school classes, the course covers a variety of topics, including statistical inference, pattern prediction, and experimentation.

There are a total of 50 multiple-choice questions and six free-response questions on the Advanced Placement Statistics exam. The test will feature questions on gathering and evaluating data, as well as questions on probability and sampling, as well as questions on statistical inference.

English Literature

This class requires students to read, analyze, and evaluate difficult materials before defending their interpretations through argumentation. Learners are expected to have an understanding of a piece of literature or a play that is sufficient for them to compose an essay about it, complete with quotations, without consulting the text.

There are a total of 55 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions on the AP English Literature exam. These questions require students to provide an analysis of both fiction and poetry. Participants in the examination also analyze the ways in which literary concepts contribute to various works.

World History

The Advanced Placement World History course used to include prehistoric ages up through the present, but the College Board recently made the decision to develop a new course called AP World History: Modern, which only covers more recent times.

The new curriculum begins with the year 1200 CE and divides world history into nine distinct eras, focusing on the rise and fall of land-based empires and revolutions.

Three students walking in front of a school building.

Among the hardest high school classes, this course still covers a significant amount of ground despite the cuts that have been made. The exam follows the same structure as the other AP history tests, and a significant portion of the focus is placed on the explanation of historical events, the establishment of links, and the building of arguments.

How do AP classes impact college chances?

How do AP classes impact your chances in college? The more Advanced Placement courses you complete, the more compelling your application to colleges and universities will be. The Academic Index is commonly used at schools such as Ivy League colleges and other highly selective educational establishments.

The Academic Index is a formula that condenses the academic history of a student into a single numerical number for the purpose of making comparisons between applicants more straightforward.

How do you pick the right AP classes?

How do you pick the right AP classes? In light of the fact that the College Board administers a plethora of standardized tests on an annual basis, it is only natural that students have difficulty determining which courses they should sign up for.

The following are some guidelines that can be used to assess the relative difficulty of different Advanced Placement (AP) classes and decide which ones can be worked into your schedule.

Think about the things you’re good at.

The most significant considerations to make while selecting Advanced Placement classes are the student’s own areas of expertise and areas for improvement. After all, you are more likely to score well on an exam in a subject area that piques your interest and gets you excited.

Because of this, if you are good at quantitative topics and enjoy physics, you might want to consider taking the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in Physics 1, despite the fact that it is said to be difficult.

On the other hand, if you have trouble understanding art history, you might want to think twice about taking a class on it, even though many students can pass the related AP exam.

Check the advanced placement (AP) policies of the colleges you are interested in attending.

When it comes to gaining AP credit, you also need to think carefully about how to proceed. When it comes to fulfilling general education course requirements or gaining placement into higher-level classes in college, Advanced Placement (AP) credits can be an extremely beneficial tool.

Check the policies of the universities that you are interested in attending to see how advanced placement and credit are handled. Some educational institutions award credit to students whose test scores are at least 3, while others may require a score of 4 or 5 for certain classes.

There is a possibility that highly selective universities would not grant any AP credit at all and would instead only use the exams for placement purposes.

Consider the experience of the educators

Although a student’s strengths are one of the most important factors to consider when choosing AP classes, they should also take into account the amount of experience their respective teachers have.

In general, the length of time that an instructor has been teaching a given AP subject is directly correlated to the level of success that their pupils achieve on the corresponding exam.

Therefore, if you have the choice between taking a “harder” subject like physics with a teacher who has ten years of experience or an “easier” subject like art history with someone who has just two years of experience, you may want to go with the option that allows you to take the “harder” subject.

Want to learn more about how you can handle the hardest high school classes? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college. Contact us today for more information on our services.



Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.