The Hardest High School Classes

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

hardest high school classes

The difficulty of the courses or subjects you take in high school plays an important role in the college admissions process. To stand out, high school students should challenge themselves with advanced courses such as AP, IB, and AICE classes. However, AP classes aren’t the only challenging options available. The difficulty of a class can vary greatly depending on the student’s learning style and the teacher’s approach. While one student might find a particular class challenging, another might not. So, what are the hardest high school classes?

10 of the Hardest Classes in High School

High school curricula include a mix of required courses, some of which are relatively easy and others among the most difficult. This article will explore some of the hardest high school classes and discuss what makes each subject complex.

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Pre Calculus
  • Foreign Language
  • US History
  • English Language and Composition
  • Economics
  • Computer Science
  • US Government and Politics
  • Biology

1. Physics

Physics covers complex concepts. 

It covers the fundamental laws that govern the universe, explaining everything from the motion of planets to the behavior of subatomic particles, making it one of the hardest high school classes. Understanding these laws requires students to grasp abstract and often non-intuitive ideas. For example, concepts like quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and relativity can be perplexing because they describe phenomena that aren’t directly observable in everyday life.

Physics requires strong Mathematical skills. 

Physics is heavily reliant on mathematical principles to formulate and solve problems. Students must be proficient in algebra, geometry, and calculus to succeed in Physics. This can be challenging for students who struggle with math, as the ability to manipulate and understand complex equations is important in this subject.

Students working on chemicals in a laboratory.

2. Chemistry

Chemistry requires a solid Mathematical Foundation. 

It involves plenty of difficult concepts that can be tough to understand without a solid foundation in Mathematics. Topics such as stoichiometry, thermodynamics, and chemical equilibrium require strong algebraic skills and an understanding of complex calculations. Students often struggle to keep up with the subject without this mathematical background.

The abstract nature of many Chemistry concepts can be particularly challenging. 

Unlike subjects that deal with more phenomena that can be seen by the naked eye, Chemistry often involves understanding the behavior of atoms and molecules, which cannot be seen directly. This requires students to visualize and conceptualize processes on a microscopic level, which can be quite difficult without a strong spatial and conceptual reasoning ability.

The real-life applications of Chemistry are not always immediately apparent to students.

This is one of the reasons it is considered one of the hardest high school classes. While Chemistry is fundamentally involved in many aspects of everyday life—from cooking and cleaning to medicine and the environment—these connections are not always clear in the classroom. This lack of perceived relevance can make it harder for students to engage with the material and appreciate its importance.

3. Pre Calculus

Pre-calculus requires even more complex Mathematical knowledge. 

It serves as a bridge between Algebra and Calculus, incorporating advanced topics from both disciplines. This course covers complex concepts such as trigonometric functions, polynomial and rational functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, sequences, and series. These topics require a deep understanding of previous mathematical principles, which can be overwhelming for students who have not fully mastered Algebra and Geometry.

It requires strong analytical and problem-solving skills. 

Unlike earlier math courses that often focus on rote memorization and straightforward procedures, Pre-Calculus requires students to think critically and apply their knowledge to solve complex problems. This higher level of cognitive engagement can be a significant adjustment for many students.

a math problem with a pencil

The pace of a Pre-Calculus course is typically fast. 

Teachers cover a wide range of material in a relatively short period, leaving little time for students to fully absorb and understand each concept before moving on to the next. This rapid progression can make it difficult for students to keep up, especially if they struggle with any of the foundational topics.

4. Foreign Language

Learning a foreign language requires mastering a new set of phonetics, grammar rules, and vocabulary. 

Unlike other subjects where students build on familiar concepts, foreign language classes demand the acquisition of entirely new linguistic structures. This can be particularly daunting as it involves memorizing and understanding many new words and grammatical rules.

Foreign language classes emphasize all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. 

Balancing these skills can be overwhelming, as each one requires a different approach and practice method. It is not a wonder why students consider foreign language to be one of the hardest high school classes. For instance, listening and speaking require a strong auditory and verbal component, while reading and writing focus on comprehension and expression. Mastering all these aspects simultaneously can be a complex and multifaceted task for high school students.

Foreign language learning demands consistent practice and immersion. 

Unlike subjects where cramming before tests might suffice, language acquisition requires regular and continuous practice. This often includes speaking with classmates, listening to audio recordings, watching films in the target language, and writing essays or reports. Such consistent engagement can be time-consuming and demanding, especially for students with busy schedules.

5. US History

The amount of information that students must learn in US History is substantial. 

The course covers hundreds of years of events, significant figures, social movements, political changes, economic developments, and cultural shifts. This vast amount of content requires students to remember hundreds of dates, names, and events, which can be overwhelming.

a male student writing an essay to his notebook

US History requires a deep understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.

Students must not only memorize facts but also analyze how different events and actions are interconnected. This involves critical thinking and the ability to interpret historical events in context, understanding how they influenced the course of history and their impact on the present day. Such analysis can be complex and challenging.

US History needs strong essay-writing skills.

If you ask students, “What is the hardest subject?” They will most likely say US History. This is because many assessments in history classes involve writing essays that require students to construct coherent arguments, support their points with evidence, and draw connections between different historical events. Developing these skills requires practice and a good understanding of both the content and the structure of effective writing which makes US History one of the hardest high school classes you can take.

It often involves discussing sensitive and complex issues such as slavery, civil rights, wars, and political conflicts.

These topics can be emotionally charged and require students to engage with difficult and sometimes uncomfortable material. Navigating these discussions respectfully and thoughtfully adds another layer of complexity to the course.

6. English Language and Composition

This course requires advanced reading comprehension skills.

Students must read and analyze a wide range of texts, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and prose from various time periods and genres. Understanding these texts involves not only grasping their surface meaning but also interpreting deeper themes, literary devices, and rhetorical strategies. This level of analysis demands a high degree of critical thinking and attention to detail.

The course demands proficiency in rhetorical analysis.

Students must understand how authors use language to persuade, inform, or entertain their audiences. This involves identifying rhetorical devices such as ethos, pathos, and logos and analyzing how these devices contribute to a text’s overall effectiveness. Rhetorical analysis requires a deep understanding of language and the ability to think critically about how words are used to achieve specific purposes.

The coverage of the subject is vast.

The course often includes a diverse range of texts, from classic literature to contemporary essays. This diversity requires students to be adaptable and open-minded, as they must engage with a wide variety of writing styles, cultural contexts, and perspectives. Keeping up with the extensive reading and responding thoughtfully to each text can be demanding.

7. Economics

Economics covers a wide array of abstract concepts and theories.

Students must understand and apply principles such as supply and demand, market equilibrium, elasticity, and marginal analysis making Economics one of the hardest high school classes. These concepts often involve intricate relationships and can be counterintuitive, requiring students to think analytically and critically.

Economics relies heavily on mathematical skills.

Concepts like calculating GDP, interpreting graphs, understanding statistical data, and working with formulas for elasticity or consumer surplus necessitate a strong foundation in mathematics. Students who struggle with math may find these aspects particularly challenging.

Group of people talking in a meeting.

Economics involves significant amounts of reading and comprehension. 

Economics is one of the hardest high school classes because students must read and interpret complex texts, including academic papers, economic reports, and policy documents. Understanding these materials often requires familiarity with specialized vocabulary and the ability to synthesize information from multiple sources.

Economics demands strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Students must evaluate economic arguments, assess the validity of different perspectives, and propose solutions to economic problems. This level of analysis requires not only a deep understanding of economic principles but also the ability to apply them in diverse and often ambiguous situations.

8. Computer Science

Computer Science involves learning multiple programming languages and understanding how to apply them effectively.

Languages such as Java, Python, and C++ each have their own syntax, rules, and applications. Mastering these languages requires a high level of precision and attention to detail, as even small errors in code can lead to significant problems.

It requires strong problem-solving skills.

Computer science is considered one of the hardest high school classes because students must learn to break down complex problems into manageable parts and develop algorithms to solve them. This process often involves logical thinking and the ability to anticipate and troubleshoot potential issues. Developing these skills can be particularly challenging for students who are not naturally inclined toward analytical thinking.

It requires mathematical proficiency.

Many computer science principles, such as algorithms, cryptography, and computational theory, are grounded in advanced mathematics. Students need to be comfortable with topics like discrete mathematics, probability, and statistics to understand and apply these concepts effectively.

Computer Science classes often include practical, hands-on projects that require significant time and effort.

These projects can range from simple coding assignments to complex software development tasks. Completing these projects successfully demands not only technical skills but also creativity, patience, and perseverance.

programmer working in programming website a software and coding technology, writing codes and data code

9. US Government and Politics

The subject itself is vast and complex. 

Students are required to understand the intricate workings of the US government, including the Constitution, the branches of government, federalism, and the system of checks and balances. This involves not only memorizing key facts and figures but also comprehending how these elements interact to shape the political landscape.

The class demands a high level of critical thinking and analytical skills.

Students must analyze and interpret a wide range of documents, including Supreme Court decisions, landmark legislation, and historical political writings. They need to understand the context in which these documents were created and the impact they have had on American society and governance. This requires an ability to think deeply and critically about important social and political issues.

US Government and Politics involve understanding political theories and ideologies.

This subject is one of the hardest high school classes because students must familiarize themselves with concepts such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and libertarianism, and understand how these ideologies influence political behavior and policy-making. This theoretical aspect of the course can be particularly challenging, as it requires students to engage with abstract ideas and apply them to real-world situations.

10. Biology

Biology covers a vast array of complex topics.

Students must learn about cellular processes, genetics, evolution, ecology, human anatomy, and physiology, among other subjects. This breadth of material requires a significant amount of memorization and understanding of specific details. For example, students need to remember the structures and functions of various cell organelles, the steps of cellular respiration and photosynthesis, and the intricacies of DNA replication and protein synthesis.

Biology is inherently detailed and descriptive.

Unlike subjects that might rely more on abstract reasoning or mathematical calculations, Biology requires students to understand and explain detailed processes and mechanisms. For instance, explaining how the circulatory system works or how ecosystems maintain balance involves a deep understanding of biological concepts and the ability to articulate them clearly.

A young man inside the library smiling at the camera

Biology often includes a substantial laboratory component.

Students are required to perform experiments, work with microscopes, dissect specimens, and record observations accurately. These hands-on activities demand precision, attention to detail, and a thorough understanding of safety protocols. Successfully completing lab work also requires students to integrate theoretical knowledge with practical skills, which can be a challenging transition.

How can you deal with the hardest high school classes?

Dealing with the hardest high school classes requires a strategic approach and a proactive mindset.

  • Stay organized. Using a planner to track assignments, tests, and deadlines can help you manage your workload effectively. Breaking down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks can make them less overwhelming.
  • Develop a consistent study routine. Setting aside specific times each day for studying helps build good habits and ensures you stay on top of your coursework.
  • Participate actively. Attending all classes and engaging actively can enhance your understanding of the material. Taking detailed notes during lectures will also be beneficial when reviewing for tests and assignments.
  • Seek help early. Don’t wait until you’re falling behind to ask for assistance. Teachers, tutors, and classmates can provide valuable support.
  • Form study groups. Collaborating with peers to review material and prepare for exams allows you to benefit from different perspectives and reinforces your understanding.
  • Practice regularly. Especially for subjects like math and science, this strategy works like magic! Practicing problems frequently improves understanding and retention of the material.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the hardest subject in junior high school?

What is the hardest subject in junior high school? The hardest subject in junior high school often varies for each student, but many find mathematics or science to be particularly challenging due to the complex concepts and problem-solving skills required.

What is the hardest subject in senior high school?

What is the hardest subject in senior high school? Many students find Advanced Placement (AP) courses or subjects like calculus, physics, or chemistry to be the hardest due to their advanced content and the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they require.

What is the hardest class in college?

What is the hardest class in college? The hardest class in college often depends on the individual student’s strengths and interests. Still, courses like organic chemistry, advanced calculus, and theoretical physics are frequently cited as some of the most challenging due to their complex material and high level of abstraction.

What is the hardest year of high school?

What is the hardest year of high school? The hardest year is often considered to be the junior year. This is because students typically face a heavier academic workload, including advanced courses and standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT, while preparing for college applications and extracurricular commitments.


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