Hardest High School Classes and How to Pass Them

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    Course rigor is one of the most important college admissions factors. This is why high school students should challenge themselves by taking advanced courses, such as AP, IB, and AICE classes. That said, AP classes are not the only challenging high school courses. In fact, the difficulty of a class largely depends on the student’s learning style and the teacher’s teaching style. So, while one class may prove to be difficult for one student, another student may find it less challenging.

    In this article, we will share key information about AP classes. We will also provide you with a list of 5 study tips to help you succeed in all of your hardest classes — regardless of whether these classes are Honors, AP, IB, or AICE. Remember, there are lots of factors that influence the difficulty of a course, and everyone and every class is different. The most important thing is to set yourself up for success by cultivating good study habits!

      How to approach challenging high school classes

      AP, IB, and AICE classes aren’t the only challenging high school courses. In fact, high schoolers may struggle with any number of core classes: Math, Science, English, History, Foreign Languages, etc. Really it all comes down to the individual student, teacher, and school.

      For example, one student may excel in English and History but struggle in Math and Spanish. Another student may excel in Biology but struggle in Chemistry. It all depends on the student’s learning style, natural strengths, and interests. The difficulty of a class also depends on the teacher’s overall standards and expectations. After all, an A+ assignment for one teacher could easily be a B for another teacher.

      The main takeaway here is that each class and each subject has the potential to be challenging. And what’s challenging for one student may not be challenging for another student and vice versa. This is why it’s important to focus on setting yourself up for success, no matter what your strengths and weaknesses may be.

      I like the angle on this but, why AP? I think the goal of this was to create a healthy blend of every core course offered at schools.

      I think adding a section or two on other courses offered in high school would be good.

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve reworked the article so that it addresses challenging high school classes more broadly. Let me know your thoughts!

      5 study tips for high schoolers

      It’s no secret that high school classes can be challenging, especially advanced courses. This is why it’s important to seek out feedback from your teachers, peers, and high school guidance counselor. In the meantime, let’s review our 5 study tips for high schoolers!


      Ask lots of questions

      Actively engage in class discussions. Participation is key! Ask lots of questions. Talk with your teacher after class with any concerns or clarifying questions. Make sure you understand the expectations for each assignment. Write down all of your assignments, along with their due dates and other key information.


      Rewrite and organize your notes

      First, take plenty of notes during class. Afterward, reorganize and rewrite your notes. This might include separating notes by topic, placing events in chronological order, grouping important figures together, etc. Essentially, you are making yourself a well-organized study guide. The great thing about this study method is that the physical act of making your study guide helps you study!


      Find a study buddy

      Finding someone to study with can be a great way to prepare for exams, especially the final AP exam. Oftentimes the best way to learn is to teach! Take turns quizzing one another and explaining key concepts. Collaborating with other students is also a great way to learn more study tips and tricks!


      Seek out supplemental study materials

      Ask your teachers for supplemental study materials. Depending on your teacher, they may be willing to email you powerpoints or recommend outside reading materials. If you are studying for an AP exam, you’ll want to take several AP practice exams and visit the College Board website for specific AP study resources.


      Ask for feedback

      Be sure to ask your teachers for feedback, especially after quizzes, tests, papers, and projects. Maybe you could benefit from participating more in class. Or could use some extra help learning how to organize your essays more effectively. Whatever your teacher’s feedback may be, try to come up with tangible strategies to improve. Make a plan together to reach your specific goals.

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      Hardest AP classes ranked

      Now, let’s take a look at some of the hardest AP classes. But first, it’s worth mentioning that determining the hardest AP classes isn’t a straightforward process. This is because there are lots of factors that influence course difficulty, such as teaching and learning styles.

      That said, looking at a List of AP Classes With the Highest Passing Rates can help you make informed decisions during your high school course selection. Consider the list below of the 10 hardest AP classes, according to their overall 2022 passing rates:

      • Physics 1: 43.3%
      • US History: 48.2%
      • US Government and Politics: 48.6%
      • Macro Economics: 51.8%
      • Human Geography: 53.2%
      • Environmental Science: 53.8%
      • Chemistry: 54.0%
      • English Language and Composition: 55.7%
      • Calculus AB: 55.7%
      • German Language: 57.5%

      During your high school course selection, keep in mind that the hardest AP course for you may be different from the hardest AP course for one of your peers. Mostly, it comes down to your teacher, whether or not you’re genuinely interested in the subject, and your ability to stay organized and practice good study habits.

      How many AP classes should I take?

      So, if you’re like many high school students, you’re probably wondering how many AP classes should I take? Or how many AP classes does the average student take?

      Most college consultants recommend that motivated students take 4 to 8 AP classes. That said, this number may vary depending on your academic interests, the number of AP classes offered by your high school, as well as your overall comfort level.

      Knowing how to choose the right high school classes for you takes self-awareness and guidance. Ask your teachers and high school guidance counselor for class recommendations. It’s important that you challenge yourself as much as possible while maintaining a solid high school GPA. In other words, a B in an AP class will be viewed more favorably than an A in a regular course, but a C in an AP class won’t win you any points with college admissions officers.

      But from a more holistic standpoint, the truth is that any class can be challenging, regardless of whether it’s an AP class or not. Therefore, the trick to choosing your classes is to demonstrate self-awareness and know what your natural strengths and weaknesses are and what you are capable of achieving.

      It’s also worth mentioning that while you’re reviewing the full list of AP classes, you may see a class you’re interested in that isn’t offered by your high school. If this is the case, reach out to your high school guidance counselor to see if there are any online options available to you. If not, some ambitious students may choose to self-study for AP exams!

      How to study for an AP exam

      Curious about how to study for an AP test or when to start studying for AP exams?

      In terms of the final exam, you should give yourself at least a month to review key concepts and take several practice exams. That said, you should treat each AP class seriously and study for the final exam throughout the entire course. This will be particularly important if you are trying to figure out how to study for multiple AP exams. In other words, don’t cram for your exams! Give yourself plenty of time to study and spend the year building relevant skills.

      Can you self-study for AP exams? Yes. That said, you’ll need to give yourself lots of time to prepare for the exam. After all, if you self-study, you won’t actually be enrolled in the class. So giving yourself enough time is key!

      Key takeaways and moving forward

      Do AP classes really matter? The short answer is yes, they do! College admissions officers look at course rigor and high school GPA closely when selecting students, especially at highly-selective colleges and universities. Therefore, taking plenty of AP classes, and maintaining a strong GPA, are key admissions factors. That said, lots of high school classes can be challenging, not just AP classes. And college admissions officers are often just as impressed by students who challenge themselves by signing up for a variety of classes. After all, sometimes, broadening your horizons can help you out in the long run!

      College admissions officers want to admit passionate students intent on challenging themselves. AP classes are also a great way to communicate that you are capable of succeeding in college-level coursework. If you have questions about your course selection or need help coming up with your college application strategy, reach out to learn more about our services.

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