College & Workforce Readiness

AP Exams: The Top 10 Most Requested Subjects (and the Least Requested)

By Ileana Najarro — January 26, 2024 3 min read
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Each November, students and schools face a deadline for registering for exams for the College Board’s Advanced Placement fall-semester and yearlong courses.

These exams are taken in May and depending on how well students score, they are eligible for college course credit.

Not all schools offer every AP course, though based on College Board’s exam data—requested by Education Week—students register the most for AP courses in the humanities.

This May marks the inaugural exam year for two new AP courses: AP Precalculus and AP African American Studies, the latter of which is in its’ second year pilot.

The demand for AP Precalculus exams exceeded expectations, said Trevor Packer, head of the College Board’s AP program in an email. More than 177,000 students registered for this exam. Before this, the largest debut of a new AP course was AP Computer Science Principles in 2017 with 44,000 students taking the exam in its inaugural year, Packer said.

The College Board expected 7,000 students would participate in the AP African American Studies course and exam in its second and final pilot year. More than 12,000 students signed up for the exam.

The AP Seminar course saw a 33 percent increase in participating students this year, Packer added, driven by many schools now using it as a 10th grade English course “to ensure students are developing strong critical reading, analytic writing, and research skills as a foundation for the classes they will take in 11th and 12th grades.”

Out of a total of 5,652,255 exam registrations for fall semester and yearlong courses, here are the top 10 AP course exam registrations for this year’s May exam period:

10. AP Statistics

252,200 exam registrations. This course covers “major concepts and tools used for collecting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from data,” according to the College Board.

9. AP Human Geography

256,982 exam registrations. This course explores “how humans have understood, used, and changed the surface of Earth.”

8. AP Biology

265,084 exam registrations. This course covers the “core scientific principles, theories, and processes that govern living organisms and biological systems.”

7. AP Calculus AB

284,251 exam registrations. This course explores the “concepts, methods, and applications of differential and integral calculus.”

6. AP Psychology

310,384 exam registrations. This course explores the “ideas, theories, and methods of the scientific study of behavior and mental processes.” It also drew national attention last year after a back-and-forth between the Florida education department and the College Board over whether the course could legally be taught in full in Florida due to a course requirement of instruction on the topic of gender and sex.

5. AP United States Government and Politics

316,000 exam registrations. This course covers the “key concepts and institutions of the political system and culture of the United States.” In 2022, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the College Board said questions on the case would not be included in the 2023 spring exam.

In an update to the course page online last year, the College Board said: “Although the Supreme Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade, it remains required course content and is part of Topic 3.9, “Amendments: Due Process and the Right to Privacy” along with two additional cases, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022). Any of these cases can be the focus of AP Exam questions related to this topic, but none of them will be the focus of Free Response Question 3.”

4. AP World History: Modern

380,378 exam registrations. This course covers “cultural, economic, political, and social developments that have shaped the world from c. 1200 CE to the present.”

3. AP English Literature and Composition

394,486 exam registrations. This course covers “how to understand and evaluate works of fiction, poetry, and drama from various periods and cultures.”

2. AP United States History

490,438 exam registrations. This course covers the “cultural, economic, political, and social developments that have shaped the United States from c. 1491 to the present.”

1. AP English Language and Composition

588,470 exam registrations. This course covers “the elements of argument and composition” as students develop critical reading and writing skills.

For a look at how the top 10 rankings shifted between 2022 and 2023 see the chart below.

For a look at how each AP course fared in demand, use the table below.

The course with the lowest number of registrations by November 2023 was AP Italian Language with only 2,358 registrations.

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