Taking AP courses online is not the traditional method for completing these classes. However, as technology has advanced, so too have online offerings of AP classes.
There are many benefits of taking AP classes in general. There are many others for taking AP classes online. Specifically, you can complete your studies at the time of day that works best for you. You can also take courses that might not be offered to you at your school.
- Harvard’s CS50 Computer Science
- AP Psychology: What is Psychology?
- Berkley’s AP Lit and English Composition
Disclaimer: Some courses may include an affiliate link. Courses were chosen first based on the methodology with affiliate links only added after the ranking was complete.
Completing AP courses online can also lead to college credit. This helps you get a head start on your college career. It could even mean that you graduate early.
But like any online learning, taking AP courses online should be done only after lots of research. Not all AP courses online are made alike. While some are worth your time and effort, others are not.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best AP online classes currently available.
The classes on our list were not randomly selected. Instead, we’ve developed a methodology to identify the best AP online classes.
Our rankings take three factors into account:
By examining AP courses online using each of these three measures, we’re able to develop a comprehensive picture of the value of each course.
A detailed explanation of this methodology is below.
Methodology to Determine the Best Online AP Courses
The scoring system that we’ve developed is designed to help you identify the best AP online classes.
The courses in the rankings below are ranked using a single score of their affordability, flexibility, and accessibility. However, you’re also provided with an evaluation of each individual factor.
This enables you to look at each class on a macro and micro level. So, if you want to prioritize affordability, you can look at the affordability score for each class. You can do this in addition to looking at its overall score. The more information you have to make a decision, the more likely you are to make a decision that’s right for you and your education.
Let’s explore each of the three factors of our methodology in more detail.
The first priority for many online learners is being able to take courses they need without paying huge sums of money. For that reason, we prioritize cost as the top factor in our rankings.
This is how affordability is measured:
- Free: 6 points
- Under $50: 5 points
- $51-100: 4 points
- $101-150: 3 points
- $151-200: 2 points
- $201 and above: 1 point
Clearly, free courses are assigned the most points. Again, this is to reflect the desire of many students to save money on their studies.
This does not mean that all free courses are better than all paid courses. Far from it. As you’ll see in the rankings, there are many excellent paid courses that are well worth your time.
The second factor we used to determine the best AP online classes is flexibility.
Having the flexibility to learn when you have the time is a huge benefit. This is especially true if you’re taking these courses in addition to your normal school day.
Some online AP courses are more flexible than others. For example, some are self-paced. Others have strict deadlines. Some of these courses require you to meet with teachers on a regular basis. Others do not have this requirement.
This factor is scored as follow:
- High flexibility: 2 points
- Moderate flexibility: 1 point
- Low flexibility: 0 points
As shown above, the more flexible a course is, the more points it earns. Courses that are low in flexibility do not earn any points. There are no courses in our rankings that have low flexibility.
AP courses online should be easy to access. After all, it’s hard to learn if getting into the class is difficult!
Having the ability to do your studies as your schedule allows is a huge bonus. It will give you the best opportunity of engaging with the material in a meaningful way.
Likewise, the best AP online classes offer things like offline learning materials. Many courses have accessibility via smartphone or other mobile devices. Many others give you immediate access to course materials once you enroll. These are just a few accessibility features we look for when assigning points for this metric.
This factor is scored as follows:
- High accessibility: 3 points
- Moderate accessibility: 2 points
- Low accessibility: 1 point
Ranking the Best Online AP Courses
#12: AP Biology
This AP Biology course is offered by Apex Learning. It is the complete Biology curriculum and lasts two semesters. This course is approved by the College Board to have the AP designation.
This course includes studies of biology on the micro and macro scales. Topics of study include:
- Cell biology
- The scientific method
In particular, you’ll learn how to conduct experiments in lab settings. This includes forming hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data and reporting results.
The course activities are designed to enhance your critical thinking and analytical skills as well. These higher-order thinking skills are crucial for your success in future science courses and in collegiate studies.
Flexibility: Moderate flexibility. This course is structured in a traditional semester format. There are specific deadlines that must be met.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This course is conducted online. You have access to course materials and teacher feedback. Tutors are also available.
#11: AP US History Review Course
Get prepared for the AP US History exam with this course from Kaplan. While this is one of the most expensive courses on this list, it’s also one of the only ones that includes live interaction with an expert teacher.
This course includes eight live sessions, each of which is two hours in length. During these sessions, you’ll learn about:
- Native American societies
- Gilded age politics
- World War II
- Modern US history
As part of this top AP class, you also get Barron’s premium US history study prep book. Other study materials include notes and study guides.
If you need more direction than a self-paced course, this instructor-led course might be a good option for you.
Flexibility: Moderate flexibility. This course has required sessions on Saturdays and Sundays. The course follows a specific schedule and lasts eight weeks.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This course is easily accessible online. There are various materials included, like a textbook for offline learning.
#10: AP Calculus AB
This AP Calculus AB course is offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. The course is approved by the College Board, which is in charge of AP courses.
This course is self-paced. There are no planned class meetings. However, students can schedule times to meet one-on-one with the instructor.
Topics in this class include:
- Using definite integrals
- Integration techniques
You’ll also learn about the properties of integrals and learn how to determine accumulated change. The coursework in this class is the same as what you would find in a college Calculus I course.
This course includes lectures, online videos, and animations to aid your learning. Learning is assessed via homework assignments, chapter exams, and free-response questions.
Affordability: $860 for three months (at the time of writing)
Flexibility: High flexibility. This is a self-paced course. Begin and finish the class when you wish. There are no deadlines. However, you may have to pay extra to get an extension on a course.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This course is immediately available upon enrollment. Materials can be accessed 24/7.
#9: CS50’s AP Computer Science Principles
If you want to take the AP exam for computer science, this prep course from Harvard and edX is a good choice.
This course is two different classes combined into one. The first course, Understanding Technology, is an introduction to how technology works. The second course, Introduction to Computer Science, focuses on enterprise-level computing and programming.
Some of the topics you’ll study in this course include:
- Web development
- Computer programming, including Python, SQL, and C
- Computer security
This course will also introduce you to HTML and CSS. These languages are used to create engaging websites and apps.
Harvard’s course is approved by the College Board to meet its requirements for AP Computer Science Principles credit. This means you might be able to receive AP credit at your school upon successful completion of this class.
Affordability: $162 (at the time of writing)
Flexibility: High flexibility. You can learn at your own pace. Most students take about 5 months to finish, though.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This class is immediately available once you enroll. Course materials and activities are easily accessed online.
#8: AP Calculus BC Exam Prep
This AP Calculus BC exam prep course is from Study.com. It is a comprehensive course. Included in it are 167 lessons. New lessons are often added too.
Each lesson in this course drills down to a specific topic. Lessons are short and easy to digest. This can help you learn and retain what you learn as well.
Topics discussed in this course include:
- How to analyze Taylor series
- How to graph functions
- How to identify second derivatives
This class also includes a unit on how to properly use a scientific calculator. Likewise, you’ll develop strategies for finding the limits of functions.
You get access to many different study materials. This includes practice tests, video tutorials, and lesson quizzes.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This course is learn-at-your-own-pace. You can learn any time day or night.
Accessibility: High accessibility. Gain access to the course from any internet-enabled device. Upon enrollment, course access is immediate.
#7: AP US Government and Politics: Exam Prep
This exam prep course for AP US government and politics was developed by Study.com.
This is not a traditional online AP course. It focuses on preparing you for the exam rather than being a full AP course.
There are 18 chapters in the class. Chapters include resources like readings, flashcards, and quizzes to test your knowledge.
Some of the topics you’ll study include:
- Core principles of democracy
- Features of the executive branch
- Civil liberties
There are also units on economics, foreign policy, and political parties.
Students that successfully complete this course will be better equipped to pass the associated AP exam.
Flexibility: High flexibility. Learn at your own pace. Each lesson is very short, which enables you to study even if you only have a few minutes.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This course is 100 percent online. Access the course on a computer, smartphone, or tablet any time of day.
#6: AP Statistics
This AP statistics course was developed by Khan Academy. It is a brand-new course that is still in development. There are currently 16 individual lessons. More lessons and new content are being added as well.
This class begins with a study of categorical data. You will learn about two-way tables. You’ll also learn to analyze one categorical variable.
Other lessons in this course include:
- Quantitative data
- Study design
There are also lessons on statistics in research. This includes sampling distributions, confidence intervals, and chi-square tests.
Khan Academy is a well-respected online learning center. Their lessons in AP statistics are designed to help you gain the skills you need to get a high score on the AP statistics exam.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This course gives you the flexibility of learning any time you need, day or night. Work at your own pace and take as long as you wish to complete the course.
Accessibility: High accessibility. Khan Academy makes learning easy with highly accessible courses. All materials are easily available online. This includes lessons, videos, and practice questions.
#5: AP English Literature & Composition – Part 1: Stories
This AP prep course was developed by the University of California at Berkeley. It’s offered by edX.
Though this is not a complete AP course, it is a great option for working on specific literary and compositional skills. The course focuses on literature. It addresses your ability to read and write about literature more effectively.
Topics covered in this online AP course include:
- How to interpret classic works of literature
- Cultural considerations of literature
- Test-taking strategies
You’ll also learn methods to improve your academic writing abilities. This is a skill that will be handy for the AP exam. Better writing skills are a must for college as well.
This is an introductory level course. Students that successfully complete this class will have the skills needed to attain a better score on the AP exam.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This course is self-paced. There are no prerequisites, so anyone can enroll.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This course includes videos, transcripts, and other materials to assist your learning. The course is readily available online any time of day.
#4: AP Physics 1: Challenging Concepts
AP Physics is one of the more challenging AP courses. With this prep class from Davidson Next and edX, you’ll be better prepared for the AP Physics exam.
This course focuses on eight of the most difficult parts of the AP Physics exam. This includes:
- Free fall and projectile motion
- Rotational motion
- Angular momentum
As a student in this class, you’ll also study standing waves and conservation of charge.
The benefit of this class is that each concept is broken down into short lessons. This enables you to quickly study concepts as you have time. It also limits confusion as you’re focused on one topic at a time.
Most students need about eight weeks to finish this class. However, it is self-paced so you can take as much time as you need.
Flexibility: High flexibility. You can work at your own pace. Set deadlines and reset them as needed.
Accessibility: High accessibility. The course is totally online for easy access. The class comes with videos, transcripts, and other learning materials as well.
#3: AP Psychology – Course 1: What is Psychology?
The University of British Columbia developed this course. It is one of eight courses in AP psychology that you can take on edX.
Psychology is a complex subject. This is why the exam prep course is broken into eight separate classes. This course serves as an introduction to psychology. The central question you’ll seek to answer is, “What is psychology?”
The main topics of study include:
- The history of psychology
- Psychological research methods
- Basic statistics
Also included in the course is a discussion of how psychology has changed. This includes a look at modern psychology and how it differs from psychology of the past.
This course is usually completed in three weeks. This assumes you study 8-12 hours each week. It is an open-ended course. If you need more time to finish the class, you can take as long as you wish.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This course is open-ended. You can finish it in as little or as much time as you need.
Accessibility: High accessibility. You can complete class assignments on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Learning is 100 percent online.
#2: Preparing for the AP English Language and Composition Exam
This free course was developed by the Tennessee Board of Regents and is offered by edX. The purpose of this course is to help students further develop their reading and writing skills.
Specifically, you’ll take part in activities that foster the growth of:
- Evidence-based analytic skills
- Argumentative writing
- Rhetorical analysis of non-fiction
Students will also explore various types of writing. This includes argumentative, expository, analytical, and narrative tests.
There will also be time spent on the writing process. Students will learn the value of writing in steps and getting feedback from others to inform revisions.
To help students prepare for the AP exam, there is a unit on developing research skills. Students will conduct independent research and write an argumentative essay using information from multiple sources.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This is a self-paced course. Most students take 35 weeks to complete it. However, you can take more time if needed.
Accessibility: High accessibility. edX offers this course online for use any time of day or night. There are also videos and transcripts of lessons available for further study.
#1: AP Chemistry
Khan Academy developed this best AP Chemistry prep course. It is offered for free, so any student can participate in it.
This is a beta course that is still in development. More activities and lessons are being added. However, the lessons that are currently in the class are well worth your time.
Learning activities include:
- Atomic structures and properties
- Molecular structures and properties
- Intermolecular forces
This class also has a unit on chemical reactions.
To help you retain what you learn, each lesson has short video lectures and practice questions to test your knowledge. You also get access to Khan Academy’s older AP Chemistry course. It includes similar lessons, videos, and practice questions from previous versions of the AP exam.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This is a free course. It’s also self-paced. This gives you tons of flexibility to learn when you have time.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This course is available online 24/7. Course materials are all online for easy access. You can take the class on any internet-enabled device as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most popular AP courses to take?
The most popular AP courses online are core subjects like social studies and math. According to C2 Education, the five most popular courses are as follows:
- English Language and Composition
- US History
- English Literature and Composition
- Calculus AB
- US Government and Politics
These courses are highly popular for a couple of reasons.
First, these are common core courses that are required to graduate from high school. While some AP classes might be fun to take as an elective, the courses listed above are must-haves.
Second, these classes are typically part of general education requirements for a college degree. By taking these AP courses online, you can earn college credit that will apply to any degree program you choose.
For many students, taking AP courses is about getting ahead with their studies. If you wish to do the same, consider taking these popular AP courses online.
What are the least popular AP courses to take?
Where popular AP courses have wide applicability for high school and college, less popular courses may or may not earn you credit. Likewise, niche AP courses may not be accepted at some colleges and universities.
This isn’t to say you should avoid less popular courses. If a subject interests you, by all means, learn more about it!
According to C2 Education, the least popular AP courses to take include:
- Studio Art: 3-D Design
- Studio Art: Drawing
- Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
- Music Theory
- Comparative Government and Politics
What are the hardest AP classes?
There is data that shows that some AP classes are consistently rated by students as more difficult than others.
AP Physics is at the top of the list. Physics is an incredibly complex subject. It also requires a significant amount of study time to master. With this combination of degree of difficulty and time commitment, it’s no wonder that physics courses are among the most difficult courses you can take.
In fact, Exam Study Expert notes that three AP physics courses are among the top five toughest courses offered by AP. Physics C (Electricity and Magnetism) ranks as the most difficult. Physics C (Mechanics) comes in at number three. Physics 1 is ranked the fifth-most difficult AP course.
If we extend the list to the top six most difficult AP classes, Physics 2 is in sixth place. In fact, six of the ten hardest AP courses are in science (chemistry is ranked number four and biology is ranked number eight).
What are the easiest AP classes?
To be fair, all AP courses are college-level classes. This means that there is a high level of rigor in all courses. The point of these classes is to challenge students and to help them develop higher-order skills. This makes all AP classes challenging in their own way.
That being said, some AP classes are easier to take in an online self-study format than others.
For example, AP World History is probably an easier class for most students than AP Calculus BC. World history is an easier topic to study and understand for most students. The nature of the readings, homework assignments, and tests is different as well.
For example, in AP World History you might need to read a passage about the fall of Rome and be able to critically answer questions about what you’ve read. In AP Calculus, however, you might have to demonstrate specific mathematical skills that have a definite right and wrong answer.
Likewise, some AP exams are easier to pass than others. According to PrepScholar, the easiest AP Exam to pass is AP Studio Art. This test has a pass rate of 91.1 percent (with a score of 3 or more).
Contrast that with the AP Physics 1 exam. It has a pass rate of just 45.4 percent (with a score of 3 or more. Other AP exams fall in between. For example, 71.9 percent of students pass the AP Computer Science Principles test with a 3 or higher. The AP Biology exam has a pass rate of 64.7 percent with a score of at least 3. The AP US Government and Politics exam has a pass rate of 55.1 percent with a score of 3 or more.
So, as you can see, different courses represent different levels of “ease.” So too do AP exams. Just remember that you have your own strengths and weaknesses. While physics might be a tough AP class and a tough AP exam, if you’re really good at physics, it might be the easiest AP course for you to take.
Can you take AP classes over the summer?
Yes, though not all AP classes are offered in the summertime.
The best way to find an AP class that’s offered in the summer is to speak with a school official, like a guidance counselor. They will know which courses are offered in the summer. Alternatively, if their school doesn’t offer AP courses in the summer, they might be able to find other schools that do.
Once you find an AP course to take over summer break, you’ll need to enroll. If the course is offered at your school, this is a simple process. If you have to take the class at another school or online, the enrollment process might be a little more complex.
Completing an AP course in the summer requires even more responsibility on the part of students. Summer courses are often accelerated, so you have to be diligent in your studies otherwise you might fall behind. If you take AP courses online in the summer, the need to be diligent with your studies is even more important. This is because many AP courses online do not have a teacher directly overseeing your work.
If the summer AP course you take is online or at a different school, you’ll have to have the credits transferred to your school. Work out this process with your guidance counselor before you take the class. This will ensure that the credits can transfer and will apply to your graduation requirements.
Completing the course is just one step in preparing to take the associated AP exam. You’ll need to practice and prepare for the exam. Use courses like those listed in our rankings, study guides, and other resources to get yourself ready for the test.
Can homeschoolers take AP courses?
Yes, AP courses are open to homeschoolers.
As noted above, you can take AP courses over the summer. You can take them online or in person, if you have access to a local school that offers AP courses in the summer. You can also take AP courses online during the traditional school year.
Taking AP courses as a homeschooled student is an excellent idea. It gives you a chance to experience rigorous study. You can also earn college credit, just like students that attend a traditional school.
Having AP courses on your transcript might also make your college application stand out. This is helpful because it will make you a more attractive student to the college or university of your choice.
Taking AP courses as a homeschooled student will also help you develop stronger study skills. Likewise, you’ll need excellent time management skills to complete the coursework in a timely fashion. These are important traits to have as you enter college.
Just be aware that AP courses are college-level classes. Students that take an AP course in school with an AP-approved teacher tend to perform better on the AP exam. This does not mean that you can’t be successful in AP classes. It just means that you will have to put in a lot of hard work to master the content. Dedication to your studies is really important, that way you can earn a satisfactory score on the AP exam and get college credit.
A good resource for homeschooled students that are thinking about taking AP courses is Pennsylvania Homeschoolers. This organization offers many different AP classes.
Can international students take AP courses?
Yes, international students can take AP courses. The College Board has developed AP International specifically so educators can offer AP courses to students that live outside the United States and Canada.
Schools located anywhere in the world have to follow standardized steps for being able to offer AP courses. The process is fairly simple to get approved. The most important step is to assign an AP coordinator, who will then be the point person for getting the AP course organized. They will also oversee the administration of the course.
Once a school is recognized by the AP as a participating school, the course can be offered to students. Additionally, schools can offer the AP exams, which are typically administered in the first half of May each year. Schools that are approved to administer the AP exams can elect to allow students from other schools or homeschooled students to take the test as well.
The good news for international students is that earning a satisfactory score on an AP exam earns credit, just like for students in North America. In fact, AP credits are recognized in more than 100 countries. They are also accepted at virtually all colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.
What grades can take AP courses?
Most AP courses are intended for students in the 11th or 12th grade. In fact, the College Board, which develops Advanced Placement courses, reminds students and teachers that “AP courses are specifically designed to provide challenging, college-level course work for willing and academically prepared high school students.”
However, some AP courses are open to younger learners. World history and European history are two examples. These courses can be taken by students in the 10th grade. Again, the College Board offers the reminder that these classes should only be taken by “academically prepared” 10th graders.
As another example, AP world languages can be offered to students younger than the 9th grade. Since these courses focus on both language skills and cultural competency, they can be offered to learners that can already fluently speak, read, and write the language.
All that said, there is no age requirement to take an AP class. Younger students can take AP courses if they desire and are allowed to do so by their school. Enrollment in these courses is handled at the local level.
What’s more, students can take AP exams without having to take the associated AP class. So, if a younger student wishes to take the exam, they can do so with the permission of their school. But since AP courses are designed to be challenging, it’s important that students not rush into AP course work. According to the College Board, AP exam results show that in most cases younger students are “not sufficiently prepared” to take a college-level class.
Are AP courses worth it?
Yes! AP courses offer many benefits to students.
First, AP courses give you the opportunity to study a subject in depth. They are college-level courses and go beyond what you would learn in a typical high school class. The knowledge and skills that you gain in AP courses will benefit you later on when you go to college.
Second, college admissions officers are looking for the best and brightest students. By having AP coursework on your high school transcript, you can stand out from other applicants. In some cases, having AP coursework under your belt could mean the difference between getting into your college of choice.
Third, AP courses earn college credit at nearly every college and university in the United States. If you’re studying in the U.S., this means you can get a jumpstart on earning the credits you need to graduate. This, in turn, means you might be able to graduate from college early.
Fourth, taking AP courses in high school and earning college credits will help you save money. Tuition and fees at colleges and universities can be extremely expensive. By taking AP classes in college, you can avoid having to pay for some of the required courses you need to graduate.
These are just a few advantages of taking AP courses. These classes are difficult and require a lot of work. But the work is worth it to reap the rewards!
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