How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

If you want a jump start on your college career, then you’re probably looking to take a few AP classes in high school. AP, or Advanced Placement, is a national program allowing students to earn college credits or equivalency before even stepping foot on campus.

UC Berkeley Campus

The beautiful UC Berkeley campus. AP credits could put you on the fast track at this and many other colleges and universities. Photo courtesy of Charlie Nguyen.

But how many AP classes should you sign up for?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Advanced Placement so that you can decide for yourself what to take in high school.

The Advanced Placement Program

What is Advanced Placement? AP classes are basically college-level courses in various academic subjects that you can take at your high school.

Then in the Spring you would have the opportunity to take the AP exam in each of those subjects.

Shaded bubblesheet with a pencil

AP exams are standardized tests. Sharpen your pencils!

For example, you might take a class called “AP Calculus.” When May rolls around, you may choose to take either the Calculus AB or BC test.

For more information about those tests, check out the following helpful article: AP Calculus AB and BC Exams

Choose Wisely!

What subjects do you excel at? Do you have a particular love for Latin? An ardor for art history? An enjoyment of English Literature and Composition?

It’s no secret that you will have a better chance succeeding at those subjects that you already appreciate and have some talent for.

AP classes can be fun

On the other hand, don’t discount other courses that may be less familiar, especially if those AP credits could help you in your college career.

Maybe you want to study biology. Then you’ll probably need two semesters of calculus in college. Try taking AP Calculus in high school so that you can get those course out of the way and start focusing on biology the moment you get to campus.

Here’s a bit more information to help you decide if AP Calculus is right for you: Should I Take an AP Calculus Class?

How Many AP Classes Should I Take?

Finally to answer the main question, how many of these classes should you plan to take in high school?

Well, it depends.

The more you take, the better your transcript will look to potential colleges and universities. And you will be in even better standing if you take and score high on the AP exams.

Many of the best high schools offer AP classes in all of the core courses (Math, English, Sciences, Languages, and History) as well as electives.

But there’s a limit to how much any student can handle.

girl studying

How am I going to get through all of these AP classes?!

Don’t take so many challenging AP courses that you burn yourself out. For example, it doesn’t help you to have AP Physics on your transcript if you flunk out of the course!

What Do Colleges Want to See?

Furthermore, the more selective the school you want to get into, the more AP courses they may want to see on your schedule. Here’s a rough guide to consider.

  • Less selective schools: Take 1-5 AP courses in your intended major or closely-related subjects.
  • More selective schools: Take 4-10 AP courses in your intended major area as well as core subjects. Consider elective AP courses to round out your application.
  • Most selective schools: Take 6-12 AP courses. Make sure to cover all of the core courses as well as the courses most closely related to your major. Add a few elective AP courses to demonstrate that you have varied interests.


Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. With the advice of your parents and school counselors, set reasonable goals and achieve them.

And remember, taking the AP course is just half the battle. Plan to devote plenty of time outside of class to study for the AP exams as well!

Making an AP Exam Study Plan -Magoosh

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  • Shaun Ault

    Shaun earned his Ph. D. in mathematics from The Ohio State University in 2008 (Go Bucks!!). He received his BA in Mathematics with a minor in computer science from Oberlin College in 2002. In addition, Shaun earned a B. Mus. from the Oberlin Conservatory in the same year, with a major in music composition. Shaun still loves music -- almost as much as math! -- and he (thinks he) can play piano, guitar, and bass. Shaun has taught and tutored students in mathematics for about a decade, and hopes his experience can help you to succeed!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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