Most Challenging AP Exams of 2021

Deciding whether or not to take an AP exam can be a struggle, but knowing which are the hardest can help. The course may look good on a college application, but usually only under the condition that you perform well on the exam. All AP courses are built solely around the final exam, so there is a ton of pressure to do well on it. Therefore, it may feel like a waste of time to take an entire year of demanding work when there is a possibility you may flunk the test. It is essential to understand which tests are the hardest to prepare for the challenge to come. It may seem stressful, but there’s no need to worry. This blog acts as an all-encompassing guide to give you the latest information on the most challenging AP exams according to students.

The 5 Most Challenging AP Exams According to Students

Most Challenging AP Exams 2021

#1 – Physics C

Many students who took the 2021 AP Physics exam felt they had too many questions and not nearly enough time to complete them all. Specifically, the multiple-choice section featured convoluted wording that confused people. Many test-takers did not make it to the final questions, potentially lowering their score by a number.

However, the open-response questions were reportedly even more challenging. The topics were, for many, far too complex compared to their experience and previous learning. Some say the amount of work was too much to ask for the time given. The exam was formatted to accommodate online and in-person test-takers, but students felt the difficulty was unfair.

#2 – English Literature and Composition

For this exam, which many refer to as AP Lit, students noted that the passages were much more intricate and complex than anything they had practiced or studied. The reading comprehension section and in-depth questions beyond what they were familiar with made the test punishing.

On the other hand, one positive about the 2021 AP Lit test was that the essay section was a breath of fresh air for many. Students chose one of three prompts to complete, allowing them to pick the one best suited to their experience based on the books they read throughout the course and their interests.

Preparing for AP English Literature and Composition? Check out our Study Guide!

#3 – Chemistry

The AP Chemistry exam had similar problems to the previous two. Students claimed to suffer on the multiple-choice due to too many lengthy questions. Many test-takers reported being unable to make it to the final part of the multiple-choice, so it was a massive issue on the test.

The free-response questions were more forgiving in their difficulty. They included topics such as acids and bases, which almost all students prepare to see on that section, but the multiple-choice once more lost students. It featured questions from all aspects of the field, many of which students did not cover due to online learning for the 2020-21 school year.

Preparing for AP Chemistry? Check out our Study Guide!

#4 – Physics 1

Unlike the last few examples, the multiple-choice section on this was straightforward and reasonable as a way to test online learners. However, the free-response questions were much less palpable in the eyes of students. 

On average, test takers were only able to recognize how to complete three of the five questions, leaving them little room for error and lots of stress about the questions. This test was certainly not as challenging as the other bunch, but it is worthy of a placement simply for the difficult free-response portion, worth 50% of the exam grade.

Preparing for AP Physics 1? Check out our Study Guide!

#5 – European History

For the β€œAP Euro” exam, students alluded to the exam solutions being too detailed and specific when most studied for a more broad range of topics. Due to the optional online nature of AP exams this year, the College Board might have made the test questions more complex so that it would not be as easy to cheat. 

As with the previous exams, students felt there was not enough time to complete the multiple-choice section. Students explained that they had never seen such in-depth expected answers on anything they had studied or reviewed during the year.

Preparing for AP European History? Check out our Study Guide!

The Common Struggles Students Faced During the Most Challenging AP Exams

After looking at student input about five of the most challenging AP exams, there is definitively a lot of overlap between the experienced struggles:

  • Time Management. According to students, this issue presented itself in the multiple-choice and free-response sections of all the most arduous tests. Be sure to check out the Curvebreakers blogs on time management so you will never need to worry about this problem again!
  • Broad Topics. The most difficult tests made sure to include information on all parts of the subject. Perhaps due to COVID, many teachers did not cover every topic, and the College Board may have forgotten to adjust or kept it the same to account for potential online cheating.

After highlighting all of the challenges of AP exams, you may be shocked at the workload and uneasy about taking one. However, there are tremendous benefits that come with going the extra mile during high school, so it is in your best interest to take one or multiple. If you choose to take AP courses next year, use this guide as motivation to face even the most difficult exams with courage and commitment, and the success will gleam for all to see.

Nick The Tutor and his team at Curvebreakers have a growing library of AP Study Guides.