Is AP Statistics Hard?

Statistics papers
January 29, 2024
4 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 1/29/24

AP Statistics is a high-level math course for high schoolers. If you’re wondering how tough the class is or how much you need to study, read on!

As you advance through high school, you’ll encounter various math classes that build on previous topics you’ve learned. Eventually, you may consider taking an AP math course like AP Statistics. However, you might be wondering, how hard is it? 

While AP Statistics is not the easiest AP class, it is also not the most difficult. In fact, when compared to other AP math classes, like Calculus AB and BC, AP Statistics is often considered the easier option.

However, keep in mind that the difficulty of an AP class may vary depending on your individual strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to choose your classes wisely. To help you decide if AP Statistics is right for you, we’ll discuss everything you need to know this course, including its difficulty level, the structure of the exam, and more. 

About AP Statistics

AP Statistics is a college-level course that provides an introduction to statistical methods. Over the course of nine units, students will learn how to use modern technology to solve problems and draw conclusions based on data and patterns. This class is particularly helpful for students interested in pursuing science-based courses. 

AP Statistics covers a range of topics, each contributing to the three big ideas that make up the core of statistics. These ideas include Variation and Distribution, Patterns and Uncertainty, and Data-Based Predictions, Decisions, and Conclusions. The nine units cover the following topics:

  • One-Variable Data
  • Two-Variable Data
  • Collecting Data
  • Probability, Random Variables, and Probability Distributions
  • Sampling Distributions
  • Proportions Categorical Data
  • Quantitative Data: Means
  • Chi-Square Categorical Data
  • Quantitative Data: Slopes

The College Board carefully crafted the AP Statistics curriculum, prioritizing these three big ideas. As you prepare for the exam, it can be helpful to group the topics by these overarching ideas to better understand the material. 

By the end of this course, you will have gained a solid foundation in statistical methods and analysis, making you well-prepared for future academic pursuits.

AP Statistics Exam

In 2020, most students scored a 3 in AP Statistics, followed closely by 2s and 4s. Many schools give advanced placement credits for scores of 3 or higher. Keep reading for a detailed explanation of the exam's structure and scoring system.

Exam Score Number of Students Percentage of Students
5 30,380 16.2%
4 38,916 20.7%
3 43,326 23.1%
2 40,670 21.7%
1 34,449 18.3%

Is AP Statistics Hard? Factors to Consider

AP Statistics is known for its difficulty, but students can do well if they study effectively and have a good grasp of math. To take AP Statistics, you should have finished a second-year algebra course and be confident in your quantitative reasoning abilities.

Before deciding whether to take AP statistics, it’s important to consider a variety of factors, including the course’s content and the structure of the exam. Here are some key things to keep in mind: 

Easier Subject

Overall, AP Statistics is easier than other AP math courses. While it still requires a solid understanding of mathematical concepts, AP Statistics is less focused on solving equations, and more on analyzing data and drawing conclusions. If math isn’t your strongest subject, this may be a good option for you. 

AP Exam Stress

Like all AP courses, AP Statistics culminates in a challenging exam at the end of the year. If you’ve never taken an AP class before, it may be in your best interest to research what the exams are like and consider whether you’re comfortable in high-pressure testing environments.

Keep in mind that even if you find a course relatively easy, the stress of the exam could still be a significant challenge.

Study Time

To do well on the AP Statistics exam, you’ll need to spend time studying outside of class. While the recommended study time for this course is lower than some other AP exams, you should still plan to devote a significant amount of time to studying in the weeks leading up to the exam. 

Most students put in about two to three hours a day for about two months before the exam date. It’s best to plan out your schedule with it in mind and whether you’ll have that kind of time.

Difficulty Level

While the difficulty of the AP Statistics exam may be somewhat subjective, it's generally considered to be less challenging than many other AP exams. That said, the exam does have a relatively low rate of perfect scores, so it's important to be prepared for some challenging concepts.

However, don't underestimate the AP Statistics exam; it can still be quite demanding. If you're new to AP courses, it's a good idea to learn what to expect from the exam.

To get ready for the exam, take advantage of practice questions and online resources like Khan Academy and College Board’s guides for answering the free-response section. 

graph on paper

AP Statistics Exam

So, is the AP Statistics exam hard? Again, it's important to note that the difficulty of an exam can be subjective and can vary from student to student. 

While some may find the exam relatively easy to pass, others may find it more challenging, especially when aiming for a score of 5. Expect some questions that may turn out tricky, and prepare for them by studying everything you can. 

Below you’ll find an answer and a breakdown of the exam content.

AP Statistics Exam Format

There are two major sections of the AP Statistics exam: the multiple-choice section and the free response section. You will have three hours to finish the two major sections with two break periods. 

Free Response Questions

The free-response section of the AP Statistics exam consists of six questions. You must answer Part A, the first five questions, within 65 minutes. Each question has multiple parts that require you to apply memorized terms and explain your reasoning. To earn full points, you must answer all parts of each question.

The final question in this section, referred to as Part B, must be answered within a 25-minute period. Part B requires students to answer a longer, multi-step question using several pages of data and graphs. Expect to see the probability bell curve and another type of graph that you will need to interpret and make inferences from. 

Multiple-Choice Questions

Students will have 90 minutes to take 40 multiple-choice questions. Your choices are A through E for each question. The AP Statistics exam tests four skill within the multiple-choice section: 

  • Selecting Statistical Methods
  • Data Analysis
  • Using Probability and Simulation 
  • Statistical Argumentation

Each class unit takes different priorities when studying for AP Statistics based on their exam percentage. The Probability, Means, Proportions, and Data Collection units make up the majority of the exam and cover the most material. So, make these topics a priority when studying for the AP Statistics exam. 

AP Statistics Exam Scores

Students receive an exam score based on the AP score scale table. The AP grading curve goes from 1 to 5. A score of 3 or higher counts as a passing grade of 70% or the equivalent of a C letter grade, while a score of about 83% to 89% counts as an AP score of 4, and an AP score of 5 is above 90% or an A. Anything lower is categorized as either a 1 or a 2.

The multiple-choice portion of the AP Statistics exam counts as 50% of the overall test. Each multiple-choice question counts as 1.25% of your overall score. The five free-response questions, with all of their parts, count as 7.5% each, with a combined total of 37.5%. The last free response counts as 12.5% of your final grade.

Your AP Stats score is determined by a combination of the multiple-choice and free-response sections, with each carrying equal weight at 50%. Within the free-response section, questions 1-5 make up 37.5% of your score, while question 6 contributes 12.5%.

In the multiple-choice section, you'll earn one point for each correct answer. For the free-response questions, your score can range from 0 to 4 points, depending on how well you answer each question.

In the end, your composite score is converted to a final score on a scale of 1 to 5, summarizing your performance.

Section 1 50%
Multiple-Choice Questions 50%
Section 2 50%
Part A: Free-Response Questions 1-5 37.5%
Part B: Free-Response Question 6 12.5%

Should You Take AP Statistics?

Before you answer this question, you should consider the pros and cons. Don’t rush into taking any AP class unless you know you can handle it. If you haven’t taken an AP class before, try to do some research on the course expectations. While AP Statistics may not be hard for a student familiar with the AP program, it can still prove challenging. 

If you plan on taking AP Calculus, especially as a senior, you may need more time to take statistics. Depending on your school, you’ll need specific credits to graduate. If you think calculus will be too challenging, AP Statistics may be a great alternative.

Taking AP exams will help you stand on your college applications. If you plan on choosing a major that requires math courses, earning a 4 or 5 on the AP Statistics exam can help you get a head start and even allow you to earn college credits. 

student with chart on her tablet

What are the Prerequisites for AP Statistics?

It's common for most schools to expect students to have completed the following equivalency and prerequisites:

  • College Course Equivalent: A one-semester, introductory, non-calculus-based college course in statistics.
  • Recommended Prerequisites: A second-year course in algebra.

Depending on the school, there might be additional requirements in place. While students can usually take up to four AP courses simultaneously, they often opt for fewer challenging ones, like AP Statistics, to manage their workload effectively. So, keep these prerequisites and workload considerations in mind when planning your courses.


Below you’ll find common questions from students wondering how challenging AP Statistics is. Let’s get into it. 

1. How Hard Is AP Statistics?

Students typically classify this AP course as moderately difficult. While you’ll need to study for the coveted high score of a 5, you won’t have as tough of a time passing this course, especially compared to the hardest AP science classes.

2. Is AP Statistics Worth Taking?

Yes, AP Statistics is worth taking. American high schools place some students into accelerated math, so that by the time they’re juniors and seniors, they’ll be ready to take this course. Take AP Statistics if you’d rather do the easier course to earn college credit. 

3. What Grade Level Is AP Statistics?

Like most AP classes, students in AP Statistics take the course as either juniors or seniors. Students must know all of Algebra 1 and 2, trigonometry, and geometry, before they can take any of the college equivalent AP math classes. 

4. Is AP Stats Harder Than Calculus?

No, AP Statistics is not harder than calculus. Students who take both will typically say statistics is easier to understand and requires less study time overall. While not considered the toughest of all AP courses, calculus is the hardest math subject. However, remember that you must have a firm grasp of calculus to take Physics, which is the hardest AP class overall.

5. What Is the Pass Rate for AP Statistics?

The pass rate for AP Statistics with an AP score of 3 or higher is about 60%. The rate of 4 or higher, which is what colleges require to award AP credit, is 37%. Compared to other AP classes, statistics sits around the average difficulty.

6. Is AP Statistics a Good Class for Self-Study?

No, AP Statistics is not a good AP exam for self-study. The course and exam are difficult enough that having a good teacher will make a big enough difference on your AP score. While you can get by if you try hard, a teacher will make a huge difference in proving learning resources and teaching you math. Good luck if you try to self-study!Is 

7. Is there an IB Version of AP Statistics?

While there is not a set equivalent IB vs. AP version of AP Statistics, the IB program’s math curriculum eventually covers the same material. 

Specifically, the IB math course, Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches, includes a statistics and probability unit, which covers similar material as AP Statistics. However, many students consider this IB course to be easier than AP Statistics.

It's worth noting that the IB program is a European-designed alternative to the American AP program. While not as well-known in the US, it's becoming increasingly popular as an alternative option for high school students.

Final Thoughts

Compared to other AP classes, it is moderately difficult. The exam may have a high pass rate, but the below-average percentage of students scoring a 5 implies that some exam topics are more difficult than others. Prepare for the tougher units on the exam to earn that coveted 5. 

AP Statistics is not a typical math class. Since the course is more conceptual, the exam requires students to spend more time on memorization, arguing analysis through writing, and critical thinking rather than solving equations. If your strong subjects are science, English, or writing, you might find the class easier than other math classes. 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Thanks ! You're now subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get A Free Consultation

Speak to a college admissions expert about how we can help you get into your dream school
Schedule a Call

You May Also Like

Before you go, here are a few facts about us!
The Quad Factor: Working with us can increase your chances of admission by 11x!

The Best of the Best: Our team comprises of only 99th percentile tutors and admissions counselors from top-ranking universities, meaning you work with only the most experienced, talented experts.

The Free Consultation: Our experts would love to get to know you, your background, goals, and needs. From there, they match you with a best-fit consultant who will create a detailed project plan and application strategy focused on your success.