AP Micro and Macroeconomics: Your Comprehensive Guide

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AP Micro and Macroeconomics: Your Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in attending college and you live in the US, you’ve probably heard of AP classes. Also known as Advanced Placement classes, AP courses are college-level courses designed for high school students. However, with 38 different AP classes to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones are right for you. That’s why we wrote this guide for AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics! Let’s dive in. 

Introduction to AP Micro and Macroeconomics

AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics are two impressive courses that can benefit students looking to take economics after high school. Although each course covers different topics, they aim to teach high-school students college-level economics. 

If you intend to study finance, business, or economics in college, taking either or both of these courses can help set you up for success. Each course is split into six units covered by a final exam. They can also earn you college credits depending on where you want to go to university. 

The AP Microeconomics course is typically taken around the junior year of school. This gives you time afterward to explore further topics if you’re interested. AP Macroeconomics is usually taken during  senior year, and works well as a follow-up course to  AP Microeconomics. 

Before you decide whether or not these AP courses are for you, let’s differentiate the two and help you see whether you need one or both to meet your goals. 

Course Introductions

AP Microeconomics focuses on the behavior of individuals within economic systems.. On the other hand, AP Macroeconomics focuses on economic systems as a whole.. While they are two different courses, you can take them at the same time, sequentially,  or just the one that suits your educational goals. 

AP Microeconomic Units 

The AP Micro course is split into six sections. This AP course covers many major themes, including economic resource allocation, different types of analyses, supply and demand factors, and how government intervention impacts the population. 

When taking the course, you’ll be learn about the following topics. The percentages listed below show how much of your final exam grade will be questions from  each unit. 

  1. Basic Economic Concepts (12-15%)

Unit 1 acts as an introduction to the entire course. You’ll cover the foundations of basic principles and dive into topics like resource allocation, cost-benefit analysis, and marginal analysis. This will set you up for success in more advanced units.

       2. Supply and Demand (20-25%)

The second microeconomics unit covers supply and demand, or how markets align  with consumers. You’ll cover topics including elasticity, market equilibrium, and the effects of government intervention on markets. 

       3. Product, Cost, and the Perfect Competition Model (22-25%)

Unit 3 of AP Micro explores factors that affect business behavior. You’ll learn about the perfect competition model and see how it affects products and consumers. 

       4. Imperfect Competition (15-22%)

This fourth unit acts as the  opposite to Unit 3, speaking about imperfect markets and how they affect both businesses and consumers. You’ll learn about topics like monopolies and see how game theory comes into play in real life. 

       5. Factor Markets (10-13%)

The fourth AP Micro unit focuses on factor markets, teaching how resources affect a business’s ability to produce goods. You’ll learn about how changes in supply and demand can impact the market  and about profit-maximizing behavior. 

       6. Market Failure and the Role of the Government (8-13%)

The sixth and final unit focuses on the role of the government and how it can influence market outcomes. You’ll learn about public and private goods, the effect of government intervention, and wealth inequality, bringing the course to an end.

You can find the full AP Microeconomics syllabus here

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AP Macroeconomic Units

The AP Macro course is also typically split into six units. Broadly, you’ll learn to define economic models and principles, analyze economic outcomes, and model various economic relations. Just like before, we’ll walk you through each of the units and tell you approximately how much of the AP exam will be on that topic.

  1. Basic Economic Concepts (5-10%)

This introductory unit covers macroeconomic foundations. You’ll learn about principles, theories, and models that you’ll need to understand later on.

      2. Economic Indicators and the Business Cycle (12-17%)

Unit two covers how to measure economic phenomena, like inflation and employment levels. You’ll learn about circular flow, price indices, inflation, and business cycles. You’ll also get to explore how gross domestic product, also known as GDP, is calculated.

      3. National Income and Price Determination (17-27%)

The third macroeconomic unit includes discussions about spending and production, unemployment, and inflation. You’ll also learn to analyze how government policies affect national income and consumer spending habits.

      4. The Financial Sector (18-23%)

This unit dives into the financial sector, where you’ll dissect how monetary policies are implemented and used within the national banking system. You’ll also learn to define and measure the functions of money and monetary policy. 

      5. Long-Run Consequences of Stabilization Policies (20-30%)

The fifth unit of macroeconomics discusses the effects of monetary policies and analyzes economic growth. To teach this, you’ll learn how  analyzing models like the Philips Curve and dive into topics like money growth, crowding out, and economic growth. 

      6. Open Economy – International Trade and Finance (10-13%)

This final unit brings the course to a close by examining open economies and how countries interact with other financial markets. You’ll also analyze payment account balances, exchange rates and foreign market topics, interest rates, and international capital flows, and much more. 

You can find the full syllabus for AP Macroeconomics here

Who Should Take AP Micro and Macro?

AP Micro and Macro are great choices if you’re interested in studying business, finance, or economics in college. Not only will it be very similar to courses you’ll take later on, but it will also sharpen modeling and math skills you can use in other courses. AP Microeconomics might also be a good choice for you if you have an interest in calculus. The basics of calculus are used quite often in the course, and you might uncover some new interests!

Most students choose to take both AP Micro and Macro, since they’re planning on advancing to a college-level degree that will use both. Even if you’re taking the test for course credit, you shouldn’t forget that taking the courses will likely help you excel in college. You’ll have a strong background already and will probably find some of your entry level courses easier than your classmates. 

While some students opt into taking both, you might be better suited to just take one or the other. Both courses serve as great college prerequisites and can even grant you course credit at some colleges, particularly if you score a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam. Either way, both courses set you up to succeed down the line and will help you get ahead of the game if college-level economics is in your plan. 

If you’re planning on taking both courses, most students recommend taking AP Microeconomics first because this course covers more of the basics. In fact, most students find that taking AP Macro right after AP Micro resulted in the best grades. This might help you draw connections between all the concepts while they’re fresh in your mind. 

Are the AP Micro and Macro Tests Hard?

The short answer to this question is yes. You won’t succeed at the end of either course unless you put in the work and hours necessary to understand the topics. However, how difficult you find the test really depends on your own background, interests, and strengths. 

When it comes to grades, you might be wondering what you need to pass. AP courses are considered passed if you score a 3 or higher on a scale from 1 to 5. However, if you’re looking for college credit, you might need a 4 or 5. This depends on the college you apply to, so consider reading up on what AP courses your dream school will give you credits for taking. 

Last year, AP microeconomics had a pass rate of 59%. This percentage changes every year, however. Here’s a breakdown of the exam’s scores:

  • 5: 17.7%
  • 4: 22.5%
  • 3: 18.8%
  • 2: 16.9% 
  • 1: 24.2%

In AP Macroeconomics last year, the pass rate was 51.8%. Here is the breakdown of the exam scores:

  • 5: 16.4%
  • 4: 20%
  • 3: 15.4%
  • 2: 15.1%
  • 1: 33.1%

You might think AP Macro looks harder than AP Micro when you see it laid out like this. But just like AP Micro, what you score on the test depends upon your ability  to draw conclusions between units and see patterns emerging. AP Macro also uses prior knowledge from it’s AP Micro counterpart, so it may require some revision if you want to score a 5. 

How to Study For AP Micro and Macro

Studying for these tests will require more than just reviewing your notes. Most students recommend looking at past exam questions and answering them as if they were real exams. Then, you can check your score and find what areas you may need to spend more time stuyding. You can find both AP Micro past exams and AP Macro past exams online. 

You can also examinet textbooks and workbooks outside of class to help strengthen your knowledge before taking the final exam. Many students also highly recommend the Ultimate Review series by Jacob Clifford.

Taking the Test

When it finally comes time to take the test, you’ll want to be well-prepared. Since both AP Micro and Macro have multiple choice and written components, you should make sure you’re just as comfortable showing your work as you are selecting the right answer. As of 2023, the College Board has also decided that you can use a four-function calculator for the AP Micro and Macro exams!

Both exams usually take place in early May. The good news is, you’ll get your well-earned break just in time for summer!

AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics Exam Format 

Both tests are split into two parts. The first is 60 multiple-choice questions, so it’s important to practice them beforehand so you’re comfortable coming to a conclusion quickly without second guessing yourself. You’ll have 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete this section, and it accounts for 66% of your total exam grade.

Section two is slightly shorter. Comprised of free-response questions, it has one long-answer question and two short ones. The section begins with you having 10 minutes to read through all the questions and start thinking about your answers. These free-response questions will ask you to make assertions about principles covered in the course, complete analyses, and possibly create graphs or other visual representations. This entire section accounts for 33% of your overall score, but the long answer question is worth half of that score, with both short questions worth a quarter each. 

Although both courses follow the same format, they’ll cover material unique to each course.

Key Takeaways

Both AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics are considered highly effective courses for students looking to continue economics into college. Whether you plan on taking business, finance, economics, or something similar in college, these courses can help set you up for success. 

Although students say these two exams are challenging, they’re worthwhile courses if you’re looking to get ahead. Not only can these courses possibly help you get college credits, they’ll also better prepare you for courses you might take in the future. 

If you’re planning on taking AP Micro or AP Macro, start preparing early. You should study the exam outlines before taking the test and use past exams to practice questions that might be very similar to what you see on your own exam. With the right mindset and motivation, passing these AP courses is within your reach, and the benefits will be huge!

If you’re interested in completing other AP courses similar to these, you might find AP Calculus to be similar and just as beneficial to your college career. 

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