You may be interested in studying economics at the AP® level, but with AP Microeconomics vs Macroeconomics, you might not know which course to take.

The College Board divides its AP economics curriculum into two courses—Microeconomics and Macroeconomics—and offers separate exams for each subject on different dates. Both courses will challenge your problem-solving skills, asking you to analyze data and model economic principles with graphs and charts.

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Evaluating AP Microeconomics vs Macroeconomics?

Microeconomics focuses on individual decision-makers, specific goods, and/or single markets. Macroeconomics considers economic systems in their entirety, often looking at factors that impact nations or geographical regions.

In other words, Microeconomics concerns itself with individuals and businesses, while Macroeconomics concerns itself with governments and nation-states.

Does either course require prerequisites?

Nope! That said, a good understanding of math, particularly graphing equations, is a huge help.

What can I expect from each course?

Both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics are one semester long. Each course will present economic concepts and theory, and ask you how those ideas compare to events in the real world. Further, each course may present you with hypothetical situations and ask you to make predictions based on economic models.

The following units are usually covered in Microeconomics:

  • Basic Economic Concepts
  • Supply and Demand
  • Production, Cost, and the Perfect Competition Model
  • Imperfect Competition
  • Factor Markets
  • Market Failure and the Role of Government

The following units are usually covered in Macroeconomics:

  • Basic Economic Concepts
  • Economic Indicators and the Business Cycle
  • National Income and Price Discrimination
  • Financial Sector
  • Long-Run Consequences and Stabilization Policies
  • Open Economy—International Trade and Finance

You’ll notice that both courses start with “Basic Economic Concepts.” In Microeconomics, this tends to cover more elementary concepts, such as defining supply and demand. Macroeconomics instructors usually assume students already have this elementary understanding of economic concepts, and will accordingly jump right in with other concepts like aggregate supply and aggregate demand.

Which course should I take?

Neither topic is more important than the other, and both subjects are equally valuable in understanding how the economy operates. If you’re interested in business or social science and have the option, you should take both! In fact, many high schools offer them as a combined course, featuring Microeconomics in the fall semester and Macroeconomics in the spring semester.

If you can only take one, Microeconomics tends to be better suited for those with an interest in mathematical modeling. For those more engaged in history or government, Macroeconomics is likely the better fit.

If you’re unsure, consider going to your school’s administrative office and asking to see your school’s pass rate for each exam. If your school’s pass rate for each exam is higher than the average pass rate, it’s an indication that the instructor or course at your school is particularly effective and worthwhile to take.

How are the AP tests structured?

The Microeconomics and Macroeconomics exams have the same structure:

  • Section 1: Multiple Choice: 60 questions, 70 minutes
  • Section 2: Free Response: 3 questions, 60 minutes

Multiple choice questions on both exams will ask you to interpret graphs and apply equations. In the free response questions, you’ll likely be presented with complex economic scenarios and asked to generate graphs and models yourself.

Passing each exam commonly carries the value of a one-semester, introductory college course in their respective fields. Regardless of the course you take, you can decide if you want to take one or both AP exams as the test dates approach.

Which course is harder?

Generally speaking, Microeconomics is considered introductory, while Macroeconomics is considered more complex. Most combined courses are organized accordingly, beginning with Microeconomics and progressing through Macroeconomics.

Pass rates on the respective AP exams also suggest that Macroeconomics is slightly more challenging. On the 2023 AP exams, 68% of Microeconomics students passed the AP test with a score of three or better, while only 64.7% of Macroeconomics students did the same.

Now that you’ve evaluated AP Microeconomics vs Macroeconomics, you can make an informed decision about which test to take. However, you should also consider your workload, personal interests, and academic background to help determine which of the two courses or exams are right for you.