Is AP Calculus AB Harder Than AP Statistics?

Is AP Calculus AB Harder Than AP Statistics
Statistics Student

One of the biggest challenges most high school students face is making the decision between taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course in calculus or statistics.

AP Calculus AB Vs. AP Statistics: Which one is easier? Generally, for most students, AP Calculus AB is a more challenging course than AP Statistics. Both AP Calculus AB and AP Statistics offer college-level material that can help students get an edge in college admissions. Additionally, both classes have their own unique benefits; I believe that it is important to understand what each course offers before making a decision.

Read on to find out some of the key distinctions between AP Calculus and AP Statistics to help you decide which course is right for them. You might asl enjoy reading: 9 Easiest AP Classes To Self-Study!

AP Calculus vs. AP Statistics: How Do They Differ?

The main difference between AP Calculus AB and AP Statistics courses is the content they cover. While both classes involve mathematics, they differ significantly in terms of the topics covered.

In a nutshell, AP Calculus focuses on derivatives, integrals, and limits, while AP Statistics focuses on data analysis and hypothesis testing. The focus of each class will depend on the instructor, but generally speaking, AP Calculus covers more abstract concepts, while AP Statistics deals with more concrete data-driven topics.

In addition to the content being different, there are also different expectations for each class. Generally speaking, AP Calculus requires a greater amount of problem-solving than AP Statistics as well as a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts like limits and derivatives, which can make it more difficult for some students to master.

Furthermore, some students may find that mastering certain data analysis techniques in AP Statistics is more challenging than mastering the concepts in an AP Calculus course since the material is much more concrete and tangible than that found in an abstract math course.

When it comes it comes college admissions, I encourage you to consider taking both AP Calculus and AP Statistics, as they help strengthen your college applications. Most colleges require applicants to have at least one “advanced” math course, such as calculus or statistics, under their belt before they are considered for admission.

Also, remember that not all colleges view AP Calculus and AP Statistics courses equally; some colleges may prefer applicants with experience in calculus, while others may give preference to those with experience in statistics. I encourage you to research your preferred college’s admissions requirements carefully before deciding whether to take AP Calculus or AP Statistics.

Do You Have to Be Good at Math For AP Statistics?

You don’t have to be good at math for AP Stats, but you still need to have a strong understanding of statistical concepts. To do well in AP Stats, you will need to have an essential understanding of fundamental mathematical concepts. 

AP Calculus focuses on mathematics, specifically functions, limits, derivatives, and integrals. With AP statistics, you will learn how to work with equations and other mathematical concepts to solve problems and analyze data.

More importantly, AP Statistics focuses on collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and understanding data using various statistical methods such as probability distributions and linear regression models.

Although AP Statistics involves mathematics in some way or another, I find that AP Calculus has more of a math focus, while AP Statistics has more of a data analysis focus.

If you wonder if you should take statistics or calculus in high school, I wrote a whole article that I encourage you to read.

Do Colleges Prefer Calculus or Statistics?

Generally, most colleges prefer calculus to statistics. Taking calculus in high school makes sense if you are preparing to study engineering, mathematics, or any STEM-related major. However, I encourage you to take AP statistics if you plan to pursue social studies, humanities, finance, or economics.

Also, the reason most students take AP Calculus is that it looks good on college applications.

The ultimate objective of the K-12 mathematics curriculum should not be to teach students calculus by 12th grade. Instead, it should focus on establishing the mathematical foundation to help students pursue whatever course of study interests them when they get to college (Source: the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematical Association of America)

Is AP Calculus AB Harder Than AP Statistics
Student Taking an AP Exam

AP Calculus vs. AP Statistics: Assessment Methods

Another important distinction between AP Calculus and AP Statistics is the way they are assessed. In both courses, you will take an exam divided into 2 sections, comprising multiple-choice questions and a free response (Source: College Board)

Calculus students may have to complete projects or tests throughout the year that require calculations based on what they have learned so far. On the other hand, statistics students may have to design experiments or analyze real-world data sets from which they must draw conclusions about certain topics.

The difference in their assessment methods makes sense because calculus relies heavily on problem-solving while statistics relies heavily on hypothesis testing and data analysis techniques.

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Wrapping Up

Most students find both AP Calculus and AP Statistics to be challenging yet rewarding classes that can give high school students an edge when applying to college or university programs.

The main difference between AP Calculus and AP Statistics is that calculus is focused on mathematics while statistics is focused on data analysis. Additionally, calculus requires problem-solving, whereas statistics requires hypothesis testing and data analysis techniques.

Ultimately, deciding between taking an AP Calculus or an AP Statistics course comes down to your future goals. I encourage you to research your preferred college’s admissions requirements and pick the right option for you.

If you are still unsure, I suggest you consider speaking with your guidance counselor or teacher for advice.


I am Altiné. I am the guy behind When I am not teaching math, you can find me reading, running, biking, or doing anything that allows me to enjoy nature's beauty. I hope you find what you are looking for while visiting

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