Is AP Environmental Science Hard? Is AP Environmental Science Worth Taking?

4 min readnovember 18, 2020

Thomasina Lester

Thomasina Lester

AP Environmental Science ♻️

252 resources
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AP Environmental Science isn't nearly as complex as the Earth! Image Courtesy of Amber_Avalona on Pixabay

If you're thinking about taking AP Environmental Science, you're probably wondering about the difficulty and if the course is worth it. To get started, familiarize yourself with the course content and exam structure. Then, think about your prior experience, probable workload, and future plans. The Fiveable community is here to help you make a final decision!

✈️ Overview of APES

APES explores the concepts, processes, and relationships of Earth and investigates natural and human-made environmental problems.
Take a look at the structure of the course and exam:

AP Environmental Science Course

Unit TitleExam Weighting
Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems6-8%
Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity6–8%
Unit 3: Populations10–15%
Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources10–15%
Unit 5: Land and Water Use10–15%
Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption10–15%
Unit 7: Atmospheric Pollution7–10%
Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution7–10%
Unit 9: Global Change15–20%

AP Environmental Science Exam

Section #Question Type# of QuestionsExam WeightingTiming
1Multiple-Choice (MCQ)8060%1 hour and 30 minutes
2Free-Response (FRQ)340%1 hour and 10 minutes

🧠 Is APES Hard?

📜 Course Material

The difficulty of the course material is subjective, and you won't get the same answer from everyone. However, if APES is your first AP science course (or your first AP course ever), you might find it to be more difficult. But, APES is generally an approachable and reasonable course!
The AP exam is also relatively straightforward, comprised of only 2 types of questions (multiple-choice and free-response). The multiple-choice section requires you to interpret, analyze, and explain environmental concepts, processes, and models through presented data. The free-response section asks you to design an investigation in 1 question and analyze an environmental problem and propose a solution in the other 2 questions.
Overall, you'll be able to adjust to the structure of the course and exam fairly quickly!

🏋️ Workload

APES does not have a particularly heavy workload, but don't let that get to your head! As an introductory science college course, you'll have to dedicate more time to APES than a typical elective. Don't let the prospect of a "hard" elective scare you, though! You'll have an invaluable opportunity to learn about environmental science and its relation to current events.
Of course, light or heavy workloads depend on many factors! Don't forget to consider the structure of the course at your school (teacher, curriculum, etc.) as well as your own responsibilities (other courses, extracurricular activities, etc.). Ask former APES students at your school for a better sense of the course expectations.

🔗 Connections to Other AP Courses

APES is typically taken as an elective course, meaning that you won't need too much prior knowledge in order to succeed. However, the College Board recommends that you enter the course with 2+ years of laboratory science, including a life science and physical science, as well as 1+ year of algebra. Depending on your school and their individual standards, you might have to meet other requirements.
If you're hoping to supplement your APES studies with other AP courses, look into AP Human Geography. AP HuG explores how humans impact the Earth, examining patterns of the human population, migration, and land use. APES and AP HuG often align as they investigate similar interdisciplinary topics in analyzing the Earth and human behavior.

👩‍🎓 What do APES students have to say?

"APES is a great course to introduce you to science APs. The concepts and information are very straightforward. I took the course as a freshman and found it to be relatively easy. It’s really important to avoid falling to a false sense of security because of how easy it may seem."—Sophia Lerebours

🥇 Is APES Worth Taking?

🤔 General Interest

If you're passionate about environmental science, you should definitely take the AP course! You'll dive into the subject and learn content that genuinely interests you. Even if you don't plan to pursue environmental science in the future, there's no harm in taking a course for fun!

🏫 College Credit & Major

Depending on the college that you attend, a passing score on the APES exam can earn you introductory environmental science course credits. If you're planning to pursue a major related to the course, these credits can enable you to take more advanced courses earlier. If you're planning to pursue an unrelated major, these credits can fulfill various elective requirements. Be sure to check out credit policies at colleges that you're considering to figure out if APES will grant you credit!

👩‍🔬 Future Career

Considering a potential career in environmental science? High school courses provide an amazing opportunity to explore different fields, get a sense of your options, and learn something new about yourself! If you have any interest in a future science-related career, APES is a great place to start.

👩‍🎓 What do APES students have to say?

"APES was definitely worth taking! The course explicates worldly interactions between ecosystems, animals, plants, and even how humans can impact society."—Anonymous

✨ Final Words on APES

Hopefully, you have gained a better understanding of the difficulty and worth of APES. Remember to consider your own goals in this choice. Regardless of your final decision, the Fiveable community is here to support you! You got this 🎉
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🏜Unit 1 – The Living World: Ecosystems
🐠Unit 2 – The Living World: Biodiversity
👪Unit 3 – Populations
🌏Unit 4 – Earth Systems & Resources
🏖Unit 5 – Land & Water Use
⚡️Unit 6 – Energy Resources & Consumption
💨Unit 7 – Atmospheric Pollution
♻️Unit 8 – Aquatic & Terrestrial Pollution
🔥Unit 9 – Global Change
🧐Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
✍️Free Response Questions (FRQs)
📆Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep

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