math on a chalkboard

So you’ve read our Ultimate Guide to the AP Tests and decided to take a crack at some of the Science exams. AP Science tests are conceptually quite rigorous and will test you on the ideas at the root of the subject you’re studying. In this sense, many of the multiple choice and free response questions on these tests are qualitative and don’t expect you to know any math.

That said, the AP Science exams do require some calculations! You’ll never encounter “math problems” per se, but you will see science problems that have a rigorous quantitative component. So the short answer is: yes, you will need some high school math skills to do well on the AP Science exams! Different AP courses in science cover different mathematical concepts; for instance, Calculus shows up on AP Physics, and Statistics shows up on AP Biology. So you’ll need to be at least pretty good at math to succeed on these tests! Also, since the content and expectations of each of the science exams is different, certain AP Science tests pair well with certain math AP tests. Let’s see how.

Which Math skills come up on which Science tests?

The AP Physics exam requires a solid understanding of geometry and, more importantly, trigonometry. Vectors, harmonic motion, and other topics on this test are grounded in pre-calculus. Moreover, the Physics C exams are explicitly based in calculus. So, some students both AP Calculus and AP Physics, since some of the necessary skills of these two exams overlap.

Similarly, AP Environmental Science, AP Biology, and AP Chemistry all require a foundation in basic math, to varying degrees. They each deal with population growth, and the AP Biology exam explicitly expects you to know chi-square tests. Sound like Statistics? It should! For this reason, some students who take one of these AP Science exams might also consider taking AP Statistics. As you can see, math and science go hand in hand!

That said, there is an array of AP exams that span the intellectual gambit. If you like Physics but don’t love Calculus, consider taking Physics 1 or 2 instead of a Physics C test. If you’re not a math person — though we believe that, with hard work, anyone can be — you might get a good AP scores on the English, History, or Language Studies tests.

What’s next?

If you’re great at Science and Math and you want to supplement your college resume, you might also consider the SAT Subject Tests!