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How are AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics different?

Posted on May 22, 2015 at 12:45 AM

The College Board (whether you love it or hate it) offers two Advanced Placement exams every May: one exam for Macroeconomics and one exam for Microeconomics. Macroeconomics looks at the economy as a whole with an emphasis on macroeconomic policies by the government and international economic matters. Microeconomics looks at individual markets and firms with more precision than the Macroeconomics course in the AP program.

Students often ask me the question: "Which class is more difficult: AP Macroeconomics or AP Microeconomics?" The answer is that it depends on several factors. First of all, I find that students who excel in history, government, and social studies classes seem to understand Macroeconomics more than Microeconomics. This is because of the fiscal policy and monetary policy applications, as well as the differing economic and political theories that go along with these policies.

My students that are stronger in math courses like AP Calculus tend to enjoy Microeconomics more than Macroeconomics. This is because these students recognize mathematical relationships - such as derivatives and integrals - within Micro models more than Macro models. However, knowledge in Calculus or advanced mathematical reasoning is not necessary in understanding AP Microeconomics.

Another factor to consider is that some seniors taking AP Economics as a full-year class retain more information from whichever subject (Macro or Micro) is taught first. This is due to the dangerous second-semester sickness known as "senioritis." But, some seniors remember more from second semester than first because the content is fresher when the AP exams begin.

There is no neat and clean answer as to which class or exam is easier. There is also no neat and clean answer as to which class students enjoy more. As an AP Economics teacher, I can't tell you which I like better because I love teaching and learning both Macroeconomics and Microeconomics to an unhealthy degree. Every year, I ask myself this question and it gets harder and harder to answer.

If you have the option to take both AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics, then do it! Learning to think from the economic perspective can improve your reasoning skills and life skills. If you don't understand the basics of eocnomics after your first semester or course, then take another economics class - it will click at some point.

Some of my students are sponges that absorb all economic concepts immediately and can apply marginal thinking within seconds. For other students, everything clicks toward the middle of the course, the end of the semester, or even several years later (I have the emails to prove it!) .

If you are taking AP Economics next year, I wish you the best of luck. If your teacher isn't that great or new to the subject, then know that you have an incredible support system on the Internet. YouTube has many excellent economics teachers that can show you all of the major economic models that are essential to mastering the Advanced Placement exams. 

Good luck!

Mr. Medico

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