AP Microeconomics vs. Macroeconomics – Which Class Should I Take First?

If you’re in high school and considering a career in business, government, or anything where you could benefit from studying economics, you’re probably considering taking AP economics classes. There are two: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics.

Which one should you take first, though? Some places make that decision for you. However, if you’re deciding, then you should know that there are advantages and disadvantages to taking either class first.

What Are Micro and Macroeconomics?

We tend to lump everything dealing with economics under that word, but there are many different aspects to economics. Micro and macroeconomics both give you a foundation in economics upon which you can build, but as similar as they sound, they’re very different from one another.


Microeconomics involves studying how economic theories and practices affect individuals, groups of people, and businesses.

This discipline examines how the laws of supply and demand, along with other market forces, determine price levels in the larger economy. It also examines how things such as tax policy, regulation, and legislation, affect how people and businesses make decisions regarding goods and services.

Key microeconomic principles include:

  • Labor economics, including patterns in wages, income, and employment
  • Production theory, which studies how companies manufacture their products or develop their services
  • Production costs, which help determine things like price points
  • The laws of supply, demand, and equilibrium


Unlike microeconomics, macroeconomics looks at countries and the global economy and how governmental policies affect them. It analyzes the effects of those policies on countries’ gross domestic products, their employment rates, how imports and exports affect their capital, and more.

Some key macroeconomic concepts are:

  • How to spur economic growth
  • The factors that drive inflation, stagflation, and deflation
  • Causes of rising and falling employment levels

Where microeconomics studies the effects of those things on businesses and individuals, macroeconomics studies economic correlations and aggregates.

In doing so, it produces the data on which governments rely to create their fiscal, financial, and other economic policies.

The Relationship Between the Two

Aside from being parts of the field of economics, microeconomics and macroeconomics have a strong connection to one another. Microeconomics often reveals information that influences macroeconomics and vice versa.

You could look at microeconomics as a “bottom-up” approach to studying economics, while macroeconomics is “top-down.”

The AP Micro and Macroeconomics Classes

The two classes teach these principles as the AP College Board lays them out.

AP Microeconomics

In AP Microeconomics, you’ll study the following things:

  • Consumer behavior theory
  • The theory of the firm
  • Profit-maximizing behavior under different market structures
  • Outcome efficiency concerning prices, producer and consumer surpluses, and output
  • Household and business behavior in factor markets
  • How wages, prices, rent, and interest can influence income distribution in a given economy
  • When and how private markets fail in allocating resources fairly and effectively

You’ll study the role governments play in promoting greater equity and efficiency across various demographics in the larger economy, and use data, charts, and graphs to explain such concepts.

AP Macroeconomics

AP Macroeconomics is just as comprehensive a course as AP Microeconomics, and includes the following study areas:

  • Price level determination and income at a national level
  • National and international financial sectors
  • Economic performance measures
  • Policies aimed at stabilizing economies
  • International economics
  • Economic growth

You’ll also learn how to use data along with visual aids such as graphs and charts to describe, explain, and analyze various macroeconomic ideas.

How Schools Decide Who Gets To Take AP Micro and Macroeconomics

Each school has its own criteria for deciding which students to admit into both of these AP courses. The decision-making process involves a cooperative effort between teachers, administrators, and counselors who use criteria such as recommendations, GPA, and the student’s apparent commitment.

Because of that, it might be harder to get into AP Micro and Macroeconomics in some schools than in others. You might have to go through some kind of application or testing process if too many qualified students want to take these classes.

Each class is worth one college credit depending on how you score on each AP exam. The AP College Board doesn’t have prerequisites for either class, but students do need to understand mathematical graphing and be able to read college-level textbooks.

Your school might have suggestions for classes to take alongside AP Micro and Macroeconomics.

Which Class Should I Take First?

Your school might have already made that decision for you by only offering one class for the fall semester and the other for the spring semester. They might also try and teach both in a single semester.

In some areas, AP Microeconomics serves as a prerequisite for AP Macroeconomics even though the AP College Board doesn’t list any prerequisites for either. In that case, you’ll enroll in AP Microeconomics first.

However, if you go to a school where that decision rests with you, you’ll find a couple of different ideas about which class you should take first. Some say that you can’t understand macroeconomics if you don’t understand microeconomics. Others say that students do better if they take macroeconomics first.

There’s more data to suggest that students who take macroeconomics first do better overall than those who take microeconomics first. Macroeconomics introduces you to concepts that microeconomics uses, such as the minimum wage and unemployment levels.

You can understand those concepts before you take macroeconomics, but you might have some difficulty understanding how their impact on the overall economy affects things at the microeconomic level.

As such, it’s probably wiser to take macroeconomics before microeconomics so you can apply the principles you learn in macroeconomics to microeconomics.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a high school student looking to take AP classes, you’re faced with some difficult decisions. AP Micro and Macroeconomics might be one of the more difficult decisions since it’s tough to know which class to take first.

Your school, district, or state may have decided for you. If not, though, you’ll probably do better if you choose to take AP Macroeconomics first.

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Brett Gordon

Founder of ExamCave.com