AP® Macroeconomics Course And Exam Description

The AP® Macroeconomics course and exam description has undergone significant updates, including new content effective Spring 2023, and navigating through the College Board®'s extensive CED to identify these changes can seem daunting. But don't worry! We've created a user-friendly guide to help you better understand the AP Macro course. In this guide, we'll cover all the units, topics, themes, and skills you need to master in order to excel in the AP Macro exam.

AP Macroeconomics Units, Topics, and Key Concepts

Let’s start by asking, “how many units are there in the AP Macroeconomics course?” There are six units in the course, and they revolve around four overarching themes or big ideas that will introduce you to college-level macroeconomics.

You’ll also master specific skills as you journey through the course content. We’ll go through all of them, but first, let’s answer a couple of commonly asked questions about the AP Macro course:

  • Is it a one-semester course or a dual credit course in high school?

    AP courses are different from dual credit courses. AP Macroeconomics is not a dual credit course and is typically a one-semester course.

  • Which college course is equivalent to the AP Macro course?

    AP Macroeconomics is equivalent to a first-semester college course in macroeconomics.

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Visual illustration of the consumer price index for a market basket of goods over time.

The Four Big Ideas of AP Macroeconomics

The big ideas are the fundamental themes of the AP Macroeconomics course. Each unit and topic you learn covers one or more of these recurring themes. The AP Macro course consists of four big ideas; let’s learn about each of them below:

  1. Big Idea 1: Economic Measurements (MEA)

    These are metrics developed by economists to measure and observe the condition of an economy and assess its progress over time. Governments, companies, and individuals frequently use these measurements to assist in shaping policies, making business choices, and informing personal decisions.

  2. Big Idea 2: Markets (MKT)

    This big idea includes the concept of markets. You’ll learn how buyers and sellers come together to trade goods and services, benefiting both parties in competitive markets. The basic concept of supply and demand can be applied in various market settings.

  3. Big Idea 3: Macroeconomic Models (MOD)

    Under this big idea, you’ll learn about macroeconomic models and how they can be used to forecast and explain fundamental economic connections. You will also learn about their relationship with economic disruptions.

  4. Big Idea 4: Macroeconomic Policies (POL)

    The fourth big idea deals with the relationship between government taxation, spending policies, and the monetary policies of a country’s central bank. It also addresses how these policies affect the economy's output, pricing structures, and employment level in the short and long terms.

AP Macroeconomics - Six Units and Topics

As you may recall, the AP Macroeconomics course has 6 units. These units, along with the big ideas and course skills, are designed to help you build a solid foundation for college-level macroeconomics and prepare for the AP Macroeconomics exam.

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Graph indicating the impact of back-to-school sales on demand for goods

What Are AP Macroeconomics Course Skills?

Mastering the AP Macro course also requires you to learn a series of course skills listed by the College Board. The AP Gov course combines these practices with the course content you learn in class so you can use these skills during the AP exam. Let's see what these AP Macroeconomics course skills are:

  1. The first-course skill requires you to identify and describe economic concepts, principles, or models and illustrate your understanding through examples, quantitative data, or calculations. In addition to analyzing these concepts, you’ll also need to describe their similarities, differences, and limitations.

  2. The second skill builds off of the first one and requires you to explain specific economic outcomes using concepts, principles, or models.

  3. While the previous skill focuses on explaining a given outcome, this course skill requires you to determine an outcome(s) using the concepts, models, and quantitative data presented to you.

  4. To master the final skill, you’ll have to successfully draw accurately labeled graphs and charts to represent an economic situation presented to you. You’ll need to take into account any changes to that economic situation before representing it through your model or graph.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The most important topics are usually the ones with the most questions on the exam. Per the College Board, the majority of multiple-choice questions cover the following three units:

  • Unit 5: Long-Run Consequences of Stabilization Policies
  • Unit 4: Financial Sector
  • Unit 3: National Income and Price Determination

Yes, you can take the AP Macroeconomics exam without taking the course.

For the 2023 AP exams, students found Unit 6 the most challenging, with an average of just 49% correct responses on the MCQ section.


  1. AP Macroeconomics Course Overview. (2022). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-macroeconomics-course-overview.pdf
  2. AP Macroeconomics Exam – AP. (n.d.).  apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-macroeconomics/exam
  3. Trevor Packer. (June 29, 2023). twitter.com. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://twitter.com/AP_Trevor/status/1674409033451597825

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