AP Microeconomics Course Perspective

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Authored by

  • Jim Spellicy
    Lowell High School
    San Francisco, California

Please note: The official College Board® Course Description is available below.

Recent advances in technology have reduced the one-time vastness of our globe. Instant communication with individuals across the earth, through faxes, telephones, and computers, has expanded trade in goods, services and ideas. Consumers and producers rely on economic information from countless sources in their decision-making processes. Each of us is bombarded with economic information on a daily basis and it is imperative for the active citizen to have an understanding of economic principles.

Advanced Placement Microeconomics is a course designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of the principles of economics as they apply to individual decision-making units, including individual households and firms. Students taking the course will spend time examining the theory of consumer behavior, the theory of the firm, and the behavior of profit-maximizing firms under various market structures. They will evaluate the efficiency of the outcomes with respect to price, output, consumer surplus, and producer surplus. Student will have an opportunity to examine the behaviors of households and businesses in factor markets, and learn how the determination of factor prices, wages, interest, and rent influence the distribution of income in a market economy. Students will also consider instances in which private markets may fail to allocate resources efficiently and examine various public policy alternatives aimed at improving the efficiency of private markets.

Who should take AP Micro? The course is designed to meet a variety of student needs, from students preparing for college work who want a solid foundation in economic theory, to those soon to enter the labor force who need to understand how they fit into the cycle of economic activity. Students' reasons for taking the course will vary, but as long as they demonstrate an interest in understanding how the economy works and their role in that operation, encouragement should be given.

The course, though, is much more a course in economic theory than it is a course in economic application. Little or no time is spent on teaching stock market operations or consumer economics.

Each school has devised its own criteria for selecting students for AP Micro. Selection is usually the result of a collaborative effort by administrators, counselors, and teachers. Reliance on GPAs, letters of recommendation, and overall commitment are generally considered.

AP Micro does not require students to have had a course in calculus. All mathematical problems given on the AP Micro Exam can be done without the use of a calculator. Graphing skills, though, are an essential prerequisite. Much of the course centers on the manipulation of market structure graphs.

How useful is a course in AP Microeconomics? For students, AP Micro presents a challenging high school course, offers the opportunity to earn college credit and/or advanced standing, and definitely prepares students for rigorous college work. The course often generates greater self-confidence and motivation.

The amount of content a teacher and students need to tackle can be staggering at first glance, especially if the teacher is trying to cover both AP Micro and AP Macro in a single semester. The AP Microeconomics Course Description (see the link provided at the end of this overview) is the teacher's best guide for what is covered on the AP Exam. Every topic that will be on the exam is listed in the Course Description. Be sure to pay close attention to the percentages attached to each topic and allocate course time accordingly. Managing time on each topic is crucial for student success.

Success in the AP Micro course is encouraging for the student, school, community, and nation, as the course is ultimately designed to help facilitate the growth of an economically aware citizenry. Teachers and students working together can accomplish this goal.