Master the AP Exams: AP Calculus

Mar 2024

5 Minute Read

Tagged as: Advanced Placement

Discusses the format of thee two AP calculus tests offered and what content each test focuses on

What are the AP Calculus Exams?

The College Board divides AP Calculus into two exams: AB and BC. These AP courses, especially Calculus BC, are notoriously difficult. In fact, the exam has such a heavy curve that a student can correctly answer only 75% of the questions and still receive a 5! As expected, a high score on either of these AP tests is very impressive to colleges and universities. In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into the topics you’ll need to know for the AP Calculus exams.

Both Calculus exams have 4 parts. Section A, Part 1 contains 27 multiple choice questions on which you may not use a calculator. Part 2 of this section has 15 multiple choice questions on which you may use a calculator. Section B, Part 1 contains 2 free response questions on which you can also use a calculator. Section B, Part 2 contains 4 free response questions on which a calculator may not be used. Uniquely, once Section B, Part 2 begins, students may still adjust their answers from the previous section but may no longer use a calculator.

What content do the AP Calculus tests cover?

For the AP Calculus AB exam, students need to be familiar with limits and differential calculus, including implicit derivation. Students also need to understand integral calculus, the fundamental theorem, and the relationship between distance, velocity, and acceleration. Smaller topics like related rates, optimization, and continuity/differentiability make up the remaining questions on the exam.

AP Calculus BC covers all of the material that AB covers. In fact, if you take the BC exam, you receive an "AB" score in addition to your main, BC score. The BC exam covers more material, however — most notably, it covers a suite of topics that concern infinite series. Students need to be able to recognize when a series does or does not converge; to this end, students will want to have a thorough knowledge of the many convergence tests and formulas one may employ. The BC test also covers many smaller topics — such as logistic integration and polar curves — that do not show up on the Calculus AB exam.

What's next?

If you enjoy high-level math in high school, then you should also consider reading about the AP Statistics exam! Or if you need a rundown on how AP exams work more generally, check out our article here!

Finally, if you're starting to apply to colleges or are beginning your college search, Occam's free app, Wend, is now available on the App Store! With free test prep, college search tools, and essay-writing guides, Wend has everything you need to navigate the college application process with ease.

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