AP®Calculus AB Score Guide

Have you opted for the AP® Calculus AB exam? One of the first steps to prepare for the exam efficiently is to know how it is scored. Learning the scoring pattern for the exam can help you strategize your study plan. This also allows you to focus selectively on sections of the exam where you think you can score high. If you are taking the AP Calc AB exam soon and are curious about how it is scored, you’ve come to the right place! This is your guide to the AP Calculus AB scoring system.

How Is the AP Calculus AB Exam Scored?

AP Calculus AB exam consists of two sections: multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and free-response questions (FRQs). There are 45 MCQs that make up Section One of the exam and six FRQs or long-answer questions that make up Section Two. Each section carries 50% of the total composite score, totaling the overall score to 108.
Section I 45 MCQs 54 points
Section II 6 FRQs 54 points
Subtotal 108 points
As you can see from the table above, the 54 points in the MCQ section are distributed across 45 questions in Section One. Roughly, each MCQ in this section carries 1.2 points for a correct answer. The exam does not penalize you for wrong answers, so never leave a question blank.  If you’re unsure of the correct answer, make your best guess. However, in Section Two, each question carries 9 points, totaling 54 points for six questions. These 9 points are distributed across two aspects: first, following the proper steps to solve a problem, and second, determining the correct answer. As this section involves the ‘step-marking’ method, you will get a partial point for every critical step of the problem that you approach correctly, even if you falter after a few steps and fail to reach the correct answer.
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AP Calculus AB Raw Score Conversion

Once your total score from each section is calculated, they are added to present your final composite score out of a possible 108. This composite score is then converted into a number on the AP score scale, ranging from 1 to 5. Remember that the raw score conversion process is kept confidential by the College Board®. Your composite score on the AP Exam is never presented publicly. You get the AP Exam grade (1-5) which is deduced after processing your composite raw score on your AP mark sheet.

The College Board does not release the composite score ranges and their related scaled score. So the following is just an approximation to help you understand how the AP Calculus AB scoring system might work. For example, if your total score after adding Sections I and II came up to 108, you would earn the perfect score of 5. But if your total composite score came up to 65, you would be graded a 4 on the AP scale. Below is a table that gives the composite score ranges and their respective AP Calculus AB exam scores:

Composite Score Range AP Score
70-108 5
59-69 4
45-58 3
28-44 2
0-27 1
Keeping these AP Calculus AB scoring guidelines in mind, we are now ready to look at how your AP scores reflect on your college applications. Let’s find out which AP scores can get you recommendation, placement and college credits!

AP Calculus AB Scoring Table

After your Calculus AB exam scores are recorded on the AP grading scale, they are sent to the respective colleges that you’ve selected for admission. If you want to learn how to have the College Board send your AP scores to your college, check out our page on AP Exam Scores. Although each college has its criteria for granting admissions based on AP scores, most colleges follow a standard formula when converting your AP Calculus AB score to the equivalent college grade. Following is the AP score table showing the conversion of AP scores into equivalent college grades for the Calc AB exam:
AP Exam Score College Grade Equivalent Qualification
5 A+ or A Extremely well qualified
4 A-, B+, or B Very well qualified
3 B-, C+, or C Qualified
2 Possibly Qualified
1 No recommendation
As you can see from the table, colleges do not consider scores below 3 during admissions. Therefore, the rule of thumb would be to achieve a score of 3 or higher if you’re considering getting college credits and Advanced Placement® for your AP Calc AB exam score. However, always remember to check with the colleges you intend to apply to on their minimum requirements.
A recent research found that students who achieve a score of 2 in AP Calculus AB earn significantly higher grades when taking the course in college than students with the same high school GPA!

AP Calculus AB Score Distributions

AP Calculus AB is one of the most popular AP exams students take every year. This is because Calc AB remains one of the core AP courses that can earn you Advanced Placement and/or course credit as you enter college. There are numerous other benefits of taking your AP exam for Calculus AB. Check out our AP Calculus AB Exam guide to discover why taking the Calc AB exam is beneficial for your career. As of 2021, a total of 251,639 students took the AP Calculus AB exam, with 51% of test-takers scoring a 3, 4, and 5. In the past three-year period, i.e., from 2019 to 2021, this percentage averaged around 56.4%. That’s a fairly decent success rate considering the common myth about AP Calc AB being a hard nut to crack! Let’s crunch some numbers below to get an idea about the AP Calculus AB score distributions:
AP Score % of Students 2021 % of Students 2020 % of Students 2019 Average for the past three years
5 17.6% 19.0% 18.9% 18.5%
4 14.1% 20.4% 18.8% 17.7%
3 19.3% 20.5% 20.6% 20.1%
2 25.3% 24.1% 23.4% 24.2%
1 23.7% 16.0% 18.3% 19.3%

As you can see from the table above, scoring high on the Calculus AB exam has gotten difficult over the years with more students scoring below 3 in 2021 compared to previous years. AP Calculus AB exam is a challenging subject, but you can be a 5 pointer with the right study tools, course instruction, and dedication!

UWorld’s online AP Calculus AB practice exams will help you get there! Taking practice tests will help you track your progress and clear out doubts to help you form a solid foundation of core calculus concepts. You can also make quick notes and use our flashcards to revisit concepts and theorems in a jiffy when reviewing for the exam.

Scoring Pattern for The 2021 AP Calculus AB Exam

To secure a good AP Calc AB score, you need to understand the scoring pattern for the exam. This will help you know which section might be a high scorer for you and which section you need to focus more on! Let’s analyze the 2021 AP Calculus AB scoring pattern and learn how scores were distributed across the multiple-choice and free-response sections.

For the 2021 pen-and-paper exam, students scored significantly higher on the Multiple-Choice section than the Free-Response questions.

In the multiple-choice section, the following trends were noted:

  • Students demonstrated the strongest proficiency in Unit 4: Contextual Applications of Differentiation, with 11% of students earning a perfect score across the questions on this unit.
  • On average, students scored the lowest on Unit 7: Differential Equations, in which 4% of students answered all questions correctly, and 9% answered none correctly.

The Free-Response Section showed the following patterns:

  • The most challenging question for the 2021 exam was Question 3 on area-volume; disc method. 3% of students earned 7 to 9 points out of a possible 9.
  • The highest results were seen on Question 4 on graphical analysis. 14% of students earned 7 to 9 points out of a possible 9.

AP Calculus AB Minimum Score Requirement for College Credits

As we mentioned earlier, most colleges across the US recognize AP exam scores to grant credit or advanced placement to their students. Having a score of 3 or higher can earn you college credits, which will help you graduate from college early because of the credits you’ve already learned in high school through AP. While in other colleges, a score of 3 or higher can give you a chance to skip the core math course in the first semester and still get a grade for it, which gets labeled as ‘advanced placement’. Some colleges offer both advanced placement and credits, which means you’ll earn the credits and also be able to skip the course!

Each institution has its criteria for acknowledging AP scores. Some colleges accept an AP score of 3, while some demand a 5. Some colleges don’t offer you any credit but grant you a placement for your AP score. So, while you’re preparing for your AP Calculus AB exam, it’s essential to know your college entrance requirements for this course.

We’ve compiled a list of Institutions around the country and the AP scores they accept for admission to help you narrow your search. The list also includes the courses you can bypass for a specific AP score and whether you earn credits or not for taking the AP Calculus AB exam. Let’s have a look.

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Institution AP Score AP Recognition Credit/Placement type Credits
California State University 3/4/5 Credit Subject to qualifying
conditions
3
Georgia Tech 4/5 Credit MATH 1551 2 semester hrs
Grinnell College 3/4/5 Credit MAT 133 4 semester credits on successful completion of MAT 133
4/5 MAT-124 or 131 or 133 4 semester credits (only on approval by Mathematics Dept.)
Harvard University 5 Credit Subject to other qualifying conditions 4
Louisiana State University 3 Credit MATH 1021, and either 1431 or 1530 6 credit hrs
4/5 Credit
+
Placement
MATH 1021, 1550
+
MATH 1552 / 1553
8 credit hrs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5 Placement 18.01A/18.02A No credit
Mississippi State University 3/4/5 Credit MA 1713 3 credit hrs
New York University 4/5 Credit MATH-UA 121 4
Notre Dame 5 Credit
+
Placement
Equivalent course: MATH 10550 4 credits towards MATH 10091
Reed College 5 Credit Placement determined in consultation with the faculty 1 credit
Stanford University 5 Credit
+
Placement
Math 21 or 51 (Placement subject to Department or Registrar) 6 quarter units
Truman State University 3 Credit
+
Placement
MATH 192: Essentials of
Calculus
4
4/5 MATH 198: Analytic Geometry & Calculus I 5
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3/4 Credit
+
Placement
Calculus 4
5 MATH 31A
Yale University 5 Credit MATH 115, MATH 116, or MATH 118 1 (subject to other qualifying conditions)
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Frequently Asked Questions

Scoring a 5 in your AP Calculus AB exam is absolutely the best score. However, scoring between 3 to 5 also qualifies you for placement and free credits in college.
The average AP Calculus AB score for May 2021 was 2.77.
The AP Calculus AB scores are curved to ensure standardization and maintain consistency across exams administered across paper and digital media and at various times. This process also helps in ensuring that the AP exam scoring translates into equivalent college grades.
AP Calculus AB scores are scheduled to be released in July for the exams administered during May.
No test taker achieved a perfect score on the 2021 AP Calculus AB exam. However, 17.6% of test-takers scored a 5.

The key to a 5 on your AP Calculus AB is understanding the concepts and practicing problems regularly. Prepare a study schedule, develop a crystal clear understanding of the concepts and formulae, and practice solving a variety of problems. Also consider taking AP Calculus AB practice exams.

Read More About AP Calculus AB

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