AP® Calculus BC Exam Format

Have you opted for the AP® Calculus BC exam and are curious to learn about the exam format? If so, you’ve come to the right place! This article is your guide to the AP Calc BC exam structure and format. We have simplified the exam format to help you understand the sections of the exam booklet, the type of questions you’ll get, and the time allotted to each section. Read on!

What Is the Exam Format for AP Calculus BC?

The AP Calculus BC exam contains two question booklets, Section I and Section II. Section I consists of 45 multiple-choice questions, and Section II consists of six free-response questions. The exam is scored on a scale from 1 to 5, and each of the two sections carries 50% of the total exam weight. The AP Calculus BC exam lasts for a total of three hours and 15 minutes. Check out our article on the AP Calculus BC Scoring to understand the scoring pattern for this exam in depth.

The AP Calculus BC exam structure is as follows:

Section Question Types No. of Questions Time Per Section Exam Weight
Section I Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) 45 1 hour 45 mins 50%
Section II Free-Response Questions (FRQs) 6 1 hour 45 mins 50%
Let’s now dive deeper into each section to know what they look like.

Section I: Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

The first part of your AP exam will consist of MCQs. Each question consists of four answer choices, and you need to pick the correct answer for each question. This section has two parts:
Section I Part A Part B
No. of Questions 30 MCQs 15 MCQs
Exam Weight 33.3% 16.7%
Time Allotted 1 hr 45 minutes
Calculator Usage Not Permitted Permitted
Question Types

1. Differentiation and integration of algebraic, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and general types of functions.

2. Analytical, graphical, tabular, and verbal types of representation.

3. Real-world contexts like position, velocity, and acceleration.

The total number of points you can score in this section is 54, with each question carrying 1.2 points. There’s no penalty for a wrong answer, so make sure you attempt all the questions. There’s always a 25% chance of getting every doubtful question correct!

Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

The second part of your AP exam consists of FRQs where you will not be given any answer choices and you’ll be required to solve the problems methodically to derive the answers. So remember to demonstrate each step that you approach to deduce the solution. This section will assess your analytical and problem-solving skills. The FRQ section has two parts:
Section II Part A Part B
No. of Questions 2 FRQs 4 FRQs
Time Allotted 30 minutes 1 hr
Exam Weight 16.7% 33.3%
Calculator Usage Permitted Not Permitted
Question Types

1. Various types of functions and function representations and a mix of procedural and conceptual tasks.

2. At least two questions will incorporate a real-world context or scenario that you’ll need to solve.

3. At least one question will cover a topic from Unit 9, and at least one question will cover Taylor/Maclaurin polynomials.

The number of points you can score in this section is 54. Each question carries 9 points. As mentioned earlier, this section follows the ‘step-marking’ method, where you’ll be given points for solving each step of a problem correctly. So even if you mess up after a few steps, you’ll still be able to score a few points out of a total of 9 per question.

With the exam sections and format knowledge at hand, let’s now proceed to the types of questions and learn what each section will test you on.

Types of Questions in the AP Calculus BC Exam

The sections mentioned above will include questions from all of the course units. However, each course unit carries a certain weightage of questions in each section. Let’s learn the weights for each unit in detail to understand the AP Calc BC format better.

Multiple-Choice questions (MCQs)

As you may already know, Section I consists of multiple-choice questions. These questions can appear from any of the ten units that you have learned in your AP Calculus BC curriculum. However, each unit has a specific weightage in the MCQ section of the exam.
Units Unit Name Weight
Unit 1 Limits and Continuity 4-7%
Unit 2 Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties 4-7%
Unit 3 Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Functions 4-7%
Unit 4 Contextual Applications of Differentiation 6-9%
Unit 5 Analytical Applications of Differentiation 8-11%
Unit 6 Integration & Accumulation of Change 17–20%
Unit 7 Differential Equations 6–9%
Unit 8 Applications of Integration 6-9%
Unit 9 Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions 11–12%
Unit 10 Infinite Sequences and Series 17-18%

The units with higher weights tend to appear more frequently in the MCQ section than the other units, implying that you will likely receive more questions from these units than from other units such as Units 1 and 3. Keeping this in mind will help you focus on these sections, and you can create your study plan based on the unit weights.

In the MCQ section, you'll face questions that come with similar answer choices, often tricking you into thinking that there could be more than one possible correct answer. Most of the time, these answer choices result from common mistakes committed by students in a hurry. But don't fret! We've put together a few tips to address questions like these:

  1. Try to solve the problem by looking at the answer choices.

    A trick that many students try is using the answer choices as a clue to solve the problem. This helps you eliminate some choices by looking at them, which could save a lot of time. Sometimes you don't know what form the correct answer will be presented in, and if you don't look at the choices first, you will waste time doing steps you don't need to. So, always remember to skim through the answer choices while attempting to answer multiple-choice questions.

  2. Double-check your chosen answer.

    Sometimes, the answer choices appear similar. However, there will often be a small difference between the correct and incorrect answer choices.

    Try to keep a buffer of 10 minutes after answering all your questions. Utilize this time to revise your answers and fix any errors.

  3. Come back to a tricky question later.

    If you struggle with a question, come back to it later. You get only two to three minutes per question, so getting through all the MCQs first before double-checking your answers is recommended. Mark a ‘temporary’ answer to the questions you find tricky so that you can come back to those later on and revise your answer choice.

  4. Don't be afraid to take a guess!

    Your MCQ answers are scanned by a machine, after which a raw score is provided based on the number of correct answers. There’s no penalty for incorrect answers in this section. So, if you are not sure of a particular answer, feel free to take a guess! Try to eliminate as many answer choices as you can first to improve your chances of getting it right.

  5. Assess your weaknesses while you prep.

    As you practice multiple choice questions in your mock tests, note down what questions you get wrong. Tally this information after you finish your practice tests to assess your ‘weak’ areas and topics, and focus on them. When you use UWorld’s QBank, read through the explanations of questions you get wrong to help you improve and get it right the next time!

Section II: Free-Response Questions

Similar to Section I, Section II tests you on the ten course units. The College Board® does not specify the relative weights of each unit in the FRQ section of the exam. However, from past exams’ question patterns, we can see that units 9 and 10 are always represented in the FRQs. Unit 6 is also important to focus on as it tends to appear frequently. The key is to practice College Board’s past FRQs to familiarize yourself with the patterns and commonly used question types.

The FRQs in this section will require you to solve a problem and demonstrate each step you take to come up with the correct solution. Therefore, this section follows a step-marking method. It is recommended that you read through all the questions from this section at the start of the exam. That will help you decide which ones to attempt first and which ones you wish to address later. It is ideal to spare about 10–12 minutes on each question so that by the end of the exam, you’ll still have about 30 minutes to attempt any difficult problems and revise your answers.

As of 2022, the AP Calculus BC exam will not be administered in digital format. You can take your exam in the paper-and-pencil version.

The AP Calculus BC exam is challenging. Following a disciplined study schedule with the exam format knowledge at hand along with the right resources such as UWorld AP Calculus BC practice questions will certainly help you ace the exam.

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Read More About the AP Calculus BC Exam

Wondering if AP Calculus BC is right for you? This is your complete guide to AP Calculus BC — including exam information, why to take the exam, prerequisites, exam difficulty, and more!
Want to know how the AP Calculus BC Course and Exam Description (CED) looks like? Check out UWorld’s easy-to-understand CED for in-depth info on the exam layout, skills, units, topics, and more.
Curious about how AP Calculus BC scoring works? Check out our article on AP Calc BC scoring and score distribution including a score calculator to know where you stand.
Are you looking for exam-winning strategies that will help you score 5? Check out our study guide and resources to ace the AP Calculus BC exam.
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