AP® Calculus BC Exam Format
Are you curious to learn about the AP® Calculus BC exam format? If so, you’ve come to the right place! This article is your guide to the AP Calc BC exam structure. We have simplified the exam format to help you understand each exam section, including 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 parts, 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. Each 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 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%|
Section I: Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
The first part of your AP exam will consist of MCQs. Each question provides four answer options from which you need to pick the correct answer. This section has two parts:
|Section I||Part A||Part B|
|No. of Questions||30 MCQs||15 MCQs|
|Time Allotted||1 hr||45 minutes|
|Calculator Usage||Not Permitted||Permitted|
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 guessing correctly!
Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)
The second part of your AP exam consists of FRQs which do not provide any answer choices, and require you to solve the problems methodically to derive the answers. Remember to demonstrate each step that you take 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|
|Calculator Usage||Permitted||Not Permitted|
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, so you’ll earn points for solving each step of a problem correctly. That means, even if you mess up after a few steps, you’ll still 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 tests.
Types of Questions in the AP Calculus BC ExamThe sections mentioned above include questions from all course units. However, the exam tests each course unit in distinct amounts. Let’s learn how each unit is weighted in detail to understand the AP Calc BC format better.
Multiple-Choice questions (MCQs)As you already know, Section I consists of multiple-choice questions. These questions can appear from any of the ten units you learned in your AP Calculus BC curriculum. Below you can see the weight of each unit in the MCQ section of the exam.
|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 others, implying that you will likely receive more questions from these units than from 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 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 students commit in a hurry. But don't fret! We've put together a few tips to address questions like these:
- 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. Doing this helps to anticipate what form the correct answer is presented in. Looking at the choices first,helps get you on the path to the correct solution quickly. So, always remember to skim through the answer choices while attempting to answer multiple-choice questions.
- Double-check your chosen answer.
Sometimes, the answer choices appear similar. However, there will often be a slight 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 as possible to improve your chances of getting it right.
- Assess your weaknesses while you prep.
As you practice multiple choice questions in your mock tests, note what questions you get wrong. Tally this information after you finish your practice tests to assess your ‘weak’ areas and topics, then 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!
Do you want to learn tips and tricks that could save you time and help you ace this section? Check out our guide on how to approach AP Calculus BC Multiple-Choice Questions. In this article, we break down the MCQ section and guide you through answering each question successfully.
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 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. We recommend 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 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.
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.
If you are curious to learn more, check out our article on how to answer AP Calculus BC FRQ. We have included a few sample questions with step-by-step instructions on solving them.