About AP® Calculus BC Exam
Are you looking for a career in Engineering, Astronomy, or Nuclear Sciences? Do concepts like calculus, algebra, and trigonometry interest you? If you answered these questions with a ‘yes’, then AP® Calculus BC might be the subject for you!
In this guide, we are breaking down the AP Calc BC exam information to help you understand its format, the course content, and how this course may be beneficial should you choose to take it. We’ve also put together a few pointers to help you decide whether this course is right for you. Let’s dive in!
What Is AP Calculus BC Equivalent to? And Who Can Take It?
The AP Calc BC course is equivalent to both first and second-semester calculus classes in college. In other words, AP Calculus BC corresponds to both single-variable calculus courses. This introductory course is designed for students majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). So, taking up Calculus BC will step you up by a notch if you’re planning a career that involves heavy math like Engineering or Physics.
If you decide to take up AP Calculus BC in high school, you’ll cover the same syllabus as your college calculus course over two semesters. The curriculum for AP Calc BC is similar to that of AP Calculus AB as it covers the fundamental topics in Calculus. These topics include Limits and Continuity, Differentiation, Integration, accumulation of Change, and Differential equations. Each topic is taught in detail as you journey through the AP Calculus BC curriculum. In addition to these, however, a few new topics are added, which we will discuss shortly.
Nevertheless, the prerequisites for taking AP Calculus BC or AB remain the same. We’ve listed these prerequisites for a quick view:
- Algebra I
- Algebra II
Since this AP course covers content that is introduced in the first semester of college, it can be a challenging course to pursue in high school. But this course might be perfect for you if you have a knack for solving mathematical problems and memorizing complex formulas. Although this course is a tad more rigorous than AP Calculus AB, it will prepare you to take up more advanced level courses in the first year of college and let you skip the introductory ones. Below are a couple of questions to help you understand AP Calc BC better:
- Is AP Calculus BC the same as college calculus?
Yes! AP Calculus BC covers the content equivalent to a year of college calculus, including Calculus I and Calculus II.
- Is Calculus BC equivalent to Calculus 2?
According to the College Board®, Calculus BC is the direct equivalent of Calculus I and II.
Given the amount of rigor involved, taking up AP Calculus BC during your 11th or 12th grade is advised. That will also give you enough time to prepare yourself with the prerequisites necessary to excel in this course.
“Keep in mind that you may not take both the AP Calculus AB and Calculus BC exams in the same year.”
What Is on the AP Calculus BC Exam?
The AP Calculus BC exam will test you on two aspects: first, the content taught during the course; and second, the analyzing and problem-solving skills you’ve acquired in your journey through the Calc BC course.
The course content includes the units you’ll be taught during the AP Calc BC course. These units further revolve around three broad concepts or Big Ideas, as labeled by the College Board. As you journey through each unit, you’ll come across one or more of these big ideas that form the bedrock of calculus.
Before we look into what units are taught, here are the Big Ideas that create the overarching theme in AP Calculus BC:
- Analysis of Functions
As mentioned earlier, these big ideas are distributed across ten units to help you understand each concept efficiently. Additionally, the course content is organized in a way frequently found in many college courses and textbooks. Let’s now look at what these ten units are and their relative weightage in the AP Calc BC exam. We’ve also indicated the big ideas for each unit so that you’ll have all the information in one place.
|Units||Unit Name||Exam Weight||Big Ideas Involved|
|Unit 1||Limits and Continuity||4-7%||Change
Analysis of Functions
|Unit 2||Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties||4-7%||Change
Analysis of Functions
|Unit 3||Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Functions||4-7%||Analysis of Functions|
|Unit 4||Contextual Applications of Differentiation||6-9%||Change
|Unit 5||Analytical Applications of Differentiation||8-11%||Analysis of Functions|
|Unit 6||Integration and Accumulation of Change||17-20%||Change
Analysis of Functions
|Unit 7||Differential Equations||6-9%||Analysis of Functions|
|Unit 8||Applications of Integration||6-9%||Change|
|Unit 9||Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, & Vector-Valued Functions||11-12%||Change
Analysis of Functions
|Unit 10||Infinite Sequences and Series||17-18%||Change|
If you’re curious to learn more about these units and the big ideas mentioned above, check out our guide to the AP Calculus BC course and exam description.
The ten units listed above are designed to equip you with a set of skills essential for you to master the introductory calculus courses once you are in college. These skills are grouped under four mathematical practices by the College Board® and are as follows:
- Implementing Mathematical Processes
- Connecting Representations
- Communication and Notation
As you prepare for your AP Calculus BC exam, always remember that these mathematical practices are as important as the concepts and formulas you learn during the course. It is a good idea to go back and revise these big ideas. Knowing the fundamentals of a subject is the core of a solid learning process!
AP Calculus BC Exam Format for 2022
As in the case with most AP Exams, AP Calculus BC also comprises two sections: multiple-choice (MCQs) and free-response (FRQs). This is a lengthy exam, lasting three hours and 15 minutes. Each section accounts for 50% of the total exam weight, with 45 MCQs in Section I and six FRQs in Section II.
The following table gives you a quick overview of the overall exam format:
|Section||Question types||Questions||Time||Exam Weight|
|Section I||Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)||45||1 hr 45 mins||50%|
|Section II||Free-Response Questions (FRQs)||6||1 hr 30 mins||50%|
Each section is further divided into parts A and B, classifying the questions based on calculator usage. Let’s look at what each section looks like.
Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)
In this section, you need to choose the correct answer from the five answer choices. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. Following are the two parts in this section:
|Part A||30 MCQs||60 minutes||Graphing calculator NOT permitted|
|Part B||15 MCQs||45 minutes||Graphing calculator permitted|
Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)
This section will assess you based on your analytical problem-solving skills. The free-response section needs you to demonstrate every step of the problem as you deduce the answer. This section follows the ‘step-marking’ method, whereby you’ll be given points based on each step of the problem you approach correctly. This is how the two parts of Section II look like:
|Part A||2 FRQs||30 minutes||Graphing calculator permitted|
|Part B||4 FRQs||60 minutes||Graphing calculator NOT permitted|
Our guide to the AP Calculus BC exam format is here to help you with in-depth information and sample questions if you’re curious to know how your exam booklet might look like!
Why Should You Take AP Calculus BC?
AP Calculus BC can be a challenging course to master. Your high school teachers and AP instructors will probably advise you to take this course only if you are strong in math and wish to pursue a career involving heavy math, like Engineering or Physics. While that's true to a significant degree, you also need to consider that scoring well on the AP Calc BC exam will expose you to advanced courses in college and prepare you for your future goals!
Although preparing for this subject requires extensive planning and a strong foundation of the concepts, the same can be said about any other AP course you would want to take. Since these courses are equivalent to elementary college courses, they all come with their own challenges. After all the prep work and hassle, you might be asking yourself: Is AP Calculus BC worth it? Let's look at a few pointers to find out!
Prepare for College
AP Calculus BC is equivalent to college-level calculus and covers more subject matter than AP Calculus AB and your regular high school math. Getting exposure to a rigorous course like Calculus BC in high school will ease your transition into the first year of college.
While having the opportunity to tap into your creativity and intellect, you will also get prepared for next-stage career goals and challenges.
- Boost Your College Applications
A course like AP Calculus BC reflects well on your college application. With an AP exam score on Calculus BC, your college application immediately gains an additional weightage over your peers. Taking this course also indicates that you have worked hard and have acquired the skills and intellect to take advanced college courses in math, which boosts your chances of selection exponentially. Not only that! According to a recent study, it was reported that a student's AP experience through either course or exams favorably impacts admission decisions in 85% of institutions.
Earn College Credits!
While different colleges have their requirements, AP Calculus BC is usually equivalent to the first year of college calculus. With a score of 3 or higher, colleges already recognize you as eligible to take higher-level courses and may grant you an Advanced Placement® Many colleges across the United States would also offer free credits to you for your AP Calculus BC score. This is the most significant advantage of taking AP Calc BC.
How many college credits do you get with a score of 3, 4, or 5 in the AP Calculus BC exam?
Different colleges have varying policies with respect to the credits they offer for your AP Calculus BC scores.
- Strengthen Your Transcript
Many high schools give extra weightage to AP scores when calculating your GPA. Taking an AP class and scoring an average grade is often considered a better choice among students than getting an A in their regular high school course assessment.
- Save Time and Money!
Since AP Calculus BC takes the same time as its equivalent college courses, taking up this course in high school can save up your time by letting you skip through the introductory courses in your first year of college. Calculus BC is usually equivalent to Calculus II and Calculus II in college. Taking it in high school will also save on the tuition fees you would have to pay to earn the course credits for your graduation. As a result, you can potentially cut through one year of your college and one-quarter of your entire college fees.
- Get a Thorough Exercise in Calculus
Taking the AP Calculus BC course will cultivate your understanding of calculus at the college level. It will also open up other areas of study like Physics, Statistics, and many different specializations that you wish to pursue. Apart from boosting your self-confidence and grip on the subject, you will learn essential time management and study skills needed for college and career success.
“Research shows that students who score 3 or higher on AP exams typically experience greater academic success in college and have higher graduation rates than their non-AP peers.”
Who should take AP Calculus BC?
Beside the benefits mentioned above, taking up AP Calculus BC might be perfect for you if:
- You loved studying precalculus and math in high school
Precalculus, algebra, and trigonometry combined can give you a taste of what an AP Calculus BC course would be like. Given that this course can become challenging, you need to ask yourself if you’re ready to give it your 100%.
- You want math to be a part of your future goals
Calculus BC is one of the core college courses students take if they wish to pursue a career involving heavy math or allied subjects. Therefore, it is recommended that you take it especially if you have a science-oriented career path in mind.
- You scored high in math
While being passionate about the subject is essential, it’s also necessary to have an aptitude for a subject and excel in it. If you’ve taken the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or PSAT 8/9, you can look at your online score report to see information about which AP courses we think you’ll likely do well in. If math is a subject you excel in, then AP Calc BC can be your thing.
Additionally, you could ask your teachers and seniors and refer to the College Board’s released questions and course curriculum to help you decide whether Calculus BC can work for you.
The advantages of taking a heavy-duty course like Calculus BC are multifold if you can make it work for you! However, if you haven’t chalked out a career path yet and you want to keep your options flexible, taking the AP Calculus AB exam can work for you. In the following section, we help you get an idea about whether to go for AP Calculus BC or AB depending on your aptitude and career plans.
Should You Take Calculus BC or AB?
While there are subtle differences between AP Calculus BC and AB, the reasons for choosing one over the other vary drastically. Calculus BC includes everything in Calculus AB, plus a couple of extra units, namely units 9 and 10. Therefore, it is a tad more rigorous and detailed than AB.
The added advantage of choosing Calculus BC over AB is that the college credits and/or placement that you earn for BC are almost double. Your AP Calc BC score lets you skip two courses of college calculus, saving one semester worth of course hours and the fee for one course. In addition, if you are taking the AP Calculus BC exam, you’ll also get an additional subscore for Calculus AB.
Here’s a quick chart to help you assess whether Calculus BC is a good fit for you:
|Questions to Ask Yourself||Calculus
AB or BC
|Are you taking precalculus?||AB and BC|
|Do you need a more flexible study schedule?||AB|
|Do you excel in math?||BC|
|Are you worried about taking on a fast-paced course?||AB|
|Is your high school course load already heavy?||AB|
|Do you think you can cover more material & complete longer assignments?||BC|
|Are you planning to study humanities or major in a field that doesn’t require a lot of math?||AB|
|Are your future career goals math-heavy?||BC|
Learn about the differences between AP Calc AB and BC to clarify further doubts. In conclusion, there are a few more questions that need to be addressed.
Yes, you can take the AP Calculus BC exam without taking the AB.
AP Calculus BC contains a few more topics and a couple of units more than the AP Calculus AB curriculum. Therefore, it involves more rigor and dedication than AB. So yes, BC is a harder subject to ace compared to AB. However, it is also up to the student whether a couple of more units could prove heavy on their overall subject load or not.
Since precalculus prepares the groundwork for you to jump to AP Calculus BC, it is essential to have a precalculus course in high school to make things easier for you to pursue the AP Calc BC Course.
What Is the Difference Between Precalculus and AP Calculus BC?
High school precalculus is a collection of mathematical concepts designed to prepare you for a calculus course. Some concepts taught in precalculus are also taught in calculus, like limits and series, while others are more like algebraic techniques to help you be more proficient in solving calculus problems.
On the other hand, calculus is the study of how things change. It revolves around two concepts: differential and integral calculus. Differential calculus takes the idea of something changing and boils it down to what's happening at one exact instant. Integral calculus does the opposite. It aggregates what happens as something changes over an extended period.
Overall, precalculus is a broader course that lays down the foundation for calculus. Some of the techniques and concepts you learn in precalculus are carried forward to the concepts you learn in calculus.
Is AP Calculus BC Hard?
If there’s one question that students ask before choosing AP Calculus BC, it is, how hard is AP Calculus BC? To be honest, AP Calculus BC can be tricky to pass, irrespective of its whopping passing rate of 75.2% in 2021.
That’s because Calculus BC requires extensive knowledge and practice of Integral and Differential Calculus, which students often fail to achieve from self-studying at home. In addition, this course is more rigorous than AP Calculus AB and your usual high school math. If you’re wondering whether AP Calculus BC is harder than college or not, the answer is that it's almost similar to first-year college calculus courses. The College Board has designed AP Calc BC to be equivalent to Calculus I and II as offered in most colleges.
Nevertheless, it is recommended that if students can supplement their self-studying sessions with external help like AP classes and online courses, their chances of succeeding increase exponentially. In conclusion, a course’s difficulty is a relative issue as it depends on the student’s study habits, grit, and tenacity. Listed below are a few other things to help you get a sense of how easy or difficult AP Calculus BC might be:
- If you have high scores in math and precalculus, Calculus BC would be easy for you to cover.
- Calculus BC requires both memorization and analytical skills. Students must be able to memorize lengthy formulae, theorems, and concepts that can then be applied analytically to solve problems in order to succeed in this subject. Calculus BC is a good choice if you are able to memorize concepts rather than relying solely on analytical thinking.
- It’s always a good idea to go through the course modules and content to gauge the difficulty of Calculus BC. Talking to your seniors, peers, and teachers might help you gauge what to expect in the course.
- Preparing for any AP course requires dedication and a well-organized study schedule. Go ahead with it if you believe you can navigate the issue of time management without interfering with your high school curriculum. Remember, there's no reason to exhaust yourself!
Calculator Policy for AP Calculus BC
You’ll be allowed to use calculators in certain sections of the AP Calculus BC exam. However, specific regulations have been put in place by the College Board regarding the models of permitted calculators. Your proctor will check your calculator make and model number to verify whether you’re using a calculator approved by the College Board. There are also a few regulations put forth by the College Board regarding the use of calculators.
Which calculators are suitable for the AP Calculus BC exam?
You are allowed to use graphing calculators for the AP Calc BC exam. Many calculators from Casio, Sharp, Texas Instruments, and other brands can be used by students for the exam.
Check out the AP exam policies page to learn more about the calculator policy and permitted models.
AP Calculus BC Review Tips
If there’s one thing that students of AP Calc BC will tell you, it’s that this subject is challenging. Nevertheless, you can score a 5 through your hard work and dedication! We’ve put together a few tips that will come in handy as you prepare for the AP Calculus BC exam.
- Prepare a detailed study schedule
This is the most common tip to prepare for any exam, yet the most underrated one. Starting your prep work with a detailed study plan will help you distribute the course into bite-sized chunks and enable you to study systematically. In a study schedule, compartmentalizing units and subjects can help you keep track of the units you need to focus more on, so you can go back and revisit them later.
- Prepare study notes
Always remember to make study notes on the side even while preparing for your high school math courses, especially precalculus. That way, you’ll have a database ready when starting off with AP Calculus BC and you can add more notes to each topic as you proceed through your AP course.
- Make yourself familiar with the exam format
Knowing the question paper pattern trains your brain to think in an organized manner. That way, you'll have a mental map of the kind of questions to expect, and no question will feel unfamiliar.
- Invest in a reliable study material
It's always a good idea to have reliable study material handy. Invest in good review materials to help you prepare smarter! Creating your own formula sheets and keeping them handy is also a good idea that many students follow.
If you want to get more of these review tips, check out the AP Calculus BC Study Guide created by our expert educators.
Let us help you get that 5! UWorld's AP Calculus BC practice exams come with challenging questions, answer explanations, and timed tests that are designed to help you ace the AP Calculus BC exam. You can even create customized flashcards and review notes to keep all those important formulas and theorems at one place. If you love math and are dedicated to studying hard, we’re here to help you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You must carry an approved graphing calculator for your AP Calculus BC exam. In addition, remember to bring No. 2 pencils, an eraser, a valid photo I.D. and a watch to the exam.
No. There’s no equation sheet provided on the AP Calc BC exam.
You can check out the past AP Calculus BC released exam papers on the College Board website.
Nothing actually happens if you fail the AP Calculus BC exam. You can always retake the exam in the subsequent year. There is no limit to the number of attempts.
The AP Calculus BC test is scheduled for Monday, May 9, 2022.
Read More About the AP Calculus BC Exam
Want to learn about the AP Calculus BC exam format? Head over to our page for a detailed break-up of the exam format, types of questions on the exam, and more!
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Your ultimate study guide to the AP Calculus BC exam from our expert educators. Includes review tips and tricks to help you ace the AP Calculus BC exam!