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? Who Can Take It?

The AP Calculus BC course is equivalent to both first and second-semester college calculus courses, encompassing the full scope of single-variable calculus. This advanced course is particularly designed for students planning to major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Thus, enrolling in Calculus BC can significantly advance your mathematical foundation, especially if you are considering a career in areas like Engineering or Physics that heavily rely on math.

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If you choose to take AP Calculus BC in high school, you will cover a curriculum parallel to what is typically taught across two semesters in a college calculus course. The curriculum builds upon that of AP Calculus AB by revisiting fundamental concepts such as Limits and Continuity, Differentiation, Integration, and Differential Equations and introducing additional topics such as sequences, series, and polar coordinates, which we will explore in more detail.

The prerequisites for taking AP Calculus BC are the same as for AP Calculus AB. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need:

  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II
  • Pre-calculus

This AP course mirrors the material typically introduced in the first semester of a college calculus course and can be quite demanding. However, it could be the perfect fit for you if you have a strong aptitude for solving mathematical problems and mastering complex formulas. While AP Calculus BC is more rigorous than AP Calculus AB, it provides an excellent foundation, potentially allowing you to bypass introductory courses and tackle more advanced subjects in your first year of college.

Below are a couple of questions to help you understand AP Calc BC better:

  1. 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.

Due to its demanding nature, it's recommended that you enroll in AP Calculus BC in either 11th or 12th grade. This timing allows you ample opportunity to master the necessary prerequisites and excel in the 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:

  1. Change
  2. Limits
  3. 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 look at what these ten units are and their relative weight in the AP Calc BC exam:

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, and 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 what's covered in introductory collegiate calculus courses. These skills are grouped under four mathematical practices by the College Board and are as follows:

  1. Implementing Mathematical Processes
  2. Connecting Representations
  3. Justification
  4. Communication and Notation

As you prepare for the AP Calculus BC exam, keep in mind that mastering mathematical practices is just as crucial as understanding the concepts and formulas covered in the course. Regularly revisiting these foundational ideas will strengthen your grasp of the material. After all, a thorough understanding of the fundamentals is key to a solid learning process!

AP Calculus BC Exam Format for 2024

AP Calculus BC also has 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 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 select the correct response from the five answer choices. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. Below 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 what your exam booklet might look like!

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Why Should You Take AP Calculus BC?

AP Calculus BC is undeniably challenging. It’s often recommended for students who excel in math and are considering math-intensive careers, such as in Engineering or Physics. While a strong mathematical background is crucial, it's also important to recognize the benefits: scoring well on the AP Calculus BC exam can grant you access to advanced college courses and set a strong foundation for your future academic and career goals.

Like any AP course, preparing for Calculus BC requires careful planning and a deep understanding of the material, as these courses are designed to mirror the complexity of college-level studies. You might wonder if the effort is worthwhile. Let's explore some key points to help you decide if AP Calculus BC is right for you!

  1. Prepare for College

    AP Calculus BC, equivalent to college-level calculus, covers a broader range of topics than AP Calculus AB and typical high school math. Tackling such a rigorous course in high school can smooth your transition into college. It not only taps into your creativity and intellect but also prepares you for future career challenges and goals.

  2. Boost Your College Applications

    Enrolling in AP Calculus BC can significantly enhance your college application. It demonstrates your commitment to mastering advanced math skills, greatly improving your prospects of admission. In fact, a recent study found that 85% of institutions view a student’s AP experience—whether through courses or exams—as a positive factor in their admissions decisions.

  3. Earn College Credits

    AP Calculus BC is generally equivalent to the first year of college calculus. Scoring a 3 or higher often qualifies you for Advanced Placement® in higher-level courses, and many U.S. colleges may also offer you college credits for your AP score.

    How many college credits do you get with a score of 3, 4, or 5 in the AP Calculus BC exam?

    Different institutions have their own policies on credit allocation for AP Calculus BC scores of 3, 4, or 5.

  4. Strengthen Your Transcript

    Many high schools add extra weight to AP course grades in GPA calculations. Opting for an AP class and earning an average grade is often viewed more favorably than achieving an A in a regular course.

  5. Save Time and Money

    A strong performance in AP Calculus BC can allow you to bypass introductory calculus courses in college. Since tuition often depends on credit hours, this could translate into significant savings.

  6. Get a Thorough Exercise in Calculus

    Taking AP Calculus BC not only deepens your calculus knowledge at the college level but also prepares you for further studies in fields like Physics and Statistics. Beyond enhancing your subject mastery, the course develops crucial time management and study skills that are essential for college and beyond.

    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?

Besides the benefits mentioned above, taking AP Calculus BC might be perfect for you if:

  • You loved studying precalculus and math in high school

    A solid foundation in precalculus, algebra, and trigonometry will give you a good indication of what to expect in an AP Calculus BC course. Considering the challenging nature of this course, it’s important to assess whether you are prepared to commit fully to the demands it entails.

  • You want math to be a part of your future goals

    Calculus BC is a foundational course for college students who are considering careers in fields that require intensive mathematical knowledge or related disciplines. It is particularly recommended if you're planning a science-oriented career path, as it provides essential skills and knowledge beneficial for your future studies.

  • You scored high in other high-level math courses

    While a passion for math is important, excelling in other math courses is a strong indicator that AP Calculus BC may be right for you. If you’ve taken the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or PSAT 8/9, review your online score report for recommendations on AP courses that might suit your strengths. If you consistently perform well in math, AP Calculus BC could be an excellent choice to enhance your skills further.

Additionally, consult your teachers and upperclassman peers, and review the College Board's released questions and course curriculum to determine if AP Calculus BC is the right choice for you. This rigorous course offers significant benefits, particularly if you plan to pursue a major or career in a related field. If you're still undecided about your career path and want to keep your options open, taking the AP Calculus AB exam can be a great way to explore the subject. It also allows you to earn credits that may fulfill general math requirements. In the next section, we'll guide you through choosing between AP Calculus BC and AB based on your interests and career objectives.

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 advantage of choosing Calculus BC over AB is the potential for almost double the college credits. Earning credit for two college calculus courses could shave off two semesters' worth of course hours, plus save you money on the tuition for those classes. 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 and 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 if you’re uncertain which is right for you. In conclusion, there are a few more questions that need to be addressed.

Can you take AP Calculus BC without AB?

Yes, you can take the AP Calculus BC exam without taking the AB.

Is AP Calculus BC harder or 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. It is up to you to decide whether a couple more units would be too much of a challenge.

Can you take AP Calculus without taking precalculus?

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 succeed in the AP Calc BC Course.

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What Is the Difference Between Precalculus and AP Calculus BC?

High school precalculus is a comprehensive set of mathematical concepts designed to prepare you for calculus. It includes topics such as limits and series, which are directly applicable to calculus, as well as algebraic techniques that enhance your proficiency in solving calculus problems.

Calculus itself explores how quantities change and is divided into two main branches: differential and integral calculus. Differential calculus focuses on the rate of change at a specific instant, effectively capturing a snapshot of change. In contrast, integral calculus sums changes over an interval, providing a total effect of change over time.

Overall, precalculus serves as a foundational course that not only introduces you to key calculus concepts but also equips you with critical techniques that are utilized throughout 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?” While AP Calculus BC boasts an impressive pass rate of 78.5% in 2023, it's important to remember that the course can still be challenging. Due to its highly specialized nature, AP Calculus BC typically attracts a more select group of students—those who demonstrate strong proficiency in advanced mathematics.

AP Calculus BC is challenging because it demands a deep understanding and extensive practice in both differential and integral calculus. As such, students often benefit from additional practice beyond their regular coursework. This course is more rigorous than AP Calculus AB and typical high school math courses. If you're wondering whether AP Calculus BC is as hard as college calculus, the answer is yes: the College Board designed it to match the scope and depth of Calculus I and II courses typically offered in the first year of college.

Below are a few factors to help you gauge the potential difficulty of AP Calculus BC:

  • Mathematical Background:

    If you have high scores in math and precalculus, you might find Calculus BC more manageable.

  • Skills Required:

    Success in this course depends on both memorization and analytical skills. Students need to memorize lengthy formulas, theorems, and concepts, which they must then apply analytically to solve problems. Your experience of the course's difficulty will vary based on your strengths in these areas.

  • Familiarity with Content:

    Reviewing the course modules and content can help you assess how many concepts you already know and which ones might be challenging. Discussions with peers, seniors, and teachers can also provide valuable insights into what to expect.

  • Preparation:

    Preparing for any AP course demands dedication and a well-organized study plan. Strong time management skills are essential to balance this rigorous course with your other high school commitments. Remember to pace yourself!

Calculator Policy for AP Calculus BC

You are allowed to use calculators in certain sections of the AP Calculus BC exam. The College Board has specific regulations regarding the models of calculators allowed during the exam. Your proctor will check your calculator's make and model number to ensure it is approved for use. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these guidelines to avoid any issues on test day.

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 you ask any AP Calculus BC student, they’ll likely tell you that the course is challenging. However, with hard work and dedication, scoring a 5 is definitely achievable! To help you prepare for the AP Calculus BC exam, we’ve compiled a list of tips that you might find useful.

  1. 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.

  2. Prepare study notes

    It's a good idea to consistently create study notes while you're taking high school math courses, especially precalculus. By doing this, you'll build a valuable resource that you can expand on when you start AP Calculus BC. As you progress through the course, continue to enhance your notes with new insights and information on each topic.

  3. Make yourself familiar with the exam format

    Understanding the types of questions you might encounter and developing a strategy for each topic helps train your brain to think systematically. You'll create a mental map of potential questions, making each one seem more familiar and manageable during the exam.

  4. Invest in results-oriented study material

    High-quality review materials help you prepare more effectively and efficiently - resulting in a stronger return on investment. Additionally, many students find it helpful to create their own formula sheets and keep them handy for quick reference.

If you want to get more of these review tips, check out our guide on how to study for AP Calculus BC 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 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 in one place. If you love math and are dedicated to studying hard, we’re here to help you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

For your AP Calculus BC exam, you must carry an approved graphing calculator. In addition, remember to bring No. 2 pencils, an eraser, a valid photo ID, 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.

Note that while you are permitted to retake the exam, and there is no restriction on how many times you can retake it, the College Board offers advanced placement exams once a year. For a graduating senior, it may be impractical to retake the exam.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve the score you hoped for on the AP Calc exam. Research from the College Board shows students who take AP courses but score below a 3 perform better than their non-AP peers in introductory college courses. Reflect on what study skills you may need to cultivate for future academic and career success. Use that knowledge to help you as you move forward in your studies.

The AP Calculus BC test is scheduled for Monday, May 13, at 8:00 a.m. local time.

The AP Calculus BC exam costs $98 for students in the USA and $128 for international students. Check out our article on AP Exam Costs to learn more about AP late-testing fees, and other additional fees or rebates that you can get for AP exams.

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  1. AP Calculus BC. (n.d.). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from
  2. AP Calculus AB and BC Course and Exam Description. (2020). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from
  3. AP Score Distributions. (2023). apstudents.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from
  4. Student Score Distributions. (2023). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from
  5. 2024 AP Exam Fees. (n.d.). apstudents.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from
  6. AP Exam Fees. (n.d.). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from
  7. 2024 AP Exam Dates. (n.d.). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from

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