AP® Calculus BC Score Guide

The first step in any exam preparation is to understand its scoring pattern. With the scoring pattern at hand, you become more familiar with which topics or units to prioritize, or which sections of the exam you can afford to lose a few points.

If you are taking the AP® Calculus BC exam soon and are curious about its scoring pattern, then this article will guide you through the nitty-gritty of the AP Calculus BC scoring system. Let’s explore!

How Is the AP Calculus BC Exam Scored?

The AP Calculus BC exam consists of two sections. Section I is the multiple-choice section (MCQ), and Section II is the free-response section (FRQ). Each section carries a 50% weightage of the total composite exam score. The AP Calculus BC exam is scored out of 108 points, wherein Sections I and II carry 54 points each. Let’s look at the table below to get a better understanding of the AP Calculus BC exam scoring format:

Section I 45 Multiple-choice Questions 54 points
Section II 6 Free-Response Questions 54 points
Subtotal 108 points
There are a total of 45 MCQs in Section I and 6 FRQs in Section II. As you can see, the 54 points in Section I are distributed across 45 multiple-choice questions, making each MCQ carry 1.2 points. Now, are you penalized for guessing on the AP Calculus BC exam? The answer is No. You will not be penalized for a wrong answer in the MCQ section of the AP Calculus BC exam.
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Section II, however, follows the ‘step-marking’ method. You will get a point for every critical step of the problem that you approach correctly, even if you stumble after a few steps and do not reach the correct answer. 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.  

Your total points from each section are added up to give you a final composite score of 108 out of a possible 108. These points are then converted to an AP scoring scale of 1 to 5. The College Board® never publishes your composite AP exam score, and you only see your final AP score on a scale of 1 to 5. 

As the College Board does not release the composite score ranges and their related scaled scores, we can only provide an approximate composite score range to help you understand how the AP Calculus BC scoring system might work. The table below shows possible composite score ranges and their corresponding AP Calculus BC exam scores:

Composite Score Range AP Score
70 - 108 5
59 - 69 4
45 - 58 3
28 - 44 2
0 - 27 1

Note that the table above represents score ranges for a relatively easy exam, so the actual thresholds for each AP score on your exam will likely be lower. Thus, if you can achieve the score you want using the table above, you will be more than prepared to reach your target on exam day!

As you can see from the table above, if your total score is a little over two-thirds of the total possible 108 points, you would likely earn a perfect 5. But if your total composite score came up to 60, you would likely receive a 4 on the AP scale.

AP Calculus BC Scoring Table

Your AP Calculus BC exam scores are sent to the colleges of your choice after they’ve been recorded on the AP grading scale. To know how you can have the College Board send your scores directly to colleges, refer to our AP Exam Scores page.

Each college has its own criteria for admitting students based on AP scores. However, most colleges use a standard formula to convert your AP Calculus BC score to the equivalent college grade. The following score table shows the conversion of AP scores into equivalent college grades for Calculus BC:

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, colleges do not typically consider scores below 3 to grant college credits, Advanced Placement®, or admissions. Therefore, it is advised to aim for an AP score of 3 or higher if you wish to earn college credits and advanced placement. Nevertheless, always check with the colleges about their minimum AP score requirements before you start the application process.

Recent research on students who achieve a score of 2 in AP Calculus BC found that they earn significantly higher grades when taking the course in college than students with the same high school GPA!

AP Calculus BC Score Distribution

Although AP Calculus BC is not as popular as the AP Calculus AB exam, it was taken by 124,599 students in 2021. The reason for its relatively low popularity is that it is one of the most rigorous AP courses and is usually taken by students who wish to pursue a math-heavy career. Our AP Calculus BC exam guide will assist you in determining whether Calculus BC is the right subject for you. Nevertheless, the success rate for AP Calculus BC remains one of the highest across all the AP courses, with a whopping 75.2% of students achieving a score of 3 or higher in 2021. Out of the 124,500 test-takers, 38.3% scored a 5. That amounts to almost 47,600 students, which is significantly greater than the AP Calculus AB success rates.

If you’re considering opting for the AP Calculus BC exam, knowing the score distribution will help you gauge the overall performance of students on the Calculus BC exam. Let’s look at the numbers below to see how test-takers performed in the last three years for the AP Calc BC exam.

AP Score % of Students 2021 % of Students 2020 % of Students 2019 3-years Average
5 38.3% 44.6% 49.5% 44.1%
4 16.5% 17.6% 23.5% 19.2%
3 20.4% 19.4% 13.2% 17.7%
2 18.2% 14.1% 09.7% 14.0%
1 06.6% 04.3% 04.2% 05.0%
3 or Higher % 75.2% 81.6% 86.2% 81.0%

The average success rate for the AP Calculus BC exam over the past three years has averaged around 81%. Surprised? As rigorous as it can be, you can ace the AP Calculus BC exam with dedication and grit. 

Did you know? You get an AP Calculus AB subscore for your AP scores on the AP Calculus BC exam!

Although the success rates for the AP Calculus BC exam are much higher compared to other AP exams like AP Biology, AP Chemistry, or AP Calculus AB, you should also note that these rates show a decline in the past three years. From a whopping 86.2% in 2019 to 75.2% in 2021, the decline in AP success rates also means there were more students who scored a 2 or a 1 on the exam. 

Let’s now assess the scoring pattern for the 2021 AP Calculus BC exam to see how students performed in each of the sections. 

Scoring Pattern for the 2021 AP Calculus BC exam

For the 2021 pen-and-paper exam, students scored significantly higher on the multiple-choice section than on the free-response questions. According to the score statistics, the following trends were noted: 

Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions 
Unit 10 (Infinite Sequences and Series) was the most challenging topic in this section, followed by Units 9 and 6. 

Section II: Free-Response Questions 
Most students were successful in answering Question 4, relating to graphical analysis. 35% of students scored 7–9 points out of a possible 9. 

The two most challenging questions for 2021 were: 

  • Question 2, about parametric particle motion, where 5% of students earned 7–9 points out of a possible 9, and 28% of students earned 0 points.
  • Question 6, covering the Maclaurin series, where 5% of students earned 7–9 points out of a possible 9, and 27% of students earned 0 points.

While this analysis is provided to help you develop an idea about the AP Calculus BC exam scoring trends and patterns, nothing is written in stone. With the right study tools, course instruction, guidance, and dedication, you can be a 5 pointer too.

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AP Calculus BC 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. Having a score of 3 or higher can earn you college credit, which will help you graduate from college early. However, in other colleges, a score of 3 or higher can let you skip the core math course in the first semester and still get a grade for it. Some colleges offer both advanced placement and credit, which lets you earn the credits and skip the course.

Each institution has its own 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 prepping for your AP Calculus BC 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 BC exam. Let’s have a look.

Institution AP Score AP Recognition Credit/Placement type Credits
California State University 3 or 4 or 5 Credit Subject to qualifying conditions 6
Georgia Tech 4 or 5 Credit MATH 1551, 1552 6 Semester hrs
Grinnell College 3 or 4 or 5 Credit MAT-124 or 131 4 semester credits (only on approval by Mathematics Dept.)
Harvard University 5 Credit Subject to other qualifying conditions 8
Louisiana State University 3 Credit
MATH 1021, 1550
MATH 1552 / 1553
8 Credit hrs
4 or 5 MATH 1021, 1022,1550, 1552
MATH 2057 / 2058
15 Credit hrs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5 Credit 18.01 Calculus I 12
Placement 18.02/18.022
Mississippi State University 3 Credit MA 1713 3 Credit hrs
4 or 5 MA 1713, MA 1723 6 Credit hrs
New York University 4 Credit MATH-UA 121 4
5 MATH-UA 121, 122 8
Notre Dame 5 Credit
Equivalent course: MATH 10550, 10560 8 credits towards MATH 10091 and 10092
Reed College 4 or 5 Credit Placement determined in consultation with faculty members 1
Stanford University 4 Credit
Placement (subject to conditions)
MATH 21 or 51 6
5 MATH 51 10
Truman State University 4 or 5 Credit
MATH 198: Analytic Geometry & Calculus I; and MATH 263 Analytic Geometry & Calculus II 5
UCLA (School of Letters and Science) 3 Credit Calculus 8
4 31A / Calculus 8
5 31A and 31B 8
Yale University 4 Credit MATH 115, MATH 116, or MATH 118 1 (subject to other qualifying conditions)
5 MATH 120 or higher-numbered courses. 2 (subject to other qualifying conditions)

Frequently Asked Questions

Scoring a 5 on your AP Calculus BC exam is absolutely the best score. However, scoring between 3 and above usually qualifies you for placement and college credits.

The average AP Calculus BC score for 2021 was 3.85, and the average has been ranging between 3.72 and 3.85 since 2015.

The AP Calculus BC 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 scores translate into equivalent college grades.

AP Calculus BC scores are released in July every year for the exams administered in May of that

You can easily check your AP Calculus BC scores on the College Board website. Visit apscore.org, and log in to your College Board account. Fill in the blanks with your AP number and enter your AP number to view your AP scores.

The key to a 5 on your AP Calculus BC is understanding the concepts and practicing problems regularly. Prepare a study schedule, develop a crystal clear understanding of the concepts and formulas, and practice solving a variety of problems. If you need help, we’re here. Visit UWorld’s AP Calculus BC Exam Prep for detailed lessons, practice tests, and revisions to achieve your AP dream!

Read more about the AP Calculus BC Exam

Do you want to learn more about the format of the AP Calculus BC exam? Visit our page for a detailed breakdown of the exam format, question types, and other information!

Looking for a summary of the College Board CED? Check out our easy-to-understand AP Chemistry Course and Exam Description for in-depth info on the exam, units, and topics.

Want to know the tips and tricks to score a 5 on AP Calculus BC? Our study guide, written by industry experts, includes a comprehensive study plan that can help you with it.

Make your AP Calculus BC exam prep easy with our all-inclusive exam info—what’s on the exam, why to take it, exam prerequisites, exam difficulty, and much more.

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