Advanced Placement Calculus: Is This the Math Course for You?

Advanced Placement Calculus is a program offered by College Board to students that allows them to experience mathematics at a higher level. College Board currently offers two AP Calculus courses, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC. These two classes differ in course material, but both offer students a look into college-level calculus and give them the opportunity to receive credits to skip introductory calculus courses in some universities.

BC or AB: What’s the difference?

The main difference between these two calculus courses is that BC covers more material. AP Calculus AB covers the basics of differentiation and integration and their applications, which should translate to one semester of college calculus coursework. AP Calculus BC covers topics such as parametric, polar, and vector calculus, as well as infinite series which, coupled with the calculus AB material, translates to a year of college material. Depending on which course the student completes, the student may take the AP exam to skip ahead to more advanced calculus courses in college.

The AP Exams

The AP Exams for AP Calculus AB and BC have the same format and only differ in content. Each test has two multiple choice sections and two free response sections. The first multiple choice section is a non-calculator section with 30 questions, which the student is given an hour to complete. In the second multiple choice section the use of a calculator is allowed, and this part has 15 questions for which the student is given 45 minutes. The free response sections have a total of 6 questions, and a calculator can only be used for the first 2 questions. The student is given 30 minutes to complete the first 2 questions, and 60 minutes to complete the other 4 non-calculator free response questions. The BC exam contains AB material as well as questions from topics covered only in BC. In the score report for the AP Calculus BC exam, however, there are two scores provided. A score out of 5 for the BC exam, and an additional AB subscore out of 5 to show the student how well he/she mastered the AB material as well as the BC material as a whole.