What's Tested on the AP Calculus BC Exam?

Your decision to take the AP Calculus BC exam involves many factors, but in essence it boils down to a question of choosing between three hours of time spent on the AP Calculus BC exam and a significant amount of time spent in a college classroom. Depending on the college, a score of 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Calculus exam can allow you to leap over the introductory courses and jump right into more advanced classes. These advanced classes are usually smaller, more specifically focused, more intellectually stimulating, and simply more interesting than a basic course. If you are concerned solely about fulfilling your mathematics requirement so you can get on with your study of pre-Columbian art, Elizabethan music, or some other area apart from calculus, the AP exam can help you there, too.

How are the AP Calculus AB and BC exams different?

AP Calculus BC is an extension of AP Calculus AB, and as such the difference between the two is in scope, not difficulty. Both AP Calculus AB and BC are full-year high school courses roughly equivalent to first-year college calculus classes. AP Calculus BC includes topics from AP Calculus AB, such as integrals and the fundamental theorem of calculus, plus other concepts such as parametric equations, polar and vector functions and series.

What topics are tested on the AP Calculus BC exam?

Unit 1Limits and Continuity 4–7%
Unit 2Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties 4–7%
Unit 3Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Functions 4–7%
Unit 4Contextual Applications of Differentiation 6–9%
Unit 5Analytical Applications of Differentiation 8–11%
Unit 6Integration and Accumulation of Change 17–20%
Unit 7Differential Equations 6–9%
Unit 8Applications of Integration6–9%
Unit 9Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions 11–12%
Unit 10Infinite Sequences and Series 17–18%

How is the AP Calculus BC exam is scored?

Scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly. no points are deducted for wrong answers. No points are awarded for unanswered questions. Therefore, you should answer every question, even if you have to guess.

For the Free Response section, all problems are given equal weight, but the individual parts of a particular problem are not necessarily given equal weight. You should not spend too much time on any one problem.

When your three-plus hours of testing are up, your exam is sent away for grading. The multiple-choice part is handled by a machine, while qualified readers—current and former calculus teachers and professors—grade your responses to Section II. After a bit of a wait, your composite score will arrive. Your results will be placed into one of the following categories, reported on a five-point scale (relative to receiving college credit or advanced placement):

5 = Extremely well qualified
4 = Well qualified
3 = Qualified
2 = Possibly qualified
1 = No recommendation

Many colleges and universities will give you college credit for a score of 3 or higher, but some require a 4 or a 5. If you have an idea about which colleges you want to go to, check out their websites or call the admissions office to find their particular rules regarding AP scores.

Need some help studying? Check out this sample of Kaplan’s Rapid Review Live.