Shaun Ault

AP Calculus AB Exam Study Tips

How should you study for the AP Calculus exam? In this article, I’ll give you a few AP Calculus AB Exam study tips and point out a few resources that might help you achieve a 5 on the exam!

Prepped with Magoosh - Follow these AP Calculus AB exam study tips for success

AP Calculus AB Exam Study Tips

This short list of tips may help you out on the test. Some of these are general test-taking strategies, while others are specific to the AP Calculus AB exam.

1. Know What’s on the Exam

It’s essential to know what topics will be covered on the AP Calculus AB exam if you expect to do well. Basically, the material falls into three Big Ideas:

  1. Limits (including continuity, asymptotes, etc.)
  2. Derivatives (including applications)
  3. Integrals (including applications)

For a detailed list of topics, check out: What Topics are on the AP Calculus AB Exam?.

2. Know the Format of the Exam

The AP Calculus exam is a standardized test that takes 3 hours and 15 minutes total.

The test is divided into two sections, multiple choice and free response. In turn, each section is divided into two parts, calculator and no-calculator.

students taking a test -magoosh

For more information about the format, including the number of problems and timing, see
What is the Format of the AP Calculus AB Test?.

3. Familiarize Yourself with your Calculator

The worst thing you could do to yourself is to run out and buy the most expensive calculator on the market, only to let it sit on your desk during the test because you don’t know how to use it.

Instead, find a good graphing calculator early in the Fall. Then learn how to use all of its main features. Eventually, you might learn the more advanced functions such as numerical integration or symbolic derivatives.

Check out the following link for more calculator tips: Calculator Strategies for the AP Calculus Exam.

4. Set up (and Follow!) a Study Plan

Preparing for the AP calculus AB exam requires weeks and months of work. Cramming the night before simply doesn’t help.

Plan on purchasing an AP study guide (or two), and work out 3-5 practice tests. The more practice you do, the better your performance will be on the actual test!

I recommend a 3-Month AP Calculus Exam Study Guide.

However, if it’s already late March and you haven’t even starting prepping, maybe this 1-Month AP Calculus Exam Study Guide will work for you.

5. Get a Tutor

Many students excel independently. But others benefit from some quality one-on-one time with an expert.

If you find that there are some topics that you just can’t understand, no matter how often you read the textbook or ask your teacher, then maybe contacting a tutor would help.

AP Calculus Tutor -Magoosh

A good tutor will help you to stay on track.

Be warned though: private tutoring usually does not come cheap! A qualified tutor may charge anywhere from $30-$100 per hour, or even more in high-cost areas.


Ultimately, your score on the AP exam is your responsibility. But following these AP Calculus AB exam study tips may give you the edge you need for success.

  1. Know What’s on the Exam
  2. Know the Format of the Exam
  3. Familiarize Yourself with your Calculator
  4. Set up (and Follow!) a Study Plan
  5. Get a Tutor
About Shaun Ault

Shaun earned his Ph. D. in mathematics from The Ohio State University in 2008 (Go Bucks!!). He received his BA in Mathematics with a minor in computer science from Oberlin College in 2002. In addition, Shaun earned a B. Mus. from the Oberlin Conservatory in the same year, with a major in music composition. Shaun still loves music -- almost as much as math! -- and he (thinks he) can play piano, guitar, and bass. Shaun has taught and tutored students in mathematics for about a decade, and hopes his experience can help you to succeed!

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