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Shaun Ault

AP Calculus BC Exam Study Tips

So you’ve decided to take the AP Calculus BC exam in May. Or maybe you have to take the test because your AP Calculus teacher requires it in place of a final exam. Either way, you’re going to need these five AP calculus BC exam study tips!

AP Calculus exam? Challenge accepted! Succeed with these AP Calculus BC exam study tips.

AP Calculus BC Exam Study Tips

It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare yourself for any AP exam. The following tips represent a few general test-taking strategies as well as specific info about the Calculus BC exam.

1. Know What’s on the Exam

Obviously, if you don’t know what you’re getting into, then you probably won’t do well.

The AP Calculus BC exam is the more comprehensive of the two AP Calculus exams. As such, the test covers everything that the AB exam does and then some.

The are four Big Ideas:

  1. Limits
  2. Derivatives
  3. Integrals
  4. Sequences and Series

The first three Big Ideas are also covered on the AB exam. However, the BC exams goes further in depth.

For example, you will find vector functions, parametric equations, and polar functions on the AP Calculus BC exam.

Polar area graph

This is an example of a polar graph called the four-leaf rose. You can expect to see polar functions on the AP Calculus BC exam.

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

2. Know the Format of the Exam

Like the AP Calculus AB exam, the BC exam lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes, with a short break in the middle.

The test is divided into two sections, multiple choice and free response. Furthermore, each section consists of two parts: calculator and no-calculator.

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

3. Familiarize Yourself with your Calculator

You should find a good graphing calculator early in the Fall and spend time getting to know how to use it.

The most expensive calculator in the world will do you no good if you can only figure out how to add and multiply on it.

Here is a partial list of some useful features common to many of the graphing calculators that are recommended for the AP calculus exams.

  • Graphing (including zoom and trace features)
  • Solving equations (sometimes called intercept finder)
  • Numerical and symbolic differentiation
  • Numerical integration
  • Euler’s Method (may require a program)
  • Slope fields (may require a program)

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

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

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.

One thing is for sure: cramming the night before does not help!

5. Get a Tutor

Even the best students may get stuck occasionally. If reading the textbook or talking to the teacher doesn’t help, then see about getting a tutor.

Unfortunately, private tutors usually charge quite a bit. You may spend anywhere from $30-$100 per hour (or even more in high-cost areas) for a qualified AP Calculus tutor!

However, if it helps give you the edge, then your tutor may be worth every penny.

Counting money. Tutors are expensive -Magoosh


Ultimately, your score on the AP exam is your responsibility. But following these AP Calculus BC 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

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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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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