Shaun Ault

What is the Format of the AP Calculus BC Test?

If you are wondering about the format of the AP Calculus BC test, then you’ve come to the right place! In this short article we will discuss the structure of the exam and kinds of questions you might expect to see on test day.

The Format of the AP Calculus BC Exam

First of all, the format of the BC exam is pretty much the same as that of the AP Calculus AB exam. The problems on the BC test are not necessarily harder than those on the AB. However they may seem more difficult because the BC exam covers more material. In fact, the list of topics on the AP Calculus BC exam make it equivalent to two full semesters of calculus at the college level!

Structure of the AP Calculus BC Exam

The AP Calculus BC exam takes 3 hours and 15 minutes, but the time is broken up so that you have a break in the middle. There are two main sections, multiple choice and free response, and each section has one part requiring a graphing calculator and one that does not allow a calculator at all.

Scratch work and calculator - Multiple choice problems are part of the format of the AP Calculus BC exam.

The Calculus AB and Calculus BC exams both have the same format.

Section / PartType of questionsNumber of questionsTime LimitCalculator permitted?
IAMultiple Choice3060 minutesNo
IBMultiple Choice1545 minutesYes
IIAFree Response230 minutesYes
IIBFree Response460 minutesNo

The Multiple Choice Section

Each problem in this section has four answer choices below it. Because there is no “None of the above” choice, you can be sure that one of the four answers is correct! In fact, sometimes you only have to work out a part of the problem in order to correctly choose the answer.

Filling in a bubble sheet

But be careful! The answer choices are often quite similar. In addition, the answers may have been simplified in non-obvious ways, so be prepared to use your algebra skills to change the form of your expressions.

The problems in the multiple choice section test your calculus knowledge and skills in a straightforward manner. The problems are not designed to trick you or take huge amounts of time. What makes the problems difficult is the variety of topics covered (breadth). This is especially true of the BC exam.

Start studying early, and check out the following AP Calculus BC Exam Multiple Choice Practice Problems.

The Free Response Section

While the free response section has only six problems, they are all multi-part questions. So you should expect to spend some quality time on each one. A typical problem has three to four parts that refer to the same scenario.

Show you work! The AP graders are looking for a logical progression of steps leading toward a correct answer. If you relied on your calculator for a major step (such as finding a critical number, or performing numeric integration), you must write a sentence to let the graders know what you did.

Here are some AP Calculus BC Exam Free Response Practice Problems to get you started.

Questions from past exams can be found here.

More Information about the Exam

Now that you know the format of the AP Calculus BC exam, you might find it helpful to learn what topics are on the AP Calculus BC exam. Happy studying!

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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