What is the AP Calculus AB Exam?

The AP Calculus AB Exam is a standardized test that covers roughly one and a half semesters of college-level calculus. A high enough score on the exam may translate to actual college credits, depending on the school to which you apply. In this short article, you’ll learn a little about what to expect on the AP Calculus AB Exam.

Students working on the AP Calculus AB Exam

What is AP Calculus?

AP stands for advanced placement. There are AP courses in many different subjects, and if you can score high enough on the corresponding AP exam, then most colleges and universities will grant you AP credits in those courses.

There are two exams offered in AP Calculus: the AB and BC exams. Basically, the BC exam covers the material of two full semesters of college calculus. So the BC exam covers everything that the AB exam does, and then some!

The AP Calculus AB Exam

The AP Calculus exams are typically offered in May. Expect to spend the entire morning at the testing center, as the exam take 3 hours and 15 minutes. There are two main sections, multiple choice and free response. In turn, each section consists of two parts, calculator and no calculator.

Format of the Exam

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

  • Section I — Multiple Choice (1 hour and 45 minutes total)
    • Part A — 30 questions — 60 minutes — No calculator.
    • Part B — 15 questions — 45 minutes — Graphing calculator required.
  • Section II — Free Response (1 hour and 30 minutes total)
    • Part A — 2 questions — 30 minutes — Graphing calculator required.
    • Part B — 4 questions — 60 minutes — No calculator.

Topics on the AP Calculus AB Exam

The material on the exam falls into three main categories, limits, derivatives, and integrals. However these topics are deeply intertwined. It’s not uncommon to encounter questions that require methods from all three areas.

Check out this article for a list of topics: What Topics are on the AP Calculus AB Exam?

Scores and Credits

If you score a 4 or 5 on the AP calculus AB exam, then most colleges and universities will offer you 4-5 credits of calculus (single semester). Sometimes even a score of 3 will earn you credit for lower level courses such as Precalculus. However, schools differ in their AP policies, so always check out that information before applying.

Having AP credits can make a big difference in your college career. If you can walk in the door with some of your required courses completed, then that’s money in your pocket!


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  • 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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