How Difficult is the AP Calculus BC Exam?

What makes the AP Calculus BC exam difficult? There are various factors, including the length of the test (over three hours) and it content (college-level calculus). However with enough preparation, you can rise to meet the challenge!

Is the AP Calculus BC exam difficult?  You bet!  But with preparation you can rise to the challenge! (Image: Public Domain)

Is the AP Calculus BC exam difficult? You bet! But with preparation you will get past this obstacle!

What Makes the AP Calculus BC Exam Difficult?

As you probably already know, the AP Calculus BC is one of two Advanced Placement (AP) exams in calculus. The BC exam covers the equivalent material as in two semesters of college calculus, while the AB exam only covers about a single semester.

Keep in mind that you’ve been immersed in calculus for the year leading up to the exam. So at least you have a good idea what’s going to be on the exam.

What Topics are Covered on the BC Exam?

Generally speaking, there are four Big Ideas from calculus on the BC test.

  1. Functions and Limits
  2. Differential Calculus (derivatives and their applications)
  3. Integral Calculus (integrals and their applications)
  4. Sequences and Series

Of course you will want to review these topics in detail. For starters, check out What Topics are on the AP Calculus BC Exam?.

What is the Format of the Test?

One major thing that makes the AP Calculus BC Exam difficult is that it’s a standardized test. In other words, the test is created by a national organization called the College Board. Students must register in advance and take the test at an official testing center.

The AP Calculus BC exam, consisting of 45 multiple choice problems and six free response questions, takes about 3 hours to complete. You may use a graphing calculator on certain sections.

You must show your work to receive full credit for the free response questions. Obviously, this requirement adds to what makes the AP Calculus BC exam difficult.

If you want to learn more about the format of the test, here is a good resource: What is the Format of the AP Calculus BC Test?

What Should I Do to Prepare for the Exam?

First and foremost, make sure you get a good study guide. Most importantly, the study guide must include at least three practice tests.

If you want to score a 4 or 5 on the exam, you’ll have to put in some serious test-prep time, as you can read about here: How Many AP Calculus Practice Problems Should I Do?

Finally, here are a few more AP Calculus BC Exam Study Tips, as well as a handy AP Calculus BC Cram Sheet.

Good luck on the exam!

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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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2 Responses to How Difficult is the AP Calculus BC Exam?

  1. Betty Humpter May 10, 2019 at 9:25 am #


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm #

      You’re welcome! 😀

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