What is Advanced Placement?

Advanced placement (or AP) is a national program that allows high school students to earn college credit scoring high enough on an AP exam. Let’s find out more about advanced placement, and especially the AP Calculus program.

Advanced Placement Courses and Exams

There are dozens of academic subjects in the AP program, including two levels of AP Calculus.

If you plan to take an AP exam, then typically you should be enrolled in the corresponding AP course in high school. Many high schools offer an “AP Calculus” or similar course.

After the coursework, you would take an official AP exam. The exam is standardized, which means that every student across the country takes exactly the same test on exactly the same day.

students taking exam advanced placement -magoosh

The test itself typically takes three hours to complete and has multiple sections. For example, both the Calculus AB and BC tests consist of two large sections: multiple choice and free response.

Those sections are further broken up into a calculator and no-calculator part.

Which AP Tests Should I Take?

Now that you know a little bit more about AP, let’s discuss which AP tests may be in your future.

The decision to take an AP test is yours to make. Of course your teachers, guidance counselor, and parents probably want to have a say as well.

In addition to regular coursework, you’ll need to pick up a study guide. It takes a lot of work, both in class and outside of class, in order to succeed on any AP exam.

Here’s a helpful guide to the Best AP Calculus Textbooks and study guides.

AP Calculus AB or BC?

There are two levels for AP Calculus: AB and BC.

Basically, the AB test covers a little more than a full semester of college calculus. The BC test covers that plus the second semester.

Clearly the BC exam is more challenging because it covers more material, but it also could earn you more credits for college!

Should I Retake an SAT Subject Test?

Should I take the AP Calculus AB or BC exam?

For more information about the two AP Calculus exams, check out: What’s the Difference between the AP Calculus AB and BC tests?.


So is advanced placement right for you? If you know the material and have spent enough time prepping, then hopefully the answer is yes!

Talk to your teachers to get started. And you might want to check out the official College Board website.

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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!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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