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Advanced Placement

Is AP Calculus BC Hard? A Complete Guide [2024]

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

Updated on: 27 May 2024

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  • AP Calculus BC is considered a moderate-level difficult AP class by class alumnae.
  • Covers additional topics such as series, parametric equations, and polar coordinates.
  • The average pass rate of the AP Calculus BC Exam is approximately 75%
  • The exam consists of multiple-choice and free-response questions; and assesses advanced calculus concepts.
  • AP Calculus BC has a difficulty rating of 2.8 out of 5 by class alumnae.

Is AP Calculus BC hard?

According to a reddit survey of AP alumni, the AP Calculus BC course is rated as having a moderate level of difficulty, receiving a difficulty rating of 2.8 out of 5 which is at par with the average difficulty rating of 2.8 for all the AP courses.

Of the 28 major AP classes, this places AP Calculus BC as the 12th toughest AP course.

AP Calculus BC exam pass rate (students scoring 3 or above) is 76.9% in 2022. This is higher than the average pass rate of AP exams overall(66%).

This means that the course is fairly challenging and that, with effort and commitment, students can succeed on the test.

Learn about all the hardest AP classes here.

What are the topics covered in the AP Calculus BC exam?

The following are the important units covered with their weightage in the AP Calculus BC exam:

Units CoveredExam Weightage (MCQ)
Unit 1: Limits and Continuity4% – 7%
Unit 2: Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties4% – 7%
Unit 3: Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Functions4% – 7%
Unit 4: Contextual Application of Differentiation6% – 9%
Unit 5: Analytical Application of Differentiation8% – 11%
Unit 6: Integration and Accumulation of Change17% – 20%
Unit 7: Differential Equations6% – 9%
Unit 8: Application of Integrals6% – 9%
Unit 9: Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions11% – 12%
Unit 10: Infinite Sequence and Series17% – 18%
Topics covered in AP Calculus BC

Source: College Board

Each topic, from integral and differential calculus to sequences and series, presents its own set of challenges.

Exam Tip: Each topic in AP Calculus BC, from integral and differential calculus to sequences and series, presents its own set of challenges. Our expert-vetted tutors specialize in these areas, offering personalized support. Achieve a thorough understanding of every subject with our expert AP Calculus BC Tutoring.

Factors determining the difficulty of AP Calculus BC

1. Students’ mathematical background

One key factor that determines the difficulty of AP Calculus BC is the mathematical background of the students taking the course. Calculus is a higher-level math course that builds on a foundation of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

Therefore, students who have a strong background in these areas are likely to find the course easier than those who do not. Additionally, students who have already taken AP Calculus AB may find the transition to AP Calculus BC easier since the courses cover many of the same topics.

2. Teacher’s teaching style and effectiveness

Another factor that can impact the difficulty of AP Calculus BC is the instructor’s teaching style and effectiveness. Some instructors may be more skilled at explaining complex concepts and providing students with the tools they need to succeed.

A teacher who is enthusiastic about the subject matter and engages students in active learning may make the course seem less difficult than a teacher who is less effective.

Taking one-to-one private tuition from Wiingy’s AP Calculus BC tutors can be of great help. Their Calculus course adheres completely to the course outline. The tutors also assist students with their homework, exam preparation, and assignments.

3. Personal effort and study habits

The level of personal effort and study habits of the student can also affect the difficulty of AP Calculus BC. Calculus is a fairly challenging subject, and students who do not put in the necessary time and effort to understand the material are likely to struggle.

Good study habits, such as completing homework assignments, attending office hours, and reviewing class notes regularly, can help students stay on top of the material and reduce the overall difficulty of the course. By paying attention to these factors and putting in the necessary time and effort, students can succeed in this challenging course.

What is the AP Calculus BC exam structure?

The AP Calculus AB exam is divided into two sections:

  • Section A: Multiple-Choice Questions
  • Section B: Free Response Questions

Here is a breakdown of the AP Calculus BC exam format:

Section ANo. of questionsType of questionsTime allocated
Multiple choice questionsPart A: 30 questions Questions include algebraic, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and general types of functions.60 mins
Multiple choice questionsPart B: 15 questionsQuestions include analytical, graphical, tabular, and verbal types of representations.45 mins
Total45 questions 105 mins
Section A

*Calculator is only allowed for Part B. No calculator permitted for Part A.

Section BNo. of questionsType of questionsTime allocated
Free response questionsPart A: 2 questions Questions include various types offunctions and function representations and a roughly equal mix of procedural and conceptual tasks.30 mins
Free response questionsPart B: 4 questionsQuestions include at least 2 questions that incorporate a real-world context or scenario into the question.60 mins
Total6 questions 90 mins
Section B

**Calculator is only allowed for Part A. No calculator is permitted for Part B.

How are the AP Calculus BC exams scored?

The scoring system for AP Exams is based on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

The scores are determined by a combination of the student’s performance on the multiple-choice questions and the free-response questions.

The multiple-choice section accounts for 50% of the total score, while the free-response section accounts for the remaining 50%.

  • A score of 5 indicates that the student is extremely well-prepared for college-level calculus and has a thorough and firm understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 4 indicates that the student is well-qualified and prepared for college-level calculus and has a good understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 3 indicates that the student is adequately prepared for college-level calculus and has a basic understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 2 indicates that the student is not adequately prepared for college-level calculus and has a limited understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 1 indicates that the student has little or no understanding of the subject matter and is not prepared for college-level calculus.

AP Calculus BC Score Distribution:

The AP score distribution is a statistical representation of how students performed on each AP exam. It shows the percentage of students who earned each score (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) in a given year.

AP Calculus BC score distribution for 2022 is as below:

Exam ScoreNo. of studentsPercentage of students
549,54441.2%
418,76815.6%
324,11520.1%
219,66816.4%
18,14306.8%
AP Calculus BC Score Distribution 2022

AP Calculus BC Credit Policy:

Different colleges and universities have different policies regarding AP exam scores and credit. Some may award college credit for an AP Calculus BC score of 4 or 5, while others may require a higher score or may not award credit at all.

For details refer to our AP Calculus BC Credit Policy Guide.

AP Calculus BC Exam Pass Rate and Mean Score Trends (2013-2022)

According to the College Board’s AP exam data, the AP exam pass rate [Students scoring 3 or more] for the AP Calculus BC exam has been hovering between 79.9% to 76.9% over the past 10 years from 2013 to 2022.

The pass rate of the AP Calculus BC exam is generally higher than other AP exams, but it varies each year. The exam is considered moderately challenging.

For year-on-year data, refer to the AP Calculus BC Pass Score Trends Graph below:

Pass Score of AP Calculus BC
Pass Score of AP Calculus BC

In 2022, 76.9% of students scored a passing score of 3 or higher. Compared to other AP exams, the AP Calculus BC exam has a higher pass rate, with average pass rates across all AP exams being 60.2% in 2022.

Note that the College Board does not officially classify 3 as a passing score.

Another way to evaluate the difficulty of an AP exam is to look at the mean scores of the subject relative to overall mean scores for all AP exams.

The mean score of AP Calculus BC, for 2022, was 3.6.

The mean score for AP Calculus BC is consistently higher than the mean score for all subjects. This indicates that AP Calculus BC is among the easier AP Courses.

Refer year on year AP Calculus BC Mean Score Trend Graph below:

Mean score of AP Calculus BC
Mean score of AP Calculus BC

Despite its moderate difficulty, the AP Calculus BC exam is popular, as evidenced by the over 120,000 students who took it in 2022.

Students interested in pursuing careers in mathematics, science, engineering, or other quantitative fields should consider taking the AP Calculus BC exam.

How to study for the AP Calculus BC exam?

Preparing for the AP Calculus BC test requires dedication, discipline, and a structured approach. Here are some tips on how to study effectively for the exam:

  1. Review the course material: Before diving into the exam preparation, make sure to review the course material thoroughly. Review the textbook chapters, lecture notes, and lab reports.
  2. Practice problems: Practice problems are key to mastering the concepts and skills needed for the exam. Use the review materials provided by your teacher or textbook, or seek out additional resources online. View our AP Calculus BC practice test resource.
  3. Create flashcards: Flashcards can be a great way to memorize key concepts, equations, and terminology. Make a set of flashcards with important information and review them frequently.
  4. Join study groups: Study groups can provide an opportunity to work through challenging material with peers. Meet with other students to review material, discuss concepts, and work on practice problems together.
  5. Take practice exams: Practice exams can help you get familiar with the format and structure of the actual AP Calculus BC test. Use past AP Calculus BC Exams or practice tests from online resources.
  6. Seek out additional resources: There are many online resources available to help students prepare for the AP Calculus BC Exam. Consider using online review materials, video tutorials, and online study groups. Some popular AP Calculus BC exam prep resources include
  7. Take 1-1 private tuitions: The Wiingy AP Calculus BC tutoring program adheres completely to the AP Calculus BC course outline. The platform has expert AP Calculus BC tutors who can help you with concepts, coursework homework help, and test-prep to help you get a top grade on the exam

Power Tip: Refer to the Wiingy AP Calculus BC Exam Guide for detailed information on the AP Calculus BC Exam and strategies to ace the test.

Remember, effective studying requires consistent effort over time. Start preparing early, stay focused, and stay positive.

In summary

In summary, AP Calculus BC is considered moderately challenging with a difficulty rating of 2.8 out of 5 based on a survey of AP Class Alumnae. AP Calculus BC ranks as the 12th toughest subject among the 28 AP subjects surveyed.

AP Calculus BC exam had a pass rate of 76.9% in 2022 (students achieving a passing score of 3 or higher), which is better than the average pass rate of 66% for all AP exams in the same year.

The mean score for AP Calculus BC in 2022 was 3.68 compared to an average of 2.92 for all AP subjects.

It is a sought-after AP course by many selective institutions and is a popular exam with over 120,000 students taking it in 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is AP Calculus BC harder than college calculus?

It’s difficult to compare AP Calculus BC to college-level calculus because the level of difficulty can vary depending on the college and the specific course. In general, college calculus is more rigorous and goes into greater depth than AP Calculus BC. Additionally, college calculus courses often have more challenging problem sets and exams.

What is AP Calculus BC equivalent to?

AP Calculus BC is roughly equivalent to both first and second-semester college calculus courses. It covers topics such as limits, derivatives, integrals, differential equations, and applications of calculus. Students who successfully complete the course and exam may be able to receive college credit or placement into higher-level math courses.

Is AP Calculus BC harder than AP Statistics?

AP Statistics is typically viewed as easier than the AP Calculus BC exam. AP Calculus BC has a difficulty rating of 2.7 out of 10, a self-study rating of 2.7 out of 10, and a recommended rating of 3.1 out of 10. On the other hand, AP Statistics has a difficulty rating of 2.4 out of 10, a self-study rating of 2.4 out of 10, and a recommended rating of 2.7 out of 10. The course covers statistical analysis, probability, and data interpretation, which some students may find easier to understand than other math subjects like calculus or geometry. Many students may have already encountered some statistical concepts in previous math classes, making the content more familiar and manageable.

Is AP Calculus BC worth taking?

AP Calculus BC can be a worthwhile course for students who are interested in pursuing a career in mathematics, science, engineering, or other quantitative fields. The course covers a wide range of calculus topics and provides valuable skills and knowledge that can benefit students in their future academic and professional pursuits. Additionally, students who earn a passing score on the exam may be eligible for college credit or advanced placement in higher-level math courses.

Do colleges prefer Calculus AB or BC?

Many colleges prefer that students take either AP Calculus AB or BC, as these courses are considered rigorous and prepare students for college-level math. However, there is no clear preference between the two courses, as they both cover essential calculus topics and require a strong foundation in math. Ultimately, the decision to take either Calculus AB or BC should be based on the student’s interests and goals, as well as the requirements of the colleges to which they are applying.

References

  1. https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/ap-calculus-bc/
  2. https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-calculus-ab-and-bc-course-and-exam-description.pdf
  3. https://ivytutorsnetwork.com/blog/how-hard-is-the-ap-calc-bc-exam
  4. https://examstudyexpert.com/is-ap-calculus-hard-easy/
  5. https://reports.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/2021-ap-student-score-distributions_1.pdf
  6. https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-score-distributions-by-subject-2022.pdf
  7. https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-calculus-bc/exam

Reviewed by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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