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AP Calculus

AP Calculus

AP Calculus (known as Advanced Placement Calculus) is the course that comes after successful completion of your pre-calculus class. It covers a range of topics, like derivatives, integrals, calculus theorems and limits of functions. The topics you learn in your AP Calculus course will, like other AP classes, help to prepare you for future AP courses and your college career. The final AP Calculus exam you’ll take can also count toward your college credit completion amount, which helps you to reach your next step quickly. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about AP Calculus and the AP Calculus exam. 

The Difference Between AP Calculus AB and BC 

You’ve likely heard calculus as a topic referred to in different ways: Calculus I and Calculus II, or Calculus AB and BC. Each covers their own set of topics, including differential equations, functions, definite integrals and more — but there are more differences that separate the two from each other. These include: 

Preparing for the AP Calculus Exam

If you’re here, you’re likely looking to wow the College Board with a high AP Calculus AB exam score. If so, you’re in good company. Below, we dig into some insight to help you master your high school AP Calculus AB exam — helping you to keep your sanity all the way through finals week. 

Studying Strategies for AP Calculus 

High school students generally do best pursuing their own personalized studying strategies pre-exam. If you’re in the middle of preparations, you can take the opportunity to inquire about AP Calculus pre-test options to determine how effective your current study regimen is. 

If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend speaking with your teachers. They can give you support as you find your specific studying style. For example, do you prefer flash card learning (maybe to learn the properties of definite integrals?), or do you prefer pen-to-paper or pen-to-calculator “hands-on” learning — such as you might encounter as you work out the derivatives of a function? Only you can answer those questions! 

You can also start by printing out or listing out all of your current course materials and notes, creating a strategic review schedule that focuses on each core concept. 

Essential Resources for AP Calculus Prep

Here’s our list of resources to reference as you hit the critical points of your review period(s) for your upcoming AP test: 

Components of the AP Calculus Exam

Wondering if you’ll encounter the mean value theorem or the squeeze theorem in your AP Calculus AB course? While we can’t tell you exactly what you’ll find, we can provide a pretty helpful overview covering what to expect on your test day. 

Format of the AP Calculus Exam

Your AP Calculus exam will have two parts: A multiple choice section and a free response section. The order in which you’ll take these parts depends on your proctor and any instructions given by your school. There are Part A and Part B components to each section. 

Breakdown of Multiple Choice Section 

Course content in the multiple choice section may vary, spanning cross sections of content covered in class (ranging from accumulation of change, to tangent line operations and other key concepts). If you’re looking for other possible topics, we strongly recommend picking up a reputable review book as you prepare. 

Breakdown of Free Response Section 

Free response sections contain written questions and answers; giving you the opportunity to show your work and knowledge as you solve the answer. You may be required to create your own graph as well — so be sure to brush up on your graph skills. 

AP Calculus Exam Scoring 

Like other AP scores, you will be graded using values 1 through 5. Students are generally looking to get a “high score” for college credit, which is generally regarded to be a 4 or a 5. The test may be curved, which can affect the given score. 

Best Practices and Study Tips for the AP Calculus Exam 

Time Management Tips 

Times might feel tough — but your time management regimen doesn’t have to be. Stay connected with your schedule to keep yourself mentally healthy, strong, and in the “flow” for learning. If you need help, reach out to a trusted counselor, parent, or friend. You can also use calendars or planners to help you keep everything straight. 

Managing Exam Stress

While your exam is important, the grade you get on it doesn’t determine how strong you are as a student or as a person. Be sure to assign the exam the stress that it warrants — but not more than that. Remembering your value and taking ownership of your perception and learning journey is key to acing this exam season and the ones to come. 

Optimizing Study Habits 

We said it before and we’ll say it again, because it’s just that important: Everyone studies differently. Working to test and tune your habits to see which ones help you feel prepared and confident is a great way to support yourself for your upcoming AP exam. 

Alternatives to AP Calculus 

While AP Calculus can be useful for those wanting to pursue engineering or STEM careers, there are other suitable alternatives that can give you equal benefit. If you’re not sure if AP Calculus is right for you, you can reach out to your guidance counselor and ask about alternatives — like statistics, precalculus or advanced trigonometry. 

An Overview of AP Calculus AB

Here’s what you can expect when you sign up for Calculus AB with Apex Learning Virtual School

Unit 1: Precalculus Overview 

It’s always good to brush up on old skills! Calculus AB will open with precalculus review topics, ranging from functions to polar curves. Other areas of learning include trigonometric functions, the product rule, theorems, and applications of skills learned in previous precalculus and trig lessons. 

Unit 2: Bridge to Calculus 

After the precalc refresher is complete, students will explore introductory Calc I skills. These include topics like: 

Unit 3: Limits and Continuity 

Limits explore how a function behaves with different input values. Continuity builds on this, verifying that the projected behavior of a function is aligned with the total functional value. Understanding these relationships brings calculus alive in a new way, and lays the groundwork for more advanced theorems. Here’s what students will learn in Unit 3: 

Unit 4: Derivatives

Derivatives are key to breaking down equation formats found in both Calc I and II. Other related topics of coverage include: 

Unit 5: Rates of Change 

Change and measurement of change are integral topics that students learn in Calculus I; further applying them in Calculus II. Some areas of learning in this domain include: 

Unit 6: The Integral & The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus 

These theorems are essential for a full understanding of Calculus II and the Calculus AP exam, and explore antiderivatives, indefinite integrals, and continuous functions. Additional areas of learning include: 

Unit 7: Applications of the Integral 

Building on prior knowledge of geometry, trig, and precalculus, this area of study focuses on finding factual dimensions and areas of known shapes and objects. 

Unit 8: Inverse and Transcendental Functions

Transcendental functions, in this case, mean anything that’s beyond what traditional algebra teaches. Students will explore trig functions, exponential functions, and other key skills in this unit of study, preparing them for deeper understanding in Calculus II or equivalent courses. 

Unit 9: Separable Differential Equations and Slope Fields 

Students will learn applications of calculus as they apply to differential equations and slope fields in this unit, further cementing their knowledge of advanced math skills. 

Unit 10: AP Exam Review and Final Exam

Preparation for the AP exam can never start too early.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP Calculus

Is the AP Calculus exam worth it?

Taking the AP Calculus exam is worth it if you’re looking to secure college credit. This perk can be especially helpful to people pursuing STEM careers or a career in any sub discipline of engineering. 

What are the key concepts covered in AP Calculus?

Integrals, derivatives, inverse functions, transcendental functions, limits, fundamental theorems and more are all commonly covered in Calculus I or Calculus AB. 

Does AP Calculus help with college admissions?

AP Calculus can help in your college admissions process depending on the type of degree that you wish to pursue. You can reach out to your guidance counselor for more information, or to determine if an alternative would be equally helpful. 

Are there any resources available to assist me in preparing for the AP Calculus exam?

As an ALVS student, there are many resources available to help you as you begin the prep process for your upcoming AP Calculus exam. Some of the most common options include College Board test prep materials, test books, and trusted review book and video content provided by your experienced AP instructors who may have served as test readers.

Ready to take the next step and enroll in AP Calc? Our online application process is designed to make enrollment as stress-free as possible. Take the next step toward your academic success today — browse our catalog to learn more about course offerings or contact us at 1.855.550.2547 to speak to an admissions advisor. 

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