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AP Calculus AB Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the course

What is the focus of this course?

AP Calculus AB covers differential and integral calculus, including concepts and skills of limits, derivatives, definite integrals, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Students learn to approach calculus concepts and problems when they are represented graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally, and to make connections among these representations. For more details go to the two-page Course Overview (.pdf/977.3MB).

What has changed in the AP Calculus AB course?

Only minor changes have been made. The updated course is defined in a new curriculum framework that ties course content and mathematical practices to clearly stated learning objectives, giving teachers greater transparency into course and exam expectations. For more specific information go to Key Changes to AP Calculus. You can also watch this narrated presentation.

What is the difference between AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC?

AP Calculus BC is an extension of AP Calculus AB: the difference between them is scope, not level of difficulty. AP Calculus AB includes techniques and applications of the derivative, the definite integral, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. It is equivalent to a semester of calculus at most colleges and universities. AP Calculus BC includes all topics in AP Calculus AB, plus others such as parametric, polar, and vector functions, and series. It is equivalent to one year of calculus at most colleges and universities.

What is the equivalent college-level course?

AP Calculus AB is roughly equivalent to a first semester college calculus course devoted to topics in differential and integral calculus.

Are there any student prerequisites?

Before studying calculus, all students should complete four years of secondary mathematics designed for college-bound students: courses in which they study algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytic geometry, and elementary functions.

What’s the best way to identify students who should take this course?

Any motivated student should be given the chance to benefit from an AP course. If your school offers the PSAT/NMSQT®, use AP Potential. This free online tool allows you to identify students who are likely to succeed in AP based on their PSAT/NMSQT or SAT® scores. Such scores have proved to be stronger predictors of AP success than have high school grades or GPA.

Which textbooks does the College Board recommend?

The College Board does not recommend specific textbooks. However, a list of textbooks appropriate for the course appears on the AP Course Audit.

How can I prepare myself to teach this course?

These resources will help:

  • The AP Calculus AB Course and Exam Description (.pdf/5.92MB) defines the course. If you only download one thing this year, make this it.
  • Teaching and Assessing AP Calculus is an online professional development resource that features videos of master teachers modeling key instructional strategies for challenging skills and content. It also gives you resources to help you implement these strategies in your classroom. Log in or learn more.
  • Course Planning and Pacing Guides demonstrate how various teachers plan and pace their courses.
  • Course overview modules give you a guided tour of the AP Program and the AP Calculus courses and exams.
  • Professional development such as one-day workshops, specialty conferences, and weeklong AP Summer Institutes are helpful for novices and experts alike.
  • The AP Calculus Teacher Community gives you the opportunity to learn from and share with colleagues and create a library of resources.

Our school has block scheduling. Can we teach AP Calculus?

Yes. AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC were designed to represent yearlong college-level courses, so it’s important that a block arrangement encompass a full year of instruction. Some schools extend each course over two blocks to give students the hours they need to complete a full year of classes.

Have more questions?

The AP Calculus Teacher Community might be the best source for answers. You’ll also find articles, tools, and resources to help you teach every aspect of the course on the course home page.

Questions about the AP Course Audit

What is the AP Course Audit?

The AP Course Audit is an authorization process that provides teachers and administrators with guidelines and requirements for offering AP courses. It also ensures that AP courses across high schools meet the same college-level criteria.

Is the course audit required?

Yes. Every school wishing to offer an AP course must participate in the AP Course Audit.

What’s involved? Who needs to participate, and what do they need to do?

The AP Course Audit requires the online submission of two documents: the AP Course Audit form and the teacher’s syllabus. The AP teacher and the school principal (or designated administrator) submit the Course Audit form, acknowledging the curricular and resource requirements. The syllabus, detailing how the AP course requirements will be met, is submitted by the AP teacher for review by college faculty.

What resources are available to support the course authorization process?

The AP Course Audit page for this course will give you the tools you’ll need to create and submit your syllabus for authorization, including information and guidelines, sample syllabi, and a tutorial.

Have more questions?

Go to AP Course Audit for more FAQs, resources, and information about the whole course audit process.

Questions about the exam

How can I prepare my students for the exam?

These resources will help:

  • A full practice exam, including sample student responses, is available by logging in to your AP Course Audit account.
  • Teaching and Assessing AP Calculus offers new sample free-response questions and scoring practice. Log in or click here to learn more.
  • Free-response questions (FRQs) with student samples and scoring guidelines can be accessed from the course’s exam information page.
  • Scroll down the “Scoring” column in the free-response questions table to find yearly Student Performance Q&A’s from the Chief Reader that describe how students performed on the FRQs, typical student errors, and specific concepts that challenged students the most that year.
  • Released exams are available for free download on the course home page and others can be purchased on the College Board store.

When is the AP Calculus AB Exam administered?

The exam is given each year in early May. Go to the Exam Calendar for the most current exam dates.

How much of the exam requires a calculator?

A calculator is required for Section I, Part B of the exam (15 multiple-choice questions) and for Section II, Part B of the exam (2 free-response questions). View our calculator policy for more information.

What brand of calculator does the College Board recommend?

The College Board does not recommend brands, but we do maintain a list of approved graphing calculators – make sure you and your students know the calculator policy for the exam.

What score do students need to get on the AP Exam to receive credit or advanced placement?

That depends on the college. Some require higher scores than others. Tell your students to use the AP Credit Policy Info tool to verify the credit/placement policies at the schools they are considering.

Have more questions?

You’ll find specifics about the exam format and more on the AP Calculus AB Exam Information page. The AP Calculus Teacher Community might also be a good source of information.

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