Thinking about taking advanced calculus in high school? What’s the difference between AP Calculus AB and BC? We’ll break down everything you need to know about AP Calculus AB vs. BC to help you decide which one is best for you!
As a student preparing for college, you’ve probably heard about the opportunity to take college-level courses through programs like AP or IB. If you’re looking to challenge yourself academically, advanced math courses like AP Calculus AB and BC are often go-to options. But what are the differences between them?
Both AP classes are designed to challenge and prepare you for college-level mathematics, but they differ in their depth and breadth of topics. In this article, we'll explore the difference between AP Calculus AB and BC to help you make an informed decision and set you on the path to success in your mathematics studies.
AP Calculus AB provides a comprehensive introduction to the fundamental principles of calculus. It is designed to help students develop a deep understanding of differential and integral calculus and their real-world applications.
AP Calculus AB is equivalent to a calculus course students would take in the first semester of their freshman year of college. This AP course explores the following topics:
Students will also learn how to use technology, such as graphing and differentiation calculators, to solve complex problems and visualize mathematical concepts.
While there are no official prerequisites for AP Calculus AB, it is recommended that students have a solid strong foundation in topics such as:
Students should also have strong problem-solving skills and be comfortable working with functions, equations, and graphs. If you already have a strong grasp of the fundamentals covered in this course, you may be interested in the advanced topics explored in AP Calculus BC.
AP Calculus BC builds on the principles introduced in AP Calculus AB. Below we’ll take a closer look at the wide range of topics you’ll encounter in this AP course.
AP Calculus BC is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of calculus and its applications. The course covers all the topics included in AP Calculus AB, but it also goes beyond that to cover additional concepts such as infinite sequences and series, and parametric equations, polar coordinates, and vector-valued functions.
To enroll in AP Calculus BC, students should have completed Algebra II and Geometry courses, and be familiar with trigonometric functions and their properties. Students should also be familiar with the prerequisites needed for AP Calculus AB, as AP Calculus BC covers all the topics in AP Calculus AB.
Make sure to study the additional topics outlined earlier, as they are a significant part of the AP Calculus BC curriculum. The course is challenging but rewarding for students who are up to the task. Similar to AP Calculus AB, this course has its own exam that tests your understanding of concepts and problem-solving abilities.
AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC share many similarities in terms of their core curriculum, but there are several key differences between the two courses. The most significant difference is that AP Calculus BC covers a wider range of topics and goes into greater depth than AP Calculus AB.
AP Calculus BC includes all the material covered in AP Calculus AB, as well as several additional topics, such as infinite sequences and series, parametric equations, polar coordinates, and vector-valued functions. This broader coverage of topics means that AP Calculus BC is a more challenging and rigorous course than AP Calculus AB.
In other words, you should expect to learn a college semester’s worth of calculus in AP Calculus AB, and a whole year’s worth of college calculus in AP Calculus BC.
When deciding between AP Calculus AB vs. AP Calculus BC, it's important to consider which one is best suited for your academic goals.
While both courses cover calculus topics, AP Calculus BC is more advanced and challenging than AP Calculus AB. Therefore, students who aim to pursue more rigorous college degrees and programs may find Calculus BC to be a better fit.
One significant benefit of securing a good score in AP Calculus BC is that it signals to college admissions committees that you are well-prepared and have a strong aptitude for college-level mathematics. This credential is especially helpful for students who plan to pursue competitive degrees in STEM programs and majors.
Taking AP exams allows you to earn college credit and skip certain courses in college. AP Calculus BC typically grants more math credit in college than AP Calculus AB, which is helpful for those who want to jump into advanced math courses sooner.
If you're confident in your math abilities and have done well in pre-calculus classes, you may want to consider taking AP Calculus BC. However, AP Calculus AB is a good option for applicants who want an AP credential in mathematics at a relatively lower difficulty.
While AP Calculus AB covers fewer topics and concepts than AP Calculus BC, it still teaches core calculus concepts that will provide you with the fundamentals needed for tougher math courses in college.
Ultimately, the decision between AP Calculus AB vs. AP Calculus BC depends on your academic goals and math abilities. Consider your future degree programs and your confidence level in mathematics when deciding which course is right for you.
Still have more questions? Take a look at our answers to these frequently asked questions to help you calculate your next steps!
AP Calculus BC is considered more challenging because it covers all the topics covered in AP Calculus AB, includes additional topics, and is taught at a faster pace.
That depends largely on your own circumstances and plans for college. In essence, AP Calculus AB is more suitable for students who want a good foundation in mathematics but are not pursuing a degree containing advanced mathematics. Calculus BC has more depth in content and gives a more advantageous edge for competitive degrees.
It is difficult but not necessarily the hardest among AP courses, especially if you look at the score distributions.
In 2022, 76% of students who took AP Calculus BC got a final exam score of 3 or higher, with 41.2% of all those test-takers getting a 5. These are certainly numbers that are better than those for courses like AP Physics 1 or AP United States Government and Politics.
Yes, it is an excellent way to showcase your mathematical abilities without having to be too stressed and having more flexibility in your schedule. It is also a great fit if you’re aiming for programs that aren’t too math-heavy.
No, the College Board explicitly states you may not take both exams within the same year. You must make a choice and decide which one suits you better.
Choosing the right AP class is a crucial first step for students aiming to make the most of their college application. Hopefully, this article has cleared up some confusion about the difference between AP Calculus AB and BC.
Both AP Calculus courses require a lot of effort, but successfully completing either one can be invaluable in the college admissions process. So, whichever course you choose, put your best foot forward, and you'll reap the rewards. Best of luck!