AP Calculus BC Exam Tips – AP Students (2024)

The following strategies for answering the free-response questions will help you on exam day.

Keep an eye on your time.

Monitor your time carefully. Make sure not to spend too much time on any one question so you’ll have enough time to answer all of them. You may want to look over all the questions as you begin each part of the free-response section before starting work.

During the second timed portion of the free-response section (Part B), you are permitted to continue work on problems in Part A, but you are not permitted to use a calculator during this time.

If you do work that you think is incorrect, simply put an “X” through it instead of spending time erasing it completely: crossed-out work won’t be graded.

Show your work, even when you’re using a calculator.

Show all the steps you took to reach your solution on questions involving calculations, even if a question may not explicitly remind you to do so. The exam reader wants to see if you know how to solve the problem. Answers without supporting work will usually not receive credit.

Clearly label any functions, graphs, tables, or other objects that you use. Justifications require that you give mathematical reasons, and that you verify the needed conditions under which relevant theorems, properties, definitions, or tests are applied.

If you use your calculator to solve an equation, compute a numerical derivative, or find a definite integral, then be sure to write the equation, derivative, or integral first: an answer without this information might not get full credit, even if the answer is correct. Remember to write your work in standard notation (e.g. ∫𝑥2𝑑𝑥51) rather than calculator syntax (e.g. fnInt(X2,X,1,5)), as calculator syntax is not acceptable.

Other important notes:

  • Unless otherwise specified, answers (numeric or algebraic) need not be simplified. If you use decimal approximations in calculations, your work will be scored on accuracy. Unless otherwise specified, your final answers should be accurate to 3 places after the decimal point.
  • Unless otherwise specified, the domain of a function f is assumed to be the set of all real numbers x for which f(x) is a real number.

Try to solve each part of the question.

Many free-response questions are divided into parts such as (a), (b), (c), and (d), with each part calling for a different response. Credit for each part is awarded independently, so you should attempt to solve each part. For example, you may receive no credit for your answer to part (a), but still receive full credit for part (b), (c), or (d). If the answer to a later part of a question depends on the answer to an earlier part, you may still be able to receive full credit for the later part, even if that earlier answer is wrong.

Be sure to fully answer the question being asked.

For example, if a question asks for the maximum value of a function, do not stop after finding the x-value at which the maximum value occurs. Be sure to express your answer in correct units if units are given and always provide a justification when it is asked for.

When asked to justify or to explain an answer, think about how that can be done.

For example, if you are asked to justify a point of inflection, you need to show that the sign of the second derivative changes. Simply saying that the second derivative equals zero or is undefined is not a justification.

Do not round partial answers.

Store partial answers in your calculator so that you can use them unrounded in further calculations.


Answering free-response questions from previous AP Exams is a great way to practice: it allows you to compare your own responses with those that have already been evaluated and scored. Go to the Exam Questions and Scoring Information section of theAP Calculus BC Exam page on AP Centralto review the latest released free-response questions and scoring guidelines. Older questions and scoring information are available on thePast Exam Questions page.

Task Verbs

Pay close attention to the task verbs used in the free-response questions. Each one directs you to complete a specific type of response. Here are the task verbs you’ll see on the exam:

  • Approximate: Use rounded decimal values or other estimates in calculations, which require writing an expression to show work.
  • Calculate/Write an expression: Write an appropriate expression or equation to answer a question. Unless otherwise directed, calculations also require evaluating an expression or solving an equation, but the expression or equation must also be presented to show work. “Calculate” tasks might also be formulated as “How many?” or “What is the value?”
  • Determine: Apply an appropriate definition, theorem, or test to identify values, intervals, or solutions whose existence or uniqueness can be established. “Determine” tasks may also be phrased as “Find.”
  • Estimate: Use models or representations to find approximate values for functions.
  • Evaluate: Apply mathematical processes, including the use of appropriate rounding procedures, to find the value of an expression at a given point or over a given interval.
  • Explain: Use appropriate definitions or theorems to provide reasons or rationales for solutions and conclusions. “Explain” tasks may also be phrased as “Give a reason for...”
  • Identify/Indicate: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.
  • Interpret: Describe the connection between a mathematical expression or solution and its meaning within the realistic context of a problem, often including consideration of units.
  • Interpret (when given a representation): Identify mathematical information represented graphically, symbolically, verbally, and/or numerically, with and without technology.
  • Justify: Identify a logical sequence of mathematical definitions, theorems, or tests to support an argument or conclusion, explain why these apply, and then apply them.
  • Represent: Use appropriate graphs, symbols, words, and/or tables of numerical values to describe mathematical concepts, characteristics, and/ or relationships.
  • Verify: Confirm that the conditions of a mathematical definition, theorem, or test are met in order to explain why it applies in a given situation. Alternately, confirm that solutions are accurate and appropriate.
AP Calculus BC Exam Tips – AP Students (2024)


AP Calculus BC Exam Tips – AP Students? ›

Since you only need to get about 60% of available points to score a 5 on either AP Calculus exam, and since you have ample time on all sections, you can strategize the exam differently than you would almost any classroom test.

What is the best way to study for AP Calc BC exam? ›

Here are some tips for passing the AP Calculus BC exam:
  1. Practice at least 30 minutes a day, every day.
  2. Try hard on your homework; that's where you build your skills. ...
  3. Make flashcards for basic derivative and integral rules and use them regularly until you have them down.
  4. Get additional practice with UWorld MCQs.

What percent correct is a 5 on AP Calc BC? ›

Since you only need to get about 60% of available points to score a 5 on either AP Calculus exam, and since you have ample time on all sections, you can strategize the exam differently than you would almost any classroom test.

Is AP Calc BC the hardest AP? ›

AP Calculus BC ranks as the 12th toughest subject among the 28 AP subjects surveyed.

Is it easy to get a 5 on the AP Calc BC exam? ›

This common question has no easy answer. To achieve a 5 on the AP® Calculus BC exam, you will need a combination of tenacity, commitment to learning the material, and a dedicated study plan.

What percent is a 3 on the AP Calc BC exam? ›

Let's take a look at the AP Calc BC score distribution. From the College Board's global data on student score distributions, 43.55% of students scored a 5, 15.86% of students scored a 4, and 19.05% of students scored a 3.

Do colleges prefer calculus AB or BC? ›

Hi there! Both Calculus AB and BC are regarded as advanced math courses that can showcase your aptitude in mathematics, and either will be seen as a strong choice by college admissions teams. That said, Calculus BC has greater depth and breadth of material covered.

What AP has the lowest pass rate? ›

At many high schools, AP Physics is notorious for its difficulty level. In addition, it has the lowest overall pass rate of any AP exam.

What percent of people pass AP Calc BC? ›

In terms of pass rates, for the AP Calculus BC exam in 2021, approximately 81% of students scored a 3 or higher, which is considered "passing." On the other hand, the pass rate for AP Calculus AB in 2021 was about 61%.

How many students get a 5 on Calc BC? ›

- 5: Around 40-50% of students score a 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam. - 4: Roughly 20-25% of students achieve a score of 4. - 3: About 15-20% of test takers earn a score of 3. - 2: Approximately 10% of students receive a 2.

Is there a break in the AP Calc BC exam? ›

Break Time

After the multiple-choice section, students are given a 10-minute break before starting the free-response section. During this break, students are allowed to use the restroom, have a snack, or take a break to recharge before starting the second section of the exam.

What is the curve on AP Calc BC? ›

The curve for the AP Calculus BC exam can be quite generous, as it's meant to account for the overall difficulty of the test. Though the specific curve can vary from year to year, it generally follows a similar pattern, with scores of 4 or 5 often requiring around 65-70% of the total points or above.

Is the AP Calc BC exam easy? ›

AP Calculus AB and BC are considered moderate difficulty, with class alumnae rating them 5.6/10 for overall difficulty* (the joint 12th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed).

How to ace the AP Calculus exam? ›

Tips for Crushing the AP Calculus Exam
  1. Know what counts as proper justification. ...
  2. Understand the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus to its depths. ...
  3. Be flexible with your calculator. ...
  4. Avoid vague phrases like “it”, “the graph”, or “the function”. ...
  5. Pay attention to units.
Jun 13, 2024

How to approach calc bc frqs? ›

How to Answer AP Calculus BC's Free-Response Questions
  1. Treat each part of every FRQ independently. Some parts of the questions are related to each other. ...
  2. Organize your work. ...
  3. Save time, draw a line. ...
  4. Show your work. ...
  5. Use your calculator wisely for Part A. ...
  6. Return to Part A.

How to get better at AP Calc FRQ? ›

Recap: Acing the AP Calculus AB Free Response Section
  1. Know how to use your calculator.
  2. Memorize key formulas.
  3. Learn what the task verbs mean.
  4. Use realistic practice questions.
  5. Get used to showing your work.
  6. Practice pacing yourself.

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