Are you interested in taking AP® Calculus? If you are, then you’ve probably noticed that there are two different courses available: AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC . Here’s what you need to know about comparing AP Calculus AB vs BC. This information will help you choose which exam to take or if you should take both.

Are the Structures of the AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC Exams Different?

No. The structures of the two exams are absolutely identical including the question formats, question numbers, time allowed, and calculator rules. Here’s a breakdown of the structure:

TestSectionPartQuestionsMinutesCalculator Permitted?WeightingQuestion Format
Calculus AB Section I Part A 30 60 No 33.3% Multiple-Choice
Part B 15 45 Yes 16.7% Multiple-Choice
Section II Part A 2 30 Yes 16.7% Free-Response
Part B 4 60 No 33.3% Free-Response
AP Calculus BC Section I Part A 30 60 No 33.3% Multiple-Choice
Part B 15 45 Yes 16.7% Multiple-Choice
Section II Part A 2 30 Yes 16.7% Free-Response
Part B 4 60 No 33.3% Free-Response

Are the Topics Tested Different?

Yes and no. Every topic that is tested on the AP Calculus AB exam is also tested on the AP Calculus BC exam. However, some topics are tested exclusively on the AP Calculus BC exam.

 AP Calculus AB AP Calculus BC Limits and Continuity Yes Yes Intermediate Value Theorem Yes Yes Power, Product, Quotient, and Chain Rules Yes Yes Trigonometric and Inverse Trigonometric Derivatives Yes Yes Exponential and Logarithmic Derivatives Yes Yes Differentiating Inverse Functions Yes Yes Position, Velocity, and Acceleration Yes Yes Related Rates Yes Yes Approximation through Linearization Yes Yes L’Hospital’s Rule Yes Yes Mean Value Theorem Yes Yes Local/Global Extrema Yes Yes Concavity Yes Yes Optimization Yes Yes Reimann Sums Yes Yes u-Substitution Yes Yes Integration through Long Division Yes Yes Integration through Completing the Square Yes Yes Integration through Linear Partial Fractions No Yes Integration by Parts No Yes Improper Integrals No Yes Slope Fields Yes Yes Euler’s Method No Yes Exponential Differential Equations Yes Yes Logistic Differential Equations No Yes Average Value Theorem Yes Yes Areas Between Curves Yes Yes Volumes with Cross Sections and Axes of Rotationv Yes Yes Arc Length No Yes Parametric Equations No Yes Polar Equations No Yes Infinite Series No Yes Power Series No Yes Taylor Polynomials No Yes

What Are the Two Tests Used For?

According to College Board, the AP Calculus AB course is approximately equivalent to the first semester of college calculus, while the AP Calculus BC course is approximately equivalent to the first two semesters of college calculus. However, it’s up to individual colleges to determine what credit and/or placement to award, so it’s best to check with them regarding what will transfer over.

Does that Mean that the AP Calculus BC Exam Is All-or-Nothing?

Not necessarily. When you receive your score report for the AP Calculus BC exam, you will also receive a Calculus AB subscore. This subscore reflects the portion of your AP Calculus BC exam that included topics that are also tested on the AP Calculus AB exam. This subscore will have the same 1–5 scale as the AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC exams. College Board encourages colleges to treat the Calculus AB subscore the same as they would treat the AP Calculus AB exam. However, this may also vary depending on the policies of each individual college, so check with the schools you’re applying to.

Use this information, along with guidance from your councilors, to make an informed decision about which course is best for you.