Math problems in a notebook
AP Calculus can be very demanding but with the correct resources it is possible to achieve high scores. Source: Unsplash

For quite a few students going to math class is not their favorite part of the day, in fact, for many, it may very well be their least favorite. Unfortunately, we can't all be Sheldon Cooper or Leonard Hofstadter. However, there are some students who really excel at Math and can see themselves studying a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subject in university and find a really interesting and fulfilling job later on in life.

If you are one of these students then you are currently thinking about taking AP calculus. Calculus itself could be a rewarding course to take, but taking Calculus with the fancy “AP”, advanced placement, in front of it will mean so much more, and help you get a head start heading into college. So, exactly how challenging will AP Calculus be for you if you decide to take the plunge and take AP Calculus courses? 

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What are the concepts of AP Calculus?

There are quite a few different concepts you must understand while taking AP Calculus. This also depends on which AP Calculus you are going to take. Firstly there is AP Calculus AB. This course is made for you to study the concepts, methods, and applications of differential and integral calculus. It goes at a slower pace than AP Calculus BC. If you feel you are up to it and want to cover even more material you can attempt to study AP Calculus BC.

In the BC course, you’ll keep adding to your Calculus knowledge and learn topics that are more advanced, for example parametric, polar, and vector functions, and series. There are more concepts to learn and during the same period of time as AP Calculus AB. We’re going to go into detail about some of the specific concepts you will be exploring in your time studying calculus. 

Limits in AP Calculus

Understanding the limits of a function is extremely important to studying Calculus. Using limits in Calculus lets us use patterns and trends to generalize a vast deal of supplemental information. The limit of a function is used for determining continuity, the derivative of a function, and the definite integral of a function. Limits characterize the act of the function close to a specific x value. Grasping the concept of limits will go a long way in helping you to achieve some high grades in your AP Calculus exams. 

Derivatives in AP Calculus

Another very important idea or category of Calculus is the Derivative. What exactly is a derivative? In more simple terms it is used in Calculus to find the spontaneous rate of change. Which is, the amount the function changes at a specific point. A derivative is the slope of the tangent line at a mark on a graph. Why do we need to use a derivative? What can we use a derivative to find? A derivative can be used to find the maxima or minima of the function, precisely where the slope is at 0. 

Integrals in AP Calculus

This leads us to our next important topic of Calculus, Integrals. As you have read, a derivative helps you find a very small specific piece of information. On the other hand, integrals will help you to see the larger picture of a function. This is done by combining extremely small information that creates brand new functions and completely new information. To put what the concept is of an integral more simply, it is an area or a generalization of an area. Therefore integrals are used to figure out the area of a shape or space, which if you also want to study physics in the future, understanding integrals will be an important concept to learn! 

Series

You won’t find series in AP Calculus AB, this you’ll only find in the BC course. We all learned how to add and subtract way back when, in Calculus, you’ll see a brand new method to these retro operations. So what is a series exactly? In a more simple definition, it is the sum of some set of terms of a sequence. The two types of series you will need to worry about are infinite and finite series. Summing up to an infinite number of terms of a sequence you will get an infinite series, while a finite series is summing up a finite number of terms. You’ll be able to understand quantifying pi once you can grasp this content.  

Skills needed for AP Calculus

Skills-needed-for-AP-Calculus
Different mathematical skills are needed for AP Calculus. Source: Unsplash
  • Background in Math
  • Being able to read symbols 
  • Skills in reading

Math background

It is recommended by CollegeBoard to take at least four years of high school math before even trying AP Calculus. The mathematical concepts that were covered in high school while taking your two algebra courses all the way to your Pre-calculus course are key for you to understand AP Calculus. It would be in your best interest to take all the math courses you could possibly take and build up your knowledge before attempting AP Calculus. 

Being able to read symbols.

There are loads of different variables you need to understand and be putting in different places. If you’re not able to read them well you may get really lost. Something that can help is staying focused on Algebra while taking your AP Calculus course, where it is AB or BC. 

Reading skills

Yes, you read that correctly, reading skills. Maybe you are taking math because you are excellent at math but hate English class. Well, you do need to do some reading as well in Math class. Don’t worry it doesn’t mean you will be reading essays or analyzing works of literature. There are a lot of general ideas that cannot be explained using only calculations. Therefore you must have some abilities in reading said concepts. 

Should you take AP Calculus?

Now you may be asking yourself, should I be taking AP Calculus? This can be a very difficult question to answer. You may have to ask yourself a few other questions as well. Perhaps one question is, What can I do with a knowledge of AP Calculus, that goes for the AB course or the more advanced BC course. Another question could be, Do I have the skills required for taking AP Calculus? Also, Can I dedicate my time to study these advanced mathematical concepts? Perhaps most importantly, What do I see myself doing after I finish my studies in college?

 If over the course of your four years in high school you studied as many math courses as possible, and felt comfortable, in other words, ended your courses with A’s and B’s you probably have a good chance at being successful in AP Calculus. Back when you studied Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre Calculus, and so on and understand the concepts in each course, you will be able to further your knowledge in AP Calculus and be successful. 

Another question you should answer is if you will have the time to dedicate to studying AP Calculus. There are many of us with other things to do besides studying, for the jocks on the football and basketball teams you must dedicate time to practice, games, and travel, which can take away from your study time. There are also those with part-time jobs throughout high school, and making a commitment to work can also get in the way of exam preparation time. For AP exams you should start studying one to three months before your exam. If you have less time to study because you are busy with other commitments, it can make your AP course seem even more difficult. 

Taking AP Calculus can lead to you becoming an expert in various fields. Industrial engineering, Information Technology, Chemistry, and physics are only some of the different occupations you could find yourself working in. These are all demanding fields, which is why AP Calculus can be a very demanding course for some.

What can help you make AP Calculus easier??

 

What-can-help-you-make-AP-Calculus-easier
Things you can do to help you make AP Calculus easier. Source: Unsplash

There are various resources to help make your life easier. While AP Calculus AB or BC will probably be a challenge for you, there are ways to make it easier. 

  • Manage your time wisely
  • Hire a tutor
  • Take practice exams
  • Internet resources
  • Work with teacher

Using these techniques you can make your AP Calculus a lot easier. At Superprof there are various tutors that can help to make your AP Calculus studies a whole lot more simple. AP Calculus can be difficult at times, but you can make it completely possible to pass, and with good marks, if you manage your time wisely, and not be afraid to ask for some help! 

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