Reviewing what AP Calculus course to take, one thing may seem certain, that AP Calculus BC is a more “difficult” course than AP Calculus AB. They both are College level courses so of course you should pick the easier one, right? Well, it is not as simple as that. AP Calculus BC isn’t necessarily a more difficult course than AP Calculus AB. There are also one or two advantages to taking the BC course over the AB course. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between the two courses, what makes up the AP Calculus BC course, and what can help you be successful in taking the AP Calculus BC course and exam. 

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Concepts you will find in AP Calculus BC that you won’t in AB

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AP Calculus AB and BC are both challenging, both feature differences throughout the course. Source: Unsplash

The key difference, in terms of difficulty, between taking the AB and BC courses is the pace. The Ap Calculus BC course goes at a faster pace, in general, there won’t be much more material or vastly different concepts. The BC course however will be somewhat more intense than the AB course thanks to the pace of the course.

As mentioned, when explaining the AP Calculus AB course, the AB course covers a semester of college calculus over the course of an academic year, while the BC course covers the full year in that span of time. In either case, you will need to have passed pre-calculus to take either of the AP Calculus courses. While the AP Calculus BC course and AB course go over many of the same concepts, the BC course also goes over parametric equations, polar and vector functions, as well as analysis of series. What exactly are these concepts that aren’t in the AB course? Let’s have a look.

Parametric equations and functions

Parametric functions are functions whose input is one dimensional while their output is multidimensional, this output can be imagined as drawing a curve in space. At times In multivariable calculus, you need to find one of these parametric functions that draw a specific curve, this action is called parameterizing. 

Polar functions

Polar functions or equations are different to parametric functions in the sense that polar equations use two completely different variables. Polar functions don’t use the x and y variables, they use and θ. Using polar functions you can create a spiral, rose, and cardioid graphs.  

Vector functions in AP Calculus BC

A vector function is a function that takes at least one vatable and in return, you get a vector.  A vector if you did not know already describes a movement from one point to another point. Using vector functions as with Polar and Parametric, be able to create different graphs. 

How to arrive prepared for AP Calculus BC

Geometrical math problems on a blue background
You will need to have studied a lot of math before arriving to AP Calculus. Source: Pixabay

According to CollegeBoard, all students should complete the four years of secondary mathematics before attempting to take on AP Calculus BC. It is not only important to be able to figure out numbers in your head but being able to read symbols will also be extremely important for understanding AP Calculus. 

Concepts you should know beforehand

The course you should take or have taken before beginning AP Calculus BC

The courses you have taken should have included concepts such as

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Analytic geometry
  • Elementary functions

The functions that you should know should include linear, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, amongst a few others.

Language of functions

If you’re going to be taking AP Calculus BC you have to have some language skills. Obviously not French or Spanish, but the language of functions. For example:

  • Domain and Range
  • Odd and even
  • Periodic
  • symmetry
  • Zeros 
  • Intercepts 

What is the AP Calculus BC exam like?

Parts and sections

The AP Calculus BC exam structure is much like the AP Calculus AB exam structure. That is there are two different sections, with two parts in each section. 

Section one is made up of 45 multiple choice questions, lasting 105 minutes, and it is worth half the exam, I.E. 50%. The first part of section 1 is 30 questions lasting 60 minutes and no calculator is allowed during this part, and it is 33.3% of the overall score.

Part two of the first section only lasts 45 minutes and is only 15 questions. In this part of the exam, your calculator will be necessary, and it is worth 16.7% of the overall score.

In the second section, you'll be answering Free-response questions. Overall there are six questions you’ll have an hour and a half to answer the sex problems. Just as in the first section this second section is broken up into two parts. In part A you’ll have two of the six questions, and you will have thirty minutes to answer those two questions, and you’ll need the calculator. 

In part B you’ll need to answer the other four questions and will have the rest of the time (60 minutes) to answer them. In this part, you won’t be allowed to use a calculator to answer the problems. This part is worth one-third of the overall exam score. 

Multiple Choice AP Calculus BC questions

As for the AP Calculus BC exam, and any exam with multiple choice you’ll have the answer right in front of you. The downside to this is having another answer equally plausible right next to it. Studying each concept thoroughly, and knowing how to figure out how to write out equations and functions will be key, so you don’t choose the wrong answer! 

How to answer the Free-Response questions

First things first, make sure you have a good and functioning graphing calculator. You will have to do a few different things to properly answer the Free-Response questions. For example, you’ll have to write an equation, find a coordinate, find the total distance traveled by a particle, and find the acceleration vector of a particle at a certain time. Make sure you show all of your work in this step. 

Tips for Success in AP Calculus BC.

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If students need extra help, searching for it on the internet is an excellent way. Source: Unsplash

Using the Web to study for AP Calculus

A secret for success for a high score, and earning some college credits is using the internet to practice during your BC course. Obviously, by now you must know the internet contains vast resources for exam prep and simply just to sharpen your skills. Here are some great websites to use for AP Calculus BC practice. These websites include practice exams, study guides, and even some games.

  • Fivable. me

This website has a community and resources that can help keep you on track during your AP Calculus BC course

  • Education.ti.com

Texas Instruments will help you prepare for your exam, using a calculator will be key for you to pass your exam and this website will help. 

  • Intmath.com

An interactive website dedicated to helping you in Calculus with interactive graphs and different calculators. 

Finding the right Math tutor

While you may be very capable of studying on your own. A little help never hurts. Having a professional with you during your course can make a humongous difference. Part of being a student is also learning how to manage your time accordingly. 

You will need to set aside time to review all of the material you learn, which is another reason a tutor will help. They can arrive having a study session organized for you. You will also be able to find a tutor that can fit your time schedule. 

Superprof luckily has many tutors for you to choose from to fit your needs. There are many tutors who are specialists in tutoring AP Calculus BC and you'll be able to find one that can be flexible with your time schedule. Many tutors even offer the first lesson free! So you can decide if this tutor is the right one for you in the end.  

Using the internet and finding the right outside help will assure you to have the best opportunity to get a high mark in the AP Calculus BC exam. Many students who have taken AP Calculus BC have found difficulties in understanding all of the different mathematical concepts they have to learn. After all, as said earlier it is an entire year’s worth of college material. 

One mistake one can make is trying to grasp everything on your own. It is a faster-paced course than AP Calculus AB, however, if you use the resources mentioned earlier you can surely find success in your academic year studying AP Calculus BC. 

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