AP Calculus

AP Calculus 2019-03-26T07:49:01+00:00

Are you trying to decide between taking AB or BC Calculus? Or are you just wondering what the difference between the two classes is?

By reading this article you will be able to decide which AP Calculus class to take, based on your current and previous classes, university/college plans, and career goals.

Overview of the AP course – Calculus: AB or BC?

Calculus AB and Calculus BC are both designed to be college-level calculus courses. As such, the main prerequisite for both AB and BC Calculus is pre-Calculus.

 If you are coming from the British system, then the prerequisite is IGCSE – Extended (preferably with an A or A*) and also Additional Mathematics or Mathematics AS Level.

When it comes to the AP Calculus classes, you have three options: you can take AB and BC Calculus as a sequence, take AB Calculus only, or skip AB Calculus and go straight to BC Calculus.

The reason you can take one or the other is because AB and BC aren’t totally different courses. BC Calculus includes everything in AB Calculus, plus a few extra topics. You will receive an AB Calculus sub-score when you take the BC exam.

Calculus BC is not necessarily more difficult than Calculus AB. BC Calculus has to move faster because it covers more material, which is what makes it more intense than AB.

Some schools teach AP Calculus BC in two class periods to fit in all the material or have more intensive summer assignments. AP Calculus BC courses often cover everything in Calculus AB in the first semester, while AB stretches that material out over a full year.

If you decide to take Calculus AB and Calculus BC as a sequence – for example take AB Calculus junior year (Year 12) and then BC Calculus senior year (Year 13) – you don’t have to worry about picking between the two classes.

If you only have room for one AP Calculus course in your schedule (as most people do), which one should you take? Here you’ll get to know the topics and learn about the benefits of each option below.

AP Calculus AB Topics

  • Functions, Graphs, and Limits
  • Derivatives
  • Applications of Derivatives
  • Integrals
  • Applications of Integrals

Source: AP Central

AP Calculus BC Topics

  • Functions, Graphs, and Limits
  • Derivatives
  • Applications of Derivatives
  • Integrals
  • Applications of Integrals
  • Polynomial Approximations and Series
  • Series of Constants
  • Taylor Series

Source: AP Central

Should You Go Directly into AP Calculus BC?

If you’re up to the challenge, jumping from pre-calculus or IGCSE mathematics (extended) to Calculus BC can be an excellent choice.

This could be especially good if you want to study engineering or natural science (chemistry or physics) in university. Taking Calculus BC shows motivation and drive when it comes to mathematics, and you’ll need strong mathematics skills as an engineering or science specialist.

If you’re a strong mathematics student, you could take an even more advanced calculus course at a local university or community college as a senior (that is if you take AP Calculus BC junior year). You can also make room for AP Statistics, Economics, or Computer Science in your senior year. Going directly into to AP Calculus BC gives you a chance to really challenge yourself as a high school student.

It’s also important to note, at some schools, you can drop down to the AB Calculus course if you find that BC is too challenging. This might be a good option if you’re pretty sure you want to take BC Calculus but aren’t positive you will be able maintain a high enough grade point average.

Finally, taking and passing the BC Calculus exam gives you more mathematics credit in a US college in most cases. This is helpful for future engineering and natural science majors since you can enter required mathematics courses sooner.

To give just one example, at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, getting a 5 on AB Calculus gets you 4 credit hours, but getting a 5 on BC Calculus gets you 8 credit hours. (To look up the credit policy at any university, check out the AP’s college database.)

Should You Take AB Calculus Instead?

Even though you often get more college credit for BC Calculus, taking AB Calculus can be an excellent option as well.

You will still get a calculus background that’ll set you up for college courses in mathematics. Although you won’t get to the extra topics that BC Calculus covers, you’ll still learn core calculus concepts like limits, derivatives, and integrals. This will give you the fundamentals you need for tougher college mathematics courses.

You’re less likely to be overwhelmed and burn out in AB Calculus. Since BC Calculus must cover more material in one year, at many schools it has more frequent and harder assignments. AB Calculus is challenging, but it doesn’t move as fast, so it’s less likely you’ll fall behind.

And finally, in some cases, you’ll get the same math placement as you would for BC Calculus if you get a very good AP Exam score. For example, at Stanford, if you score a 5 on AB Calculus, you would get placed in the same mathematics course as students who had obtained a 4 or 5 on BC Calculus. Again, check the credit policy at the universities or colleges you’re interested in to see how much of a difference there is between AB and BC credit.

Should You Take AB Calculus Then BC Calculus?

Some people consider taking AB Calculus first then BC Calculus the following year. They’re often tempted to do this if they don’t feel quite prepared enough to start with BC Calculus.

In most cases, we, as AP calculus teachers, don’t recommend taking both AB and BC Calculus. AB Calculus and BC Calculus are similar enough that taking them one after the other will be a lot like taking the same class twice, and it’ll probably be somewhat tedious for you. Taking both also usually won’t help your college applications because it will look like you needed two years to learn calculus instead of one. Also, if you’re looking to get many college credits from your AP classes, you can usually get more from taking AB Calculus and another non-calculus AP than you would from taking both AB and BC Calculus.

If you were considering taking both AB and BC Calculus but aren’t sure which one to take now, keep reading for the questions you should ask yourself.

How Should You Decide?

Still not sure which class is the best for you? Consider the following questions.

Finally:

Take BC Calculus If…

  • You feel confident about your mathematics skills and want to challenge yourself
  • You’ve taken mathematics through Pre-Calculus or IGCSE – extended (and got an A or A*)
  • You can pass any required placement tests that your high school requires
  • You want to pursue engineering/natural science/pre-medicine studies in college
  • The class and AP Calculus teachers at your school are good (no obvious red flags in terms of student word-of-mouth or AP test passing rate)

Take AB Calculus If…

  • You want or need more flexibility in your schedule
  • You’ve taken mathematics through Pre-Calculus or IGCSE – extended (and got an A or A*)
  • You’re less confident in your math skills and/or want to ramp up to BC Calculus after taking AB Calculus
  • You can pass any required placement tests required by your high school
  • You plan on studying the humanities or social sciences at college or university
  • The class and AP Calculus teachers at your school are good (no obvious red flags in terms of student word-of-mouth or AP test passing rate)

Oh, just one more thought:

Consider taking an AP Calculus “Bridging Course” at GK Consultants during June, July or August prior to you starting the course. We offer one-to-one tutorial programmes as well as Small Group (2-6 students) tutorial programmes. These “Bridging Courses” make sure that you are confident with all the prerequisite knowledge that you’ll need to make a smooth transition into AP Calculus. You will also get some taster material from the AP courses themselves. Do consider this option, especially if you have earned top grades in Pre=Calculus or IGCSE.

Our tutors, including the Director himself, are experts in teaching AP Calculus and are here to provide you with best teaching available.

Once you have started the course then always remember that GK Consultants is ready to help you with first class tutorial programmes to support and guide you through your AP courses.

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