AB Calculus or BC Calculus AP Calculus

AP Success 101: Should you Take AB Calculus or BC Calculus?

AB Calculus or BC Calculus?

Perhaps you are wondering what courses would be helpful in meeting your long-term goals as you begin high school. In high school, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are standardized (provide a reliable measure of comparison), very challenging, and highly competitive (Colleges and Universities use it in assessing the academic competence of applicants). Many students submit AP scores to earn college credit. The AP courses are administered by the College Board and are offered in a variety of subjects.

Students who are proficient in math might benefit by taking AB Calculus or BC Calculus. BC Calculus however covers more content and is considered more challenging. If you are still struggling with Pre-Algebra, I would not advise you to register for the BC Calculus class in your high school because poor performance can hurt your grade point average. Success would however dramatically improve your chances of acceptance into a US college or university. I would therefore advice that you register for the exam privately and get help (private study/tutoring) as you prepare.

Prerequisites for AB Calculus and BC Calculus

Both AB Calculus and BC Calculus are college-level calculus. In order to enroll in either course, students need to be proficient in pre-Calculus. It is up to you to decide whether to take only AB, BC, or both. AB Calculus is a subset of BC Calculus. Students opting to take only BC Calculus will receive a subscore based on their performance in the AB portion.

Topics in AB Calculus

Students shouldn’t assume they’ll breeze through AB Calculus simply because it’s easier. The topics you will learn in this class will range from complex functions, graphs, limits, derivatives, integrals, and their applications.

Topics in AP Calculus BC

The BC Calculus covers the same topics as the AB Calculus. It however includes topics such as polynomial approximation and series of constants. Students should be able to connect various mathematical representations and apply calculus concepts after completing BC Calculus.

Should You Take AB Calculus or BC Calculus?

Although students can take both AB Calculus and BC Calculus, many don’t have the time to take both. In choosing a course, it’s important to think about what your long-term goals are. BC Calculus is especially relevant to students wishing to major in mathematics, engineering, or any other course in the physical sciences. The admissions committee will see this as a demonstration of your competence and interest in your intended field of study. Also, it prepares you to succeed in college math.

Students who intend to major in the humanities (Social sciences and others) might however consider taking AB Calculus because it’s a great way to get those core math classes out of the way. Consequently, students with less math proficiency – or just busy schedules – can easily succeed in the course. Some colleges require humanities majors to take only one math course. AB Calculus test scores of 4 or 5 typically satisfy colleges’ math requirements.


It’s worth noting that AB Calculus candidates can opt to take the BC exam and vice versa. The College Board does allow test takers to self-study in preparation for these exams. However, enrolling in a certified AP course is generally regarded as the best way to achieve a strong score.

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