AP Calculus exams: know the test content, format, and pacing

Students planning ahead for AP success need to know not only what's tested on the exams but also how the tests are structured.

Here's an overview of the AP Calculus exams, including what students can expect from this year's digital tests.

What's on the AP Calculus test?

The AP Calculus AB & BC exams are designed to measure your mastery of differential and integral calculus.

The courses involve 10 major units of study:

  1. Limits and Continuity
  2. Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties
  3. Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Functions
  4. Contextual Applications of Differentiation
  5. Analytical Applications of Differentiation
  6. Integration and Accumulation of Change
  7. Differential Equations
  8. Applications of Integration
  9. Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions (BC only)
  10. Infinite Sequences and Series (BC only)

Need help mastering the content? Consider scheduling a few sessions with a tutor, who can work with you one-on-one to reinforce the material you're learning in school. To get started with an expert AP tutor, reach out to us here.

How is the AP Calculus test structured?

The AP Calculus exams are four-part tests consisting of a multiple-choice section followed by a free-response section. The multiple-choice section and free-response section are each split into two parts, and a graphing calculator is permitted on one of the two parts of each section.

Because the AP Calculus exams are timed tests, you will have to carefully pace yourself. This includes making determinations about whether you should skip and guess on any questions. In order to achieve the best possible score, you need to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

As you prepare for test day, you may come up with a personalized pacing plan, but as a starting point, here are rough guidelines based on the timing of each section:

  • Multiple choice:
    • Part 1A (calculator NOT permitted):
      • 60 minutes to answer 30 questions
      • 2 minutes per question
    • Part 1B (calculator permitted):
      • 45 minutes to answer 15 questions
      • 3 minutes per question
  • Free response:
    • Part 2A (calculator permitted):
      • 30 minutes to answer 2 questions
      • 15 minutes per question
    • Part 2B (calculator NOT permitted):
      • 60 minutes to answer 4 questions
      • 15 minutes per question


What will this year's digital exams look like?

The College Board will offer multiple exam dates and formats to AP students in 2021. There will be three testing dates for each subject. On certain dates, schools can offer digital exams that may be administered either in school or at home. The AP Calculus AB & BC exams will be offered on May 4 (paper exam in school), May 24 (paper exam in school), and June 9 (digital exam in school or at home).

Here are the similarities and differences between the paper and digital versions of the test:

AP Calculus Paper vs Digital

If you'll be taking a digital exam this year, find out how to adjust your prep plan by reaching out to one of our experts here.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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