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5 differences between AP Calculus AB and BC

For students thinking of taking AP Calculus, the two-course options available, AB and BC, are often a source of confusion. Knowing the differences will make the decision easier.


  • In the calculus course sequence, AB comes first and is followed by BC. Many students think that this means BC is a continuation of AB. This is not the case. AB covers the fundamentals. BC also covers the same material; the difference is that it includes more advanced concepts, so there is more material covered in the same period of time as with AB. BC has more topics and more material in it than AB.


  • Calculus AB is designed to cover one semester of college-level calculus over one year. This includes definite integrals, derivatives, and the fundamental theorems of calculus. Calculus BC covers a full year of the college-level course in one year. Besides the AB material, it also includes polar functions, vector functions, parametric functions and analysis of series, and more.


  • Because precalculus is a prerequisite for both AB and BC courses, how well you do in it and how difficult it is should be your preliminary parameter in deciding which way to go. If precalculus is easy, you could opt for BC. However, if precalculus takes a great deal of time and effort, AB may be the better option. Remember that you will have several other subjects to do. Overloading yourself by taking BC in an effort to cover more ground in a short time may backfire, and calculus and other subjects may all suffer because of the overly ambitious workload.


  • The choice will also depend on your future objectives. If you are considering a career in a field like medicine or engineering and you feel that the BC course load is manageable, it may be the right choice. A score of 5 in the AP Calculus BC examination may help you to earn credit for a college-level equivalent course. Depending on the university/college, this can mean up to 8 hours of credit. Calculus AB will typically get you 4 hours of credit.


  • If you opt for the AB course, your examination will be based on that syllabus, and your score will be for Calculus AB. If you choose to go for BC, you will earn a score for both AB and BC.

The decision on which way to go, Calculus AB or Calculus BC, is not easy. There is no right or wrong choice. Your decision will influence your future academic career. The chance to save time and get the extra credits through BC is tempting, but if the load is too much and your scores here and in other subjects come down, the effort would have been futile. However, if you can manage the pressure and load and your other subjects will not suffer, it may be the right choice. It is important not to be influenced by peer or societal pressure when making your decision. Asking for expert help and guidance is always a good idea. If you are enrolled in a highly reputed professional and personalized online live interactive course, your teachers can guide you and give the input you need to make the right decision.

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