How to Prepare for the AP Calculus Exam – Part 2

Are you ready to learn more about the AP Calculus test? I didn’t scare you away in Part 1 of this series? Great! Let’s talk about the actual structure of the exam and what resources we need to start studying. To be clear, all of the information here applies to both the AB and BC versions of the test.

Let’s start by breaking it down in the two main parts of the test: Multiple Choice questions (MCQs) and Free Response questions (FRQs).


The MCQs are broken into two parts and they comprise 50% of your total score. It starts with Part A: a 60 minute, 30 question, no calculator section. No Calculator?! Don’t worry. This section will test basic understanding of concepts and have problems for which a calculator would be unhelpful.

It continues with Part B: a 45 minute, 15 question, calculator section. This section is similar to the previous one, but has more numerical analysis questions where calculators are either helpful or necessary. The TI-84 is most students’ calculator of choice, but there are many approved calculators.

Don’t forget, there are NO penalties for guessing on this test, so don’t leave anything blank. If you are completely stumped by a question, utilize process of elimination and other strategies to make your best educated guess.


The FRQs are broken into two parts as well and comprise the other 50% of your AP score. Part A is 30 minutes and has 2 multi-part questions, calculator allowed. As in the MCQs, the calculator is useful for many parts and necessary for others. Think having to compute integrals you don’t know or ones that use wonky log or trig values.

Part B is 60 minutes and has 4 multi-part questions, no calculator allowed. Like the MCQs you won’t need the calculator to do well here. You just need a basic understanding of the core concepts of Calculus.

Study Materials

OK, so now you know the test structure. What materials should I gather to study for this beast? Well, it depends on the section. For the MCQs, hound your AP teacher for released practice tests. If they are unhelpful, some savvy internet searching can reveal old test questions.

As for third party content, I’m partial to either the Princeton Review Premium Edition (AB Version) or Barron’s AP Calculus book (covers both AB and BC). They both have plenty of practice problems (spoiler: a key to doing well) and good explanations of how to attack them effectively.

For the FRQs, there’s only one place to go: The College Board website itself. They have all of the FRQs, for both the AB and BC tests, from the previous 25 years. Not only do they provide the questions themselves, but also grading guidelines and sample answers. This will be more than enough material to study from.

Start gathering your materials and I will be back next time with some study tips and test taking strategies!

Next time I will focus on the MCQs, so start gathering your materials and get ready for some study tips and test taking strategies.

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