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Calculus AB vs. Calculus BC — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 24, 2024
Calculus AB covers basic concepts of calculus like limits, derivatives, and integrals. Calculus BC is more comprehensive, including all Calculus AB topics plus additional concepts like sequences, series, and parametric equations.
Calculus AB vs. Calculus BC — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Calculus AB and Calculus BC


Key Differences

Calculus AB is an introductory college-level calculus course, often equivalent to the first semester of college calculus. It focuses on foundational calculus concepts such as limits, derivatives, and integrals. Calculus BC, on the other hand, is more advanced, covering all the Calculus AB topics and extending into additional topics like polynomial approximations and series. Both courses are part of the Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum and are designed for high school students aiming for college credit.
Calculus AB usually moves at a slower pace, allowing more time for students to grasp fundamental calculus concepts. In contrast, Calculus BC moves at a faster pace and assumes that students have a strong understanding of algebra and precalculus concepts. While Calculus AB lays the groundwork for calculus, Calculus BC builds upon that foundation with more complex and extensive material.
Calculus AB often emphasizes understanding the concepts of differential and integral calculus. In comparison, Calculus BC not only delves into these areas more deeply but also includes the study of sequences and series, parametric, polar, and vector functions. Both courses require students to develop a strong conceptual understanding and analytical skills in calculus.
The Calculus AB exam typically involves less complex problems and focuses on the basic principles of calculus. Calculus BC's exam is more challenging, covering a broader range of topics and requiring more sophisticated problem-solving skills. Students in both courses are assessed through a combination of multiple-choice and free-response questions in their respective AP exams.
For students planning their academic trajectory, Calculus AB is often chosen by those who want a solid understanding of basic calculus or who are not pursuing STEM fields. Calculus BC is usually preferred by students aiming for STEM-related college courses or careers that demand a higher level of mathematical proficiency. Both courses offer a rigorous academic challenge and the opportunity for college credit through AP exams.

Comparison Chart


Basic calculus concepts
Extensive calculus concepts including AB topics


Slower, more foundational
Faster, more advanced


Limits, derivatives, integrals
All AB topics plus sequences, series, and more

Exam Complexity

Less complex problems
More complex problems, broader topic coverage

Typical Students

Non-STEM majors or basic calculus interest
Students aiming for STEM fields or advanced study

Compare with Definitions

Calculus AB

Introductory Course: Calculus AB is an introductory college-level calculus course.
I'm taking Calculus AB to understand the basics of calculus.

Calculus BC

Advanced Course: Calculus BC is an advanced college-level calculus course.
Calculus BC covers more topics than Calculus AB.

Calculus AB

Foundational Concepts: Focuses on foundational calculus concepts.
In Calculus AB, we're learning about derivatives.

Calculus BC

College Credit: Offers potential college credit through AP exams.
A high score on the Calculus BC exam can earn advanced college credit.

Calculus AB

AP Curriculum: Part of the Advanced Placement program.
Calculus AB is my first AP math class.

Calculus BC

AP Curriculum: Part of the Advanced Placement program.
I'm taking Calculus BC for a challenge and college credit.

Calculus AB

High School Level: Designed for high school students.
I chose Calculus AB in my senior year.

Calculus BC

Comprehensive Curriculum: Includes all Calculus AB topics plus more.
In Calculus BC, we're studying sequences and series.

Calculus AB

College Credit: Offers potential college credit through AP exams.
Scoring well on the Calculus AB exam can earn me college credit.

Calculus BC

High School Level: Designed for high-achieving high school students.
Calculus BC is recommended for students who excel in math.

Common Curiosities

What additional topics does Calculus BC cover?

Calculus BC covers sequences, series, and additional integration techniques not in AB.

Can I take Calculus BC without taking AB?

Yes, if you have a strong background in precalculus and algebra.

What is Calculus BC?

Calculus BC is a more advanced college-level calculus course, including all AB topics and more.

Is Calculus BC harder than AB?

Yes, Calculus BC is generally more challenging due to its broader and more advanced content.

Is Calculus BC suitable for all high school students?

Calculus BC is best for students with strong math skills and interest in advanced calculus.

Can I take both Calculus AB and BC exams?

It's unusual, as the BC exam includes AB topics, but it's technically possible.

Are Calculus AB and BC sequential?

Not necessarily; BC includes all AB material plus additional topics.

What is Calculus AB?

Calculus AB is an introductory college-level course in calculus, covering basic concepts.

Do both Calculus AB and BC offer AP exams?

Yes, both courses have separate AP exams for college credit.

How should I prepare for the Calculus BC exam?

Understand all AB topics thoroughly and practice BC-specific concepts like series and sequences.

Can I get more college credit with Calculus BC?

Potentially, as Calculus BC covers more content and can lead to higher placement in college.

Do colleges view Calculus BC more favorably?

Taking Calculus BC can demonstrate higher math proficiency, which is favorable for STEM fields.

What are common careers for students who take Calculus BC?

Careers in engineering, physics, mathematics, and other STEM fields.

Can I switch from Calculus AB to BC?

It depends on your school's policy and your understanding of calculus concepts.

Are the AP exams for AB and BC different?

Yes, each exam covers the respective course material with different levels of complexity.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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