What You Need to Know About the New AP Calculus Exams

In the 2016-2017 school year, high school students sitting for the AP Calculus AB and BC exams will be facing a slightly different exam than those who tested before them. It is important for students to be aware of these changes so they can properly prepare for the new test format. Below are some things you need to know about the new AP Calculus exam if you’ll be taking it starting in the 2016-2017 school year.

New topics

The new AP Calculus exams will assess students in two new areas: L’Hospital’s Rule will be added to the Calculus AB test, while the Calculus BC test will see additions related to the limit comparison test, absolute and conditional convergence, and the alternating series error bound. Despite these additions to the test, there will be no content removed. The introduction of new topics ensures that the AP Calculus exams align with college-level coursework so that students may continue to earn equivalent college credit upon college entrance.

Exam structure

Although the basic format of these tests will remain the same, the internal structure will change a bit. The exams will still consist of a Multiple Choice and Free Response section, each worth 50% of the total exam score and both containing a part A and B. Part A of the Multiple Choice section will consist of 30 questions timed at 60 minutes, while Part B will contain 15 questions with 45 minutes allotted. In the Free Response portion of the test, Part A will ask two questions and Part B will ask four, allowing 30 and 60 minutes respectively to complete each section. Practice tests can be of great help once you familiarize yourself with the new structure.

Curriculum framework

This change will be most noticeable to AP Calculus instructors and tutors. Rather than using traditional topic outlines, the curriculum framework will utilize six Mathematical Practices for AP Calculus, also referred to as MPACs. MPACs set up students and teachers for AP Calculus success. Every math concept taught in the course can be traced back to one of the MPACs. The MPACs for the 2016-2017 school year are as follows: reasoning with definitions and theorems, connecting concepts, implementing algebraic/computational processes, connecting multiple representations, building notational fluency, and communicating. For in-depth descriptions of these practices, you can review more details online. In addition, the AP Calculus exams will use concept outlines. These concepts include limits, derivatives, integrals and the fundamental theorem of calculus, and series (for the BC test only). Within each of these mathematical concept areas, the curriculum framework specifies what students should understand, be able to do, and know related to the concepts. This provides teachers very clear objectives to ensure their AP Calculus students are appropriately prepared for the AP exams.  

If you are a student entering an AP Calculus course for the first time, these changes will likely not affect you too much, except for needing to master a couple of new topics. However, your AP teacher will be adequately prepared to teach you this material and ensure your understanding of it. If you have questions or concerns about the new exam structure, speak with your AP Calculus teacher or seek additional help through AP Calculus tutoring. By learning what you need to know about the new AP Calculus exam, you are already taking steps toward AP success. Best of luck with your AP courses!