Calc AB vs BC

<p>So I'm a junior and next year I'm gonna take one of the Calc classes. What are differences in terms of the curriculum, difficulty, and how good they look for colleges.</p>

<p>Unless you plan on pursuing engineering or something like that, you don't really need Calc BC to prepare for college. Calc AB represents the first semester of college calculus (Calc I), and most people do not need more. Calc BC corresponds to Calc I and II in college (or so the guidance staff at my D's school tells us).</p>

<p>My D ended up taking Calc AB because she did not want to spend all of her time studying for BC and had other interests. I guess it really depends on your goals and interests as a student. I don't believe that not having Calc BC is going to hurt you if you are not pursuing Mathematics or Engineering.</p>

<p>Calc BC covers both Calc I and II but not all topics in Calc II. But some schools have very tough Calc II classes yet take AP credit for BC. Both exams share questions so besides the amount of topics that can be tested, the difficulty of topics tested in BC are the same as AB. </p>

<p>Also, if the schools you want to go accept SAT Subject Tests, the Math Level 2 test also looks good for college admissions.</p>

<p>Calculus BC approximates a full speed college freshman calculus course at a typical college (there may be some differences in topics covered at the margins, depending on the college). A score of 5 on the AP test is often given a full year's worth of credit for college freshman calculus.</p>

<p>Calculus AB is more of a slower paced gentle introduction to calculus, usually given about a semester's worth of credit for college freshman calculus.</p>

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Unless you plan on pursuing engineering or something like that, you don't really need Calc BC to prepare for college.

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<p>One could argue that you don't need any calc to "prepare for college". But saying that BC is only for math and engineering types is too limiting, IMO. Many of the social sciences requires a year of calc, for example. Moreover, being able to skip calc (and those competitive premeds) in college can be a gpa saver.</p>

<p>Whether the OP should take AB and then BC or just BC really depends on OP's math skills and other coursework. </p>

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how good they look for colleges.

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<p>The short answer is that the more rigorous course looks better to colleges. And that is always true -- any rigorous course is better than less rigorous. Whether an adcom will care if you took the so-called AP Lite depends somewhat on the schools to which you apply. Many/most kids applying to top 20 institutions will have taken BC if their school offers it, for example.</p>

<p>In a similar vein, right now I'm AB and it's probably too easy for me (100% in the class, A's on every test when the class average is consistently ~70%, etc.). Should I self-study the C material and risk not getting a 5 on the exam? I'm more or less guaranteed a 5 on the AB exam, but I'm not sure if I can get a 5 on the BC test. </p>

<p>In short, is the BC boost worth risking a set 5? My schedule is pretty rigorous regardless (honors, 8-10 APs)...</p>

<p>Thanks.</p>

<p>Talk to people in those classes. I personally am having a dilemma. I was used to getting the highest A in every math class I've taken since algebra I. This year in Calc BC I have a C. The logical jump from honors track to AP was hard for me, especially since I'm taking five other APs. Consider whether you have a natural penchant or enjoyment of math and what other advanced classes you are taking. For me, BC was the wrong choice (but I never would have thought it to be when I was in your spot). Analyze the decision carefully. Even though I did well in math and even got accepted to Harvard, many are surprised at how I'm struggling in calculus. However mine is an extreme case. Ask yourself, do you legitimately want/need the challenge, can you handle the courseload and fast pace? Or do you just want it to look better on your app compared to Calc AB? (Sadly I took BC because of the latter reason)</p>

<p>Sent from my LG-P509 using CC</p>

<p>Not sure how if this will help, but I'm a Junior this year as well and I'm taking Calc BC next year. I want to major in civil engineering though. I guess it really depends on what your interests are.</p>

<p>At my school, it is different. My school only offeres Calculus AB and BC AP and the students have to complete Calc AB first and then BC the year after. Both classes use the same textbooks. However, the lessons in Calc BC are taught faster but everything else is pretty much the same. My friend who is taking Calc BC said it's getting easier for him this year because it's like a review for him.</p>

<p>nj said- "Should I self-study the C material and risk not getting a 5 on the exam? I'm more or less guaranteed a 5 on the AB exam, but I'm not sure if I can get a 5 on the BC test."</p>

<p>Most of the schools I have looked at (including top schools like UVA and W&M) give full calc credit (8 credits) for a 4 or a 5.</p>

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At my school, it is different. My school only offeres Calculus AB and BC AP and the students have to complete Calc AB first and then BC the year after.

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<p>That's because your HS math dept is afraid of kids struggling. Thus, they take the course much slower, i.e., half of the material taught over the course of one year. </p>

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Both classes use the same textbooks.

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<p>Of course, AB is just a subset of BC. BC covers the AB material by semester break (or at the 60% mark) at many high schools. </p>

<p>Quite frankly, teaching AB and the rest of Calc (BC) over two years just makes no sense. If a HS student is capable of calc, they should take the whole thing (BC) in one year. If not, take Stats instead.</p>

<p>D1 struggled with AP AB. So if you are strong in math then take AP BC otherwise stick with AP AB or Stats.</p>

<p>I think asking the pre-calc teacher is the best idea (at least it was for us). D got her only B's in honors Alg I and honors Geometry, then got A's in Alg II and Pre-calc. I worried about her getting in over her head despite her apparent improvement in math during the past 2 years, so we asked her teacher who strongly urged that she take BC which has worked out very well. I think they really have the best grasp of how the kid will do at the next level.</p>

<p>My junior year, I took both thanks to block scheduling. At my school, you can't take BC without having AB first (AB covers the first 7 chapters of the book, BC covered the last 3), and they strongly suggest you take both in one year. I wouldn't take BC without AB, even if you have the ability. I dunno how your school does it, but there's a ton of background knowledge you need from AB for BC.</p>

<p>I am taking AB, and I regret it. The BC teacher was my pre-calc teacher and he was absolutely awful teacher; he was completely disengaged from the class and did not teach us at all. Though I did very well in pre-calc, I figured BC would be much more challenging, and I thought I would really struggle with such a terrible teacher.
So I took AB, and it turns out to be more rigorous in every aspect except content. The people in BC never have to do homework, their tests are all curved 30%+ and are all easy multiple choice, they get to take team tests (and maybe 50% of the class took AB). Furthermore, we are learning BC topics in my AB just because we have the time. So it is a lose-lose situation because I'm taking a more rigorous class, yet to the colleges it looks like I'm taking an easier class.</p>

<p>I'm sure this isn't the case for most schools. I recommend that you ask people at your school who are taking BC for their opinion. They're going to have the most accurate opinion of what the class is truly like.</p>

<p>At my D's school you can take AB, BC, or AB then BC. Last year's BC class had 14 and this year is similar so I would guess that most take AB or AB then BC.</p>

<p>What's really important is whether you can handle the pace. My class is cruelly quick, and had no curve until 3rd qtr. Asking the precalc teacher for her recommendation certainly did not work out for me. She also teaches AB and stressed that the material was not more difficult in BC. This is true, but the pace is killer if you do not have at least some sliver of natural math talent. </p>

<p>Sent from my LG-P509 using CC</p>

<p>I faced this decision last year. My precalc teacher(best math teacher ever) told me I would be fine if I took BC but their would be no shame in taking AB because I am taking 5 aps this year. I went ahead and took BC. First quarter I got a C, worst grade of my life. Second quarter results haven't come out yet but I know I have atleast a B+ and I probably have an A-, second highest grade in the class. The curve, as interficio described, is very steep. You have to learn at a much faster rate than the AB class does(my bc class is done with the ab curriculum for the year) but if you can manage keep up or eventually learn to keep up, you will be fine.</p>

<p>I took AP BC Calc junior year without ever taking AP AB. I did very, very well in the class and got a 5 on the AP exam. The class cemented my love for math. And no, I did not spend all my time studying for BC calc. However, I mistakenly believed that everyone would love the class as much as I did and I recommended that my friends go for it and take AP BC senior year. Yeah...fast forward to this year and a lot of my friends are doing very poorly in the class and I feel absolutely horrible. The only advice I can give you is that if you are naturally good at math, you'll do fine. If you struggle even a little bit, then there is no shame in taking AP AB calc. A lot of high schools only offer that option. It may not look as good as taking the more rigorous course, but neither will getting a bad grade. Ask your teacher what he/she recommends and listen carefully to their advice.</p>

<p>FWIW I was also taking AP Chemistry, AP US History and self studying AP English Language and I had time for ECs and friends. But it's up to you if you think you can handle the work.</p>

<p>BC has slightly more curriculum and is slightly more difficult (but both are very easy). It looks a lot better to colleges than AB, and is more useful. Frankly, there's no reason to take AB instead of BC unless you're not good at math or the BC teacher is horrible.</p>