AP Calculus BC offers challenging college-level material


Photo by Charles Landis

The course outline for Calculus BC. All of these assignments are for Unit 2 which is jam packed with rigorous content.

Of the vast number of classes offered, there are a few that have reputations for being especially difficult. Among those classes is AP Calculus BC, a class that covers a full year of college calculus and can be worth anywhere from six to 10 college credits. It is the faster-paced counterpart to AP Calculus AB which covers the same college calculus material, but is only a semester’s worth of college material in a full year.

Calculus BC is a class that is known for its difficulty, which drives many students away from taking it. In 2021, only 124,335 students took the BC exam compared to the 249,762 who took the AB exam. However, the exam scores tell an interesting story. In 2022, 40.09% of BC students scored a 5 on the AP exam compared to the 20.02% who scored a 5 on the AB exam. This can likely be explained by demographics. Students who are more confident in their math skills tend to be the ones taking Calculus BC.

Being confident with your math going into the course is important, but it’s not the full story either.

“I would caution future students away from the class unless they fully understand what they’re getting into and are willing to put in the toil required to keep up. It’s the kind of class where some very strong students regularly get C’s and D’s or fail tests entirely — personally the most challenging class I’ve ever taken,” senior and former BC Student Silas Hultman said.

Despite the classes challenging material, the biggest problem BC students seem to face is with their algebra skills.

“Most of the students who have problems are having problems with algebra, not calculus. It’s been like that from day one,” WJ’s only BC Calculus teacher Inyong Choi said.

So if Calculus BC is such a difficult class, what reason is there to take it? The most obvious reason is simply the amount of content it covers and the challenge it provides.

“I wanted to take a hard math class and if I am taking calculus, why not take BC,” junior Togzhan Zhumadil said.

In addition to this, depending on the college or university you attend, it can be worth between six and ten college credits if you do well on the exam. Along with that, it’s one of the only AP classes that actually provide college material at college pace.

People who graduated from here, when they come back from college, they tell me, ‘Mr. Choi, BC was the only class that prepared me for college.

— Choi

There’s a distinction to be made between a course having college material and it being college level. There is no shortage of courses that offer college material but BC Calculus is one of the only classes offered at WJ that is truly college pace level.