a year ago
Admissions Advice

AP Calculus BC vs AP Calculus AB

I am a junior and I am taking Pre-Calculus Honors. I signed up for Pre-AP Calculus because apparently that's the class you have to take in order to get into AP Calculus BC, but I didn't get into it because of schedule conflictions or something. Is it okay if I do AP Calculus AB instead? Will it weaken my application?

For some background information. This year I'm taking 3 APs (AP Chem, APUSH, and AP Lang) and next year I'm going to take 4 APs. I have already taken AP World History sophomore year.


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
a year ago[edited]

Hi @UrielWis,

Thanks for asking this question. I think many HS students are confused about the value of APs and think that there is someone in college admissions drawing the line between AP Calc AB and BC or AP Physics 1/2 and AP Physics C. There isn't.

APs serve 3 purposes for admissions officers. 1. They inform the admissions team whether or not taking college-level courses is easy or difficult based on your grades and AP scores. This helps them assess your preparedness for being on campus. 2. APs (or IBs) set the tone of your academic narrative so either you are risk averse meaning you take the safest and easiest path of least resistance or you take the hardest curricula to challenge yourself and are not afraid of risk-taking. This helps them understand your m.o. when it comes to future behavior. They neither want someone meek and afraid to try new things nor someone who is over their skis, both overloaded with hard classes and unable to perform well in them. They want someone predictable who knows their limits and has tested their boundaries. 3. They establish your academic weight class like wrestling or boxing. So if you take 2 or 3 APs you are a lightweight, and if you are taking like 12+, a super heavyweight. It doesn't mean you are less of a student, it just means you have some inertia behind your evidence of prior bouts of taking APs classes and AP tests. So if they are comparing 2 students, one with 4 APs and one with 10 APs, where everything else on the Common App reads similarly, they might lean in favor of the latter.

3 of the hardest colleges to get into during the last few cycles consistently were MIT, Harvard, and Caltech. I'm posting their HS requirements in the links to the content below:




None of them specify that an applicant should take AP Calc B/C.

Nevertheless, you should also know that there are a lot of missing application criteria from all these schools in their decision-making process. They do not tell you that if you come from an over-represented minority or are Caucasian you may have to have better grades, course rigor, test scores, and ECs because students in your demographic outperform other types of applicants.

My 2 cents is that you will be fine with AP Calc AB wherever you apply. If you want to be more competitive, you can always take your AP Calc course next summer and reserve a spot for an advanced math course for senior year. If you are applying as humanities major to a liberal arts college, I don't think doing anything beyond AP Calc AB is necessary or warranted. However if your dream school is to be a STEM major at the 3 I mentioned or similar schools, you might want to double up using your summer next year to get 1 math done.

Good luck.

a month ago

Absolutely, taking AP Calculus AB instead of Pre-AP Calculus won't weaken your application. What's important is your dedication to challenging yourself academically. Admissions committees understand that scheduling conflicts can arise, and they value your commitment to pursuing advanced coursework.

AP Calculus AB will still provide you with a strong foundation in calculus, and it will not weaken your college applications. Your overall academic performance and dedication to your studies matter more than the specific AP courses you take.

If possible, explore summer programs or internships related to your field of interest. These experiences can enhance your knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to your chosen field.

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Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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