Not my favorite color-by-letter. Image Courtesy of Alberto G.
For many students in AP Calculus, the multiple-choice section is easier than the free-response section. You'll be asked more straightforward skills-based questions, problems typically don't build off of each other, and you have the power to guess. Still, doing well on the multiple-choice requires good test-taking strategies and lots of practice. Here are our tips and tricks to help you do your best in May!
➕Check out this in-depth multiple choice study guide for more info.
Understanding the format of the exam is key to dividing your studying and pacing yourself when doing practice questions.
The multiple-choice section makes up 50% of your score, and you have an hour and 45 minutes to answer 45 questions. This section has 2 parts:
Part A: 60 minutes for 30 non-calculator questions.
Part B: 45 minutes for 15 calculator-required questions.
And here's how often each unit shows up on the test:
|Unit||Exam Weighting (AB)||Exam Weighting (BC)|
|Unit 1: Limits and Continuity||10-12%||4-7%|
|Unit 2: Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties||10-12%||4-7%|
|Unit 3: Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Functions||9-13%||4-7%|
|Unit 4: Contextual Applications of Differentiation||10-15%||6-9%|
|Unit 5: Analytical Applications of Differentiation||15-18%||8-11%|
|Unit 6: Integration and Accumulation of Change||17-20%||17-20%|
|Unit 7: Differential Equations||6-12%||6-9%|
|Unit 8: Applications of Integration||10-15%||6-9%|
|Unit 9: Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions (BC only)||11-12%|
|Unit 10: Infinite Sequences and Series (BC only)||17-18%|
If it's a skill you're confident in, do the problem first. Often, the College Board includes "good" wrong answers that can lead you in the wrong direction. Don't get distracted by your answer options unless you need to see them to know what you have to do. Remember to trust your gut!
Star problems you struggle with to come back to later. You only have 2-3 minutes per question, so you should get through the test first before you double-check your answers. Make sure to mark a temporary answer on your bubble sheet (e.g. putting a slash through a bubble) so you don't accidentally fill in your answers one space off from where they should be.
If you have time, double-check. Sometimes, there will be a tiny difference between the correct answer and one of the wrong answers. Did you add instead of subtracting? Did you forget a negative? Sometimes, simple algebra mistakes can cost you a question.
Take note of your weaknesses. As you practice multiple choice questions, write down the types of questions you get wrong. Use this information to guide your studying before you take another practice test.
When all else fails, guess. Use your typical guessing strategies (like sticking with the same letter answer any time you guess), and eliminate wrong answers whenever possible. Try not to leave any questions blank, since you won't be penalized for wrong answers. After all, you have at least a 25% chance of guessing right!
For free AP multiple choice practice, try:
These sample questions from the College Board
For free skill practice, try:
If you want more AP-style multiple choice practice, consider buying a prep book. They usually sell for under $20 and have upwards of 3 full-length practice tests. Check out this list of the best prep books [coming soon] for Fiveable's top picks!
If you know the format, use these strategies, and practice until you're confident, you'll rock the multiple choice section of the exam. Good luck! 🎉
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