One of the best ways to prepare for the AP Calculus AB exam, as well as stay on top of things in class throughout the year, is to take regular practice tests. Taking practice tests lets you estimate how well you’ll do on the AP exam, shows you the areas you need to focus your studies on, and helps you become more familiar and comfortable with the format of the AP exam.
There are a ton of AB Calc practice tests available, however; not all of them are created equally, and taking a poorly written practice test can give you a false idea of what the real AP exam will be like and cause you to study the wrong things.
You can avoid this by reading this guide to AP Calculus AB practice tests. I’ll go through every AP Calculus AB practice exam that’s available, tell you which are highest-quality, and explain how you should use practice tests when preparing for the AP exam as well as throughout the year.
Official AP Calculus AB Practice Tests
Official practice exams (those developed by the College Board) are always the best to use because you can be sure they’ll be an accurate representation of the real AP exam. There are three types of official practice resources, and each is explained below.
Complete Practice Tests
The College Board has released two complete exams from prior administrations of the AP Calculus AB exam. The tests are from 1988 and 1998. The 1988 test has an answer key included; however, for some reason, the 1998 exam does not. The College Board provided answers for the free-response questions in a separate document, but there is no official answer key available for the 1998 exam's multiple-choice section. The answer key linked below is unofficial, but no one has publicly disagreed with any of the answers, so it’s highly likely that it’s correct.
- 1988 AP Calculus AB Released Exam
- 1998 AP Calculus AB Released Exam
Because these exams are from a while back, they both have some format differences compared to the current AP Calculus AB exam. The AP Calculus AB exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and has two sections. Both of these sections are divided into two parts. For reference, here’s the current format of the exam:
- 45 questions total
- 1 hour 45 minutes total
- Worth 50% of your total score
- Part A:
- 30 questions
- 55 minutes long
- No calculator allowed
- Part B:
- 15 questions
- 50 minutes long
- Calculator permitted
- Six questions total
- 1 hour 30 minutes total
- Worth 50% of your total score
- Part A:
- Two questions
- 30 minutes long
- Calculator permitted
- Part B:
- Four questions
- 60 minutes long
- No calculator allowed
You can only use a calculator for certain sections of the AP exam.
Both released exams have the same total number of multiple-choice and free-response questions as the current exam. However, the 1998 test does not have separate parts for the free-response section, and students were allowed to use a calculator to answer all six questions.
Neither the multiple-choice nor the free-response sections of the 1988 exam were separated into different parts, and students were allowed to use their calculator for the entire exam. The multiple-choice section was also only 90 minutes long, instead of 105 minutes.
When you take these exams for practice, it’s not worth the time and effort needed to try and figure out which questions you wouldn’t be allowed to solve with a calculator today. Instead, take the tests with the calculator and timing rules that were in place when the tests were administered.
These variations between current and past exams do mean that these two complete released exams don’t give quite as accurate a representation of the current AP exam as the complete released exams for other AP subjects do.
However, they are still very useful because they cover the same content and are worded the same way as the current exam. Towards the end of this guide I’ll explain exactly how to use these resources and others.
AP Calculus AB Multiple-Choice Sample Questions
The College Board often reuses multiple-choice questions for multiple exams, so there are typically few official multiple-choice problems available for any AP exam, AP Calculus AB included.
Besides the complete practice tests discussed above, there are no full official multiple-choice sections available, but you can check out these official sample questions for Calculus AB. (The questions start on page 5, and there are Calculus BC questions listed after the AB questions; be sure you’re not accidentally looking at those.) This document contains 16 multiple-choice problems, along with answers and the major skills each question tests. There are also two free-response questions.
AP Calculus AB Free-Response Sample Questions
Fortunately, there are more official free-response questions available and, since they are recent, they provide you with a very accurate idea of what to expect on the real exam.
The College Board has released free-response questions from 2002-2016, along with scoring guidelines for each set of questions. These are a great resource, and you should definitely make use of them during your review.
Khan Academy Resources
Khan Academy has recently partnered with the College Board to provide study resources for the PSAT, SAT, and some AP exams. This includes study resources for AB Calc.
On Khan Academy’s website, there are explanation videos for several dozen previously administered questions, both multiple choice and free response. These videos can be particularly helpful if you’ve gotten stuck on one of the official practice problems or if you just want to learn step-by-step how to solve a particular problem.
Unofficial AP Calculus AB Practice Tests and Quizzes
While not developed by the College Board, unofficial practice resources can still be very useful for your studying, particularly because there are so many resources available. For each resource listed below, I explain what is offered as well as how you should make use of the resource. They are roughly listed from highest quality to lowest quality.
Barron’s has a complete and free practice test that you can take in timed or untimed mode. The multiple-choice section will be automatically scored, and there are answer explanations for the free-response section so you can self-score. This is a high-quality practice exam with questions that have a similar format and cover the same topics as the real AP exam. You’ll definitely want to use it in your review (more on how to do that in the next section).
Shmoop is the only resource listed in this guide that requires a fee to access any of its resources. Paying its fee of $24.68 a month gets you access to a diagnostic exam, as well as eight complete practice tests and additional practice questions. It also gets to access to Shmoop’s study materials for other AP exams, as well as the SAT and ACT.
Varsity Tutors has a collection of three diagnostic tests and 139 short practice quizzes, organized by topic, such as the chain rule and finding the second derivative of a function. Difficulty levels are also given for each of the quizzes. The diagnostic tests are 40-45 questions long (all multiple-choice). They pretty closely represent what questions from the actual AP exam are like, and, as a bonus, the score results show you how well you did in each topic area so you can focus your future studying on the areas you need the most work in. However, these diagnostic tests don’t have calculator and no calculator sections.
This site organizes quizzes into the three Big Ideas of Calculus AB, as well as more specific tags you can select (you don’t need to worry about the Series quizzes, that’s just for BC Calc). After creating a free account you can access their hundreds of practice questions (some of the more challenging questions require a paid account). Questions are ranked as easy, moderate, or difficult, they are not timed, and you see the correct answer (plus a detailed explanation) after you answer each question.
McGraw-Hill offers a 25-question quiz (although questions are randomly selected from a larger bank, so if you take the quiz multiple times you may get more than 25 questions out of it). The quiz is automatically graded and has answer explanations (although some explanations can be pretty brief and may not help you figure out what you did wrong). Additionally, this test is only available in untimed mode, although you can always independently time yourself (give yourself about an hour to answer the questions). Overall, the questions themselves are high-quality, but this quiz has significant differences from the actual AP exam in terms of format, namely the fact that there are only 25 questions, the quiz is untimed, and there’s no indication of when you should and shouldn’t use a calculator.
GetaFive offers 182 Calculus AB practice questions, along with 54 review lessons. This is more of an online review course rather than just practice questions, so the questions themselves are spread across the lessons, but if you’re looking for more in-depth explanations of topics, you may find it useful to watch the videos and then answer the accompanying questions.
This site has a 50-question multiple-choice test. The questions typically easier and more basic than those you’d find on the actual AP exam, but if you’re just starting your review or want to brush up on the basics, this can be a good resource to use.
This site has four short quizzes, each 5-8 questions long, along with answer explanations. Two quizzes are multiple-choice, and two are free-response. The free-response questions are much shorter than what you’d encounter on the real AP exam, but you can treat them like slightly more involved multiple-choice questions. The quizzes aren’t long enough for an in-depth practice session, but, unlike many of the other practice materials linked here, they also separate the quizzes on whether or not you’re allowed a calculator.
This is a 20-question multiple-choice quiz. The questions are a bit overly simplistic, and it’s not automatically graded, but if you’re just looking for a quick study session, this fits the bill.
This is a short quiz, and, unfortunately, it’s not very high-quality. The questions are pretty basic and not nearly as complex or as in-depth as the ones you’ll find on the AP exam. Additionally, the format of this quiz is very poor, and it can be difficult to read. I wouldn’t recommend using this quiz unless you’re really desperate for review questions or you need a very basic quiz to get you started with your review.
How to Use These AP Calculus AB Practice Tests
Knowing how to use each of these practice exams and quizzes will make your studying much more effective, as well as prepare you for what the real AP Calculus AB exam will involve. Below is a guide for when and how to use the resources, organized by semester.
During your first semester of Calc AB, you don’t know enough material for it to be useful to take a complete practice exam. Therefore, you should spend this semester answering quizzes and free-response questions on topics you’ve already covered. You’ll probably want to begin answering practice questions about halfway through the semester.
For free-response questions, use the official released free-response questions in the Official Resources section. Look through them to find questions you can answer based on what you’ve already learned. It’s best if you can take a group of them (up to six) together at a time in order to get the most realistic preparation for the real AP exam.
It also helps to time yourself when answering these questions, particularly as it gets later in the year. On the real AP exam, you’ll have about 15 minutes to answer each free-response question, so try to answer practice questions under those same time restrictions.
For multiple-choice practice, take unofficial quizzes that let you choose the subject(s) you want to be tested on. This will allow you to review content you’ve already learned and not have to answer questions on material you haven’t covered yet. The best resources for this are Albert and Varsity Tutors because their quizzes are clearly broken up by specific subject.
Sometimes the numbers can get overwhelming. Don't forget to take a break every now and then.
Second semester is when you can begin to take complete practice exams and continuing to review content you’ve learned throughout the year.
Step 1: Take and Score Your First Complete Practice Exam
Early on in this semester, when you have covered a majority of the content you need to know for the AP exam, take your first complete practice exam. This test should be taken in one sitting and with official timing rules (see how the AP test is formatted above).
For this first practice test, I recommend using the Barron’s exam and saving the official practice exams for down the line. After you take this practice test, correct the exam and see what score you earned on the test.
This is a good time to set a score goal if you haven’t already. The minimum score you should be aiming for is a 3, since this is the lowest passing score. However, if you scored a 3 or higher on this first practice exam, it’s a good idea to set your goal score even higher, to a 4 or 5. Getting a higher score on the AP Calculus AB exam looks more impressive to colleges, and it can sometimes get you more college credit.
Step 2: Analyze Your Score Results
After you’ve figured out your score, look over each problem you answered incorrectly and try to figure out why you got the question wrong.
As you’re doing this, look for patterns in your results. Are you finding that you got a lot of questions on antiderivatives wrong? Did you do well on multiple choice but struggled with free response? Did you get slowed down by questions you couldn’t use a calculator to answer?
Figuring out which problems you got wrong and why is the best way to stop repeating your mistakes and begin to make significant improvements. Don’t be tempted to skip this step!
Step 3: Focus Your Studying on Weak Areas
You should now have a good idea of what subject areas or skills you need to work on in order to raise your score. If there are specific content areas you need to work on, review them by going over your notes, reading a review book, and answering multiple-choice and free-response questions that focus specifically on those topics.
If you’re struggling with your test-taking techniques, for example, running out of time on the exam or misreading questions, the best way to combat these issues is to answer a lot of practice questions under realistic testing conditions.
Take timed quizzes or time yourself for quizzes that aren’t automatically timed. (On the real exam, you’ll get about two minutes for multiple-choice questions you can’t use a calculator to solve, a little more than three minutes for multiple-choice questions where you can use a calculator, and 15 minutes per free-response question.) Taking multiple practice quizzes and tests will help you become more familiar with the pacing needed for the AP exam.
Step 4: Take and Score Another Practice Exam
After you’ve identified your weak areas and spent time to improve them, it’s time to see how all your hard work paid off.
Take and score another complete practice exam, timed and taken in one sitting. I’d recommend using either an official released practice exam or, if you want more recently-created questions, creating your own practice test by combining a set of unofficial multiple-choice questions (such as the Varsity Tutors or 4Tests exam) with a set of official free-response questions. If you choose the second option, you should have a total of 45 multiple-choice questions for the first part of the exam. As with the first test, this should be taken timed and in one sitting.
When you take this second practice exam, remember that it won’t be formatted exactly the same way as the real AP test, where the multiple-choice and free-response sections will both be broken into two parts, only one of which you can use a calculator on.
Step 5: Review Your Results to Determine Your Future Study Plan
Now you’re able to see how much you’ve improved, and in which areas, since you took your first complete practice exam. If you’ve made improvements and have reached or are close to your target score, you may only need to do some light studying from now until the AP exam.
However, if you haven’t made much improvement, or you’re still far from your score goal, you’ll need to analyze the way you’ve been reviewing and think of ways to improve. The most common reason for not improving is not actively studying, but only passively leafing through your notes or reviewing missed questions. Even though it may seem to take a while, in the long run, carefully analyzing why you made the mistakes you did and devising ways to improve is really the only significant way to raise your score.
As you’re studying, be sure to really understand exactly where you made a mistake for every practice question you answer incorrectly. Also, when you’re reviewing notes, pause every few minutes and mentally go over what you just learned to make sure you’re really retaining the information.
You can repeat these steps as many times as you need to in order to make improvements and reach your target score.
Studying With AP Calculus AB Practice Exams: Key Tips
It would be difficult to score well on the AP Calculus AB exam without completing any practice exams. Official resources are the best to use, but there are plenty of high-quality unofficial quizzes and tests out there as well.
During your first semester, you should focus on answering free-response and multiple-choice questions on topics you’ve already covered in class.
During your second semester, follow these steps:
- Take and score your first complete practice exam
- Analyze your score results
- Focus your studying on weak areas
- Take and score another complete practice exam
- Review your results to determine your future study plan
Now that you have your practice tests, do you want to know more about the AP Calculus AB Exam? Our guide explains the complete format of the test, the question types you'll see, and how to best prepare for the exam. (coming soon)
How many AP classes should you take? Get your answer based on your interests and your college goals.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.