AP Calculus Exam Calculator: What's Allowed?

Instructor: Laura Melega
Students have the option of taking up to two Advanced Placement (AP) exams in Calculus: Calculus AB and Calculus BC. Learn what types of calculators are allowed on exam day, which sections of the exam allow calculators, and available resources to help you prepare for the test.

Calculators Allowed on the AP Calculus Exam

The AP Calculus AB and BC exams both allow graphing calculators that have the ability to calculate function derivatives and definite integrals. Calculators can also be used to solve equations numerically and plot the graph of a function.

While calculators are examined before the test begins to ensure that they are approved models, the internal memory will not be cleared on any calculator. Students are allowed to bring up to two approved graphing calculators to any AP Calculus exam. The College Board, which administers the AP Calculus exams, has a comprehensive list of approved calculators on its website.

Calculator Use

Students should read the test instructions carefully to make sure they are showing their work when answering free response questions and not simply listing the correct answer. These types of questions also require students to show the proper steps taken to complete a problem or to provide a mathematical rationale in order to receive full credit.

Exam Format

AP Calculus AB and Calculus BC exams have the same format, though the content is different. Each test takes three hours and 15 minutes and consists of two sections:

No. of QuestionsTime AllottedType of QuestionCalculator Allowed
Section One - Part A2855 min.Multiple Choice No
Section One - Part B1750 min.Multiple ChoiceYes
Section Two - Part A230 min.Free ResponseYes [1]
Section Two - Part B460 min.Free ResponseNo

[#1] Students can work on questions in Section Two, Part A during their allotted time for Part B, but they cannot use their calculators.

Calculator Functions Not Permitted

Scientific calculators that do not have graphing capabilities cannot be used during the exam. The following functions found in some calculator models are also not permitted to be used during an AP Calculus exam:

  • Typewriter keypads, touchscreens, or input through an electronic stylus/pen
  • Wireless/Bluetooth or internet capabilities
  • Camera, scanning, video, audio, or cell phone functions

Preparing for the Exam

If you'd like additional practice working with scientific calculators, Study.com offers instruction in this area through its AP Calculus test prep courses.

In addition to a chapter covering scientific calculator use, the AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC study guides include hundreds of mobile-friendly video lessons and multiple-choice quizzes to help you review sequences and series, graphing basics and the problem-solving steps involved in integral calculus.

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