What it’s like: AP Calculus AB


To begin second semester, AP Calculus AB students learn how to find the area under a curve. Photo by AJ Cabrera

As a multi-part series, Whitney Update explores what it’s like in each Advanced Placement course to give students an accurate perspective.

After studying 12 hours for the AP Calculus essential skills final, Andre Modolo still felt nervous for the test.

“I felt like I was gonna throw up,” Modolo said.

AP Calculus is one of the math courses available to seniors, however, anyone who fulfills the prerequisites can take it. The only prerequisite is a passing grade in a precalculus/trigonometry course. There are multiple ways students have satisfied this requirement, such as taking Honors Precalculus on campus or completing online courses or classes at Sierra College.

“It’s a little intense. It’s the first AP class that you can take in math. I think that there is a pretty decent jump in difficulty and expectation from their prior math classes to this one,” Mrs. Lona Armstrong said.

In addition to summer homework, assignments are also assigned to the other four breaks: Thanksgiving, winter break, Presidents Week and spring break. Armstrong recommends spending five to seven hours per week on the class outside of school.

Although the level of difficulty is challenging, Armstrong aims for her students to earn 5’s on the AP exam.

“I barely passed first semester with a C-, but I got a 4 on the exam,” Maddy Cortez said.

In addition, the level of difficulty teaches students to adjust their study habits in a way that makes them successful.

“AB was definitely the hardest class I’ve ever taken. The first few months, it felt like no matter how much time I put into it, I would still get the same results. There was one test I studied probably 20 hours for and still barely passed. Eventually, I learned to study the right way, which I’m glad I gained that skill before going into college. The class also really prepares you for the AP test even if your class grade doesn’t reflect that. It was kind of difficult to balance AB with other classes because it took so much time to study and I had to prioritize the class to do well,” said Sicada Sloan. 

Basically, I would recommend taking AB to anyone that is willing to work hard and learn, otherwise it’s a waste of time

— Sicada Sloan

” said Sicada Sloan.