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Everything You Need to Know About AP Precalculus

This fall, the College Board is rolling out a new AP class: AP Precalculus. It is, in their own words, “a different kind of AP course.” In this article, Director of College Counseling Andrea Satariano discusses why this course has been added, what it means for high school math students, and how we can help.

This fall, the College Board is rolling out a new AP class: AP Precalculus. It is, in their own words, “a different kind of AP course.” AP classes are generally meant to be equivalent to a one-semester college course of the same name and, as you may or may not be aware, precalculus is not typically a college course.

Why is the College Board introducing AP Precalculus?

Precalculus is one of those classes that is a little bit nebulous. It is often, but not always, jointly a trigonometry course. It is sometimes jointly a statistics course. Some precalculus classes focus on reinforcing and expanding on students’ algebra skills. Some dive into limits and start teaching early calculus concepts. Some give students a chance to explore advanced topics like series, matrices, and combinatorics.

As a result, two students who both took precalculus in high school at their respective high schools might be very differently prepared for a calculus class their first year at college. One of the primary goals of AP Precalculus is an attempt at standardization so that colleges know a student who has done well in this class is ready for calculus.

AP Precalculus is also meant to be a path into the AP program for students who may not have started out on that track. Since AP Precalculus is a standardization of precalculus rather than a more advanced version, any student who has taken Geometry and Algebra 2 (or integrated math 3) should be prepared to take it.

For students interested in going into a STEM field, a strong score in AP Precalculus could be a signal to colleges that they are ready for more advanced classes in math and science. For students who aren’t planning to go into STEM, some colleges have indicated that they will give credit for AP Precalculus to fill a general math requirement, something that might usually be filled by a class like College Algebra, in a liberal arts program. The College Board expects to be able to provide more details later this summer about which schools will give credit for AP Precalculus or use it for placement.

So, what does this all mean for students?

The College Board is doing its best to make it easy for schools to adopt AP Precalculus, so if you are signed up for precalculus in the fall there’s a chance it could turn into AP Precalculus. If it does, don’t panic about suddenly having an AP class you weren’t expecting. The exact topics covered might (or might not!) be a little different, but the level of difficulty shouldn’t change significantly.

If you are taking precalculus this coming school year and your school doesn’t decide to adopt AP Precalculus, you have a few options. If you are planning to take another AP math course (AP Calculus AB or BC, or AP Statistics) after precalc, there’s no need to worry about not taking the AP Precalculus test (unless you are just trying to rack up as many as possible).

If you are a senior or are younger but aren’t planning to take one of the higher level AP math courses, and you think having an AP math class could help you with your goals, it might be possible to take the AP test without officially being in an AP class.

If your high school offers other AP classes, there will be an AP Coordinator who you can contact to discuss the possibility of ordering this exam. Some high schools have policies in place regarding ordering exams for classes they do not offer, so be sure you start this process early in the fall, as schools have to order their AP tests in November. If you go this route, you will want to familiarize yourself with the curriculum the College Board provides to make sure you aren’t missing anything and know what to expect from the test. If you want support in this process, our mentors can help!

If your school doesn’t offer any AP classes but you are still interested in taking the AP Precalculus test, it is possible to take it through another school. The College Board has information about how to proceed, including a tool that you can use to identify any local schools that do offer AP exams who might be able to administer the test for you. You will definitely want to start this process sooner rather than later.

Whether you’re taking on the challenge of AP Precalculus next year, hope to take the test after a regular Precalculus class, or could just use some extra support to feel more confident in math, we are here to help with individualized attention from a perfectly matched mentor.

Reach out to us at to be matched with an expert mentor and start your journey to success in AP Precalculus (or whatever math class you may be taking next year)!