Succeeding in a Calculus Course

Preparing for a calculus class is only half of the equation; once admitted or enrolled in the course, you also need to be able to keep up. Listed here are the steps that will help you succeed in your calculus class. 

Study Prerequisites

It is crucial that you have mastery of the prerequisites for the course. Take the time to refresh and reinforce those skills. Especially early on, making sure that you fully understand the course material and the topics that the course builds upon will certainly benefit you later in the course. Small gaps in understanding or errors can widen into larger conceptual misunderstandings as new content builds off previous ideas. Prevention is the best strategy. Check out our article on How to Prepare for a Calculus Class to learn more about prerequisites. 

Focus on the Larger Picture

Calculus emphasizes conceptual fluency over dense calculation and computational skills. As most of the tools introduced (such as limits, derivatives, and integrals) are new, the point of the course is to develop fluency in applying them, especially to real-world problems. Asking “why does this work like this” can give you a better understanding of techniques, which you can later apply in computation. A conceptual grasp of derivatives, for example, can lead to an easy understanding of how to apply them to Related Rates and Optimization problems. 

Study for AP exams on top of coursework

Many students, regardless of enrollment in an AP class, decide to take either the AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC exam. In order to excel on either of these, practice and repetition are necessary to build understanding. While taking the course, it is important to supplement what you’re learning in order to prepare for the distinct style of the AP exams. To study for the AP exams, it’s useful to get familiar with the format and structure of the questions—especially the Free Response Questions (we have a useful video series for studying these FRQs). We recommend practicing using sets of AP-style questions on I Acec Calculus App.

Collaborate With Others and Seek Help

In our article, “How to Prepare for the Calculus Course,” we discuss many useful study strategies. Meetings with your instructor, private tutoring, study groups, and more offer support with learning. Individual meetings and smaller groups are especially useful when asking questions in class can seem intimidating. In a one-on-one meeting with one of our tutors, you can review any material you have trouble with and work on your particular areas of growth. Learn more about our tutors here: I Aced Calculus Tutors.