A lot of students report that the multiple choice part of the AP Calc exam went fine, whether AB or BC, but the free response section…

“I did know all the topics inside and out on the multiple choice…”

“I got so flustered by the free response…”

“Stumped and no idea what to do.”

“A downward spiral from there.”

“I didn’t know where to find the formula so I said f*** this.”

“Looked like absolutely nothing we were supposed to have memorized.”

“It wasn’t anything we were supposed to memorize.”

“After that free response, there’s absolutely no way I can get a 5 now.”

“Now I feel like an idiot.”

Instead you want to be the students saying, “I think they were well-designed questions ‘cause all of them could be simplified to easier types of questions.” You need a few things for the free response question that you don’t need for multiple choice:

  • Insight (what’s the easier type of problem?)
  • Creativity (how can I transform this?)
  • Skills in writing up your solution, so the grader says, “Amazing!” instead of, “What… is this kid trying to say? “

(Yeah, I’ve talked to some AP math graders.)

Want to avoid the shame spiral above?

  • Check out my articles on sticking the landing, reverse-engineering the grader’s desires, and finding the problem-solving path.
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