About AP Precalculus
About the Course
In AP Precalculus, students explore everyday situations using mathematical tools and lenses. Through regular practice, students build deep mastery of modeling and functions, and they examine scenarios through multiple representations. They will learn how to observe, explore, and build mathematical meaning from dynamic systems, an important practice for thriving in an ever-changing world.
AP Precalculus prepares students for other college-level mathematics and science courses. The framework delineates content and skills common to college precalculus courses that are foundational for careers in mathematics, physics, biology, health science, social science, and data science.
See how AP Precalculus fits into students' mathematics pathways.
Note: This course is not a prerequisite for and does not have to be followed by AP Calculus AB or BC.
"AP Precalculus has the potential to change the landscape of high school mathematics and the transition to college. The course provides an excellent foundation for calculus but also serves as an appropriate capstone mathematics course that will open pathways to success in STEM fields. The curriculum, while remaining true to traditional precalculus topics such as logarithmic and trigonometric functions, includes additional tools and skills such as the use of logarithmic scales, and modeling discrete dynamical systems with matrices. These together with an emphasis on rates of change and applications provide students the mathematical knowledge and skills that will prove tremendously beneficial in biology, chemistry, environmental science, kinesiology, and other sciences."
Michael Boardman, Chief Reader
What Will Students Experience in AP Precalculus?
Modeling Real-World Data: Students will apply the mathematical tools they acquire in real-world modeling situations. By examining scenarios, conditions, and data sets and determining and validating an appropriate function model, students gain a deeper understanding of the nature and behavior of each function type.
Exploring Multiple Representations: Students will examine functions through multiple representations. Students will gain a deeper understanding of functions by examining them graphically, numerically, verbally, and analytically.
Mastering Symbolic Manipulation: Students will develop rigorous symbolic manipulation skills needed for future mathematics courses. Students learn that a single mathematical object can have different analytical representations depending on the function type or coordinate system, and that the different analytical representations reveal different attributes of the mathematical object.
Harnessing a Dynamic World: Students will engage in function building that does not reflect a static view of things but embodies how things change. Every function representation characterizes the way in which values of one variable simultaneously change as the values in another variable change. This study of functions and their graphs as embodying dynamic covariation of quantities prepares students to understand an ever-changing world.
“The AP Precalculus course content leverages research on learning calculus that calls for precalculus to include a focus on students conceptualizing quantities' values and considering how they are related and vary together. Including a focus on exploring how quantities change together allows students to understand and define growth patterns described in applied problems using function formulas and graphs.”
Marilyn Carlson, Arizona State University, Development Committee Member
How We Developed AP Precalculus
Every AP course is designed—and regularly updated—in consultation with college faculty and experienced high school teachers. In an ongoing effort to maintain alignment with best practices in college-level learning, AP courses and exams emphasize research-based curricula aligned with higher education expectations. College faculty and experienced high school teachers guide the development of the AP course framework, which defines what students must know and be able to do to earn a qualifying score on the AP Exam, thus conferring college credit or placement.
As part of the course development process, the AP Program gathered course research through examination of college syllabi, analysis of textbooks and pedagogical research, and content advisory sessions with college faculty. Then, an advisory board and writing team collaborated on the course framework based on these research inputs.
Credit and Placement
Precalculus can fulfill a math requirement at a diverse range of colleges and universities, including the majority of public institutions. The course also offers a valuable tool for guiding math and science placement for newly enrolling students. College Board is working with colleges and universities to expand credit policies and ensure that AP Precalculus sets a strong foundation for college success.
Teachers can continue to use their existing precalculus textbooks and follow along with the course and exam description. They can enroll in an AP Summer Institute (APSI) for AP Precalculus, a four-day professional learning experience that equips teachers with a deep understanding of the course framework, exam, and instructional supports. Additional one-day professional learning workshops will also be available. APSI scholarships will be available to teachers who qualify.
AP students and teachers receive access to AP Classroom, a free, digital instructional resource with through-course supports that include instructional videos, formative assessments, and personalized feedback reports.
AP Precalculus is for any student seeking a third- or fourth-year mathematics course following completion of both Geometry and Algebra 2, or Integrated Math 3. Students who’ve taken these courses at any level have covered all the content necessary for AP Precalculus.
Schools can make the benefits of AP Precalculus broadly available by converting existing sections of precalculus to AP Precalculus.
- Prepares students for calculus and to succeed in both STEM and non-STEM majors. Students who take math all 4 years of high school are 140.5% more likely to be considered “college ready” and “calculus ready.”
- Helps students interested in STEM majors develop an exceptionally strong foundation for calculus, the launchpad for most STEM majors. The most frequent AP Calculus AB Exam scores are 1s and 2s, highlighting the need to better prepare AP Calculus AB students. For female students, taking 1 year of high school precalculus resulted in a 48% increase in the odds of choosing a science or math major, instead of a non-science or non-math major.
- May motivate students interested in non-STEM majors to take a fourth year of math with the opportunity to earn college credit or placement.
Given the benefits of AP Precalculus, teachers, counselors, and administrators should do everything possible to ensure the demographic representation in the AP Precalculus course mirrors their school’s population, eliminating all barriers that discourage students traditionally underrepresented in AP courses from participating.