Inadequate math preparation is the single biggest obstacle to college completion. The Mathematical Association of America has described Americans’ struggle with math as “the most significant barrier” to completing both STEM and other degrees. Students who take precalculus in high school are much more likely to clear that hurdle—increasing their likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree by 155%, a higher boost in degree completion than students taking algebra 2, trigonometry, or calculus.

The power of precalculus is real—and so we’re particularly excited to launch AP Precalculus, which will be available for schools to offer in the 2023–24 academic year with the first AP® Precalculus Exam in May 2024. Students will have the opportunity to earn college credit and/or advanced placement for their hard work in precalculus.

The AP Precalculus course has a unique mission: make the benefits of AP coursework broadly accessible—particularly for those students who’ve never been in an AP course. Taking even one AP course changes student outcomes, greatly improving first-year college GPAs and on-time college graduation rates.

AP Precalculus is designed for any student who has taken geometry and algebra 2 and prepares them—before they graduate from high school—to take the college math and science courses required for most majors. Students who take math all four years of high school are 140.5% more likely to be considered “college ready” and “calculus ready.”

While most high school and college precalculus courses cover the same content, high school precalculus courses give students the benefit of additional time. AP Precalculus supports the development of deeper content knowledge and course skills by providing students with 140 hours of time with their instructor, compared with the 48 they would receive in a traditional college course. AP Precalculus students have access to free resources, including AP Daily videos, to support their learning. Teachers can continue to use their existing textbooks and have access to additional instructional supports and professional learning opportunities.

Because of its application to a variety of college majors, offering AP Precalculus can both enhance schools’ STEM pathways, and provide a robust alternative for students who might be interested in pursuing non-STEM majors. For example:

  • Students starting algebra 1 in 9th grade: Students interested in STEM majors and careers will be better prepared to take calculus in college.

  • Students taking algebra 1 before 9th grade: Taking AP Precalculus before senior year will better prepare students for success in AP Calculus or any subsequent math they may need. Please note: this course is not a prerequisite for and does not have to be followed by AP Calculus AB or BC.

  • Students interested in non-STEM majors: Qualifying AP Precalculus Exam scores can be used to fulfill a college math requirement, so these students can focus on courses most central to their major.

This AP course STEM alignment chart details additional AP course connections, and more information about expanded AP math pathways is also available.

Schools can make the benefits of AP Precalculus broadly available by converting existing sections of precalculus to AP Precalculus. Learn more about this new course that can benefit a wide range of students.

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About the Author

Claire Lorenz is senior director of the Advanced Placement Program and a former high school assistant principal, AP Coordinator, and AP Calculus, algebra 2 and trigonometry teacher. Follow College Board on Twitter (@CollegeBoard).

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