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Choosing an Appropriate First Math Course

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Math exam scores are not accurate indicators of how a student will do in a UC Berkeley math course, or whether they are prepared to move on to higher level math. High school calculus is often not the same as college calculus. The professor’s expectations of what the students should know and have internalized (and not just memorized) can differ greatly from what high school teachers expected. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Exams got you ready to take college math classes. Having taken these exams does not mean you need to (or should) skip the actual college course. Please use good judgment in selecting your first math class.

Please start by watching this video  

Is it ok to take Math 53 or 54 if I received a 4 or 5 on Calc BC (or at least a 5 on the higher level IB Math exam)?
Students who received a 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC exam (or at least a 5 on the higher level IB Math exam) may consider taking Math 53 or Math 54 instead of Math 1B their first semester at Cal.  There are many Engineering students who score "5" on Calculus BC who perform very poorly in Math 53 and 54 when they skip Math 1B (D or F grades). There are just as many students who do fine if they skip Math 1B.  

To determine if it would be appropriate for you to take Math 53 or 54 without taking Math 1B at Cal, we suggest you take the Math 1B final exams on this page. If you can easily answer the questions, and know that you have a strong mastery of the concepts tested on these exams, skipping Math 1B may be an option for you.  If you can't do some of these problems, if you have only a basic understanding of how to complete the questions, and/or it's been so long since you took Calculus that you don't remember how to do these problems you should take Math 1B.

One other thing that may help you decide. Math 54 (Linear Algebra and Differential Equations) will expect that you have a strong knowledge of ordinary differential equations (first order ODE, population dynamics, second order ODE, oscillation and damping, and series solutions of ODE).  These concepts are taught in the later part of Math 1B. If you skip Math 1B, be sure you know how to do all of the above, as this will be a required basis of knowledge when you get to Math 54.

We will discuss this in more detail at CalSO, but it would help to complete the exams before coming so you have a basic idea of where you stand.

Is it ok to take Math 1B if I received a score of 3 on Math AB or BC?
Students who received a 3 on a Math AP exam may consider taking Math 1B instead of 1A their first semester at Cal.  There are many Engineering students who take Math 1B their first semester who perform very poorly (D or F grades). There are just as many students who do fine if they skip Math 1A.  

To determine if it would be appropriate for you to take Math 1B without taking Math 1A at Cal, we suggest you take the Math 1A final exams on this page. If you can easily answer the questions, and know that you have a strong mastery of the concepts tested on these exams, skipping Math 1A may be an option for you.  If you can't do some of these problems, if you have only a basic understanding of how to complete the questions, and/or it's been so long since you took Calculus that you don't remember how to do these problems you should take Math 1A.

We will discuss this in more detail at CalSO, but it would help to complete the exams before coming so you have a basic idea of where you stand.