The Calculus Guide For College Students (All Ques Answered!)

This is the most comprehensive calculus guide for college students who are interested in learning about everything related to studying calculus in college.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything ranging from what college calculus is to majors that require you to study calculus in college.

(Including lots of answered questions that have never been shared on any website before.)

Let’s dive right in:

1. What is College Calculus?

College calculus is basically like high school calculus but required to study in half of your time.

College calculus aims to provide a way to derive a relatively simple amount of models of change, and a method to predict the consequences of this quantitative amount of change.

2. What Level is Calculus in College?

Depending on your college, lecturer, college major, and prerequisites at different levels, most colleges have either a 3 or 4-semester sequence for calculus.

Here are the levels where you can take calculus in college:

  • Calculus 1: Covers the “more formulaic” differentiation in the first year of college ie 100L first semester
  • Calculus 2: Covers the “less formulaic” integration in the first year of college ie 100L 2nd semester
  • Calculus 3: Covers series and sequence in the 2nd year of college ie 200L 1st semester
  • Calculus 4: Covers multivariable situations in differentiation and integration, as well as implicit differentiation, integration by parts, partial differentiation, and differential equations (which are not similar topics to differentiation) in the 2nd year of college ie 200L 2nd semester.

3. Do Colleges Have Calculus?

Based on the requirements of your college, and lecturer, Calculus is a subject that is taken in college

If you passed the specified cut-off mark for the AP calculus exam you do not necessarily have to start from calculus I and can defer this class to start from calculus II in college.

4. When Do You Take Calculus in College? 

As a college STEM major, you are expected to take calculus in college if you do not have the AP calculus exams requirement to test out of calculus I class in college.

However, if you do have the AP calculus exams requirements to test out of college calculus, but believe you still do not have a full grasp of calculus, you can decide to enroll for the calculus I class to understand better what calculus entails.

5. Which College Majors Require Calculus?

Calculus is required in college majors where a problem can be solved in a mathematical sense, like in branches of physical sciences, actuarial science, computer science, statistics, engineering, economics, medicine, etc.

6. College Degrees That Don’t Require Calculus

There is a wide variety of college majors that do not require you to take calculus in college.

Here’s a list of some of these college degrees:

  • Journalism
  • Interdisciplinary studies
  • Studio art and art history
  • Performance arts
  • History
  • Foreign language
  • English and comparative literature
  • Religion and Philosophy

7. Why is College Calculus So Hard?

You can find college calculus to be a hard course based on a variety of reasons

Here are some of the reasons why college students find calculus to be a hard subject:

  • The students do not care so much about the course because they aren’t STEM majors
  • The students failed to master algebra well in high school
  • The students can’t think analytically 
  • Failing to allocate sufficient time to study
  • The students lack pre-calculus knowledge
  • Moving to another sequence of calculus without understanding the previous sequence properly
  • Having a poor student-teacher relationship
  • The students lack inexperienced tutors incapable of teaching calculus

8. How To Prepare For College Calculus?

As a freshman planning on taking calculus, having a strong foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and limit theory is the ideal background required in preparing and understanding what college calculus aims to teach you.

You can also go through books that focus on theoretical foundations and concepts, and books that focus on methodologies used in calculus to build up a strong learning foundation.

9. How To Get An ‘A’ in College Calculus?

Getting an ‘A’ in college calculus is a pretty easy feat if you are prepared to pay the necessary price to get the ‘A’.

Here are some steps to take to help you get an ‘A’ in college calculus;

  • Master the basics of precalculus
  • Develop a strong analytical thinking ability
  • Devote time to extra studying after class
  • Understand the first sequence of your calculus class before moving to the next sequence
  • Study with a study group
  • Do all your assignments regularly
  • Do not attempt to miss a single calculus class
  • Practice previous tests and quizzes and test your ability
  • Remember your derivatives
  • Ask questions when you do not understand a concept

10. Which is Harder; Calculus or College Algebra?

College calculus isn’t as easy as algebra as it builds on your pre-existing knowledge of algebra, therefore most college students look at it as an extension of algebra.

However, college calculus is more interesting than algebra as its concepts are easier to understand and relate to the physical environment around us. 

11. Can You Use A Calculator in College Calculus?

Depending on your college and lecturer, you could either be allowed to use a calculator during your calculus classes and examination or not. 

A good piece of advice will be to go through your course requirements before registering to know the level of choice and freedom you have while learning calculus. 

Some lecturers however would prefer to use a Ti calculator or any other calculator without integral functions to explain various lessons during classes.

12. What Calculator Do I Need For College Calculus?

As a college student planning on taking calculus, there are different varieties of calculator brands that offer different functions. 

You should however make sure that you have confirmed the accepted calculator by your lecturer before getting a calculator.

Here is a list of the best calculators to use for calculus in college:

1. TI-84 CE

Best graphing calculator series

The TI-84 CE calculator comes preloaded with over a dozen applications, and has a backlit screen, and is accepted for use in various exams including AP calculus exams.


  • Display: High resolution backlit display
  • Approved exams: PSAT, SAT, ACT, NMBST, AP, IB exams
  • Mathprint feature
  • 7 different graph styles
  • File transfer feature


  • Lightweight
  • Thin form factor
  • Backlit screen
  • Easy to use


  • Longer charging time
  • Expensive to purchase

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2. TI-30 XS

Best multiview scientific calculator

The TI-30 XS multiview calculator allows you to input more than one calculation, compare the calculation results, and study the different patterns all on the screen at the same time.


  • Display: 4-line x 16 characters display
  • Approved exams: SAT, ACT, AP exams
  • Mathprint feature
  • Solar and battery-powered
  • One- and two-variable statistics


  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • User-friendly
  • Handles necessary calculation for calculus classes
  • Good display


  • No integral functions

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3. Casio FX-9860 GII

Best value for money scientific calculator for calculus

The Casio FX-9860 GII is a programmable calculator with a large high-resolution LCD that is useful for a variety of courses ranging from pre-algebra to statistics to calculus, etc. and has expanded functionality.


  • Display: High-resolution LCDenroll
  • Approved exams: PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP exams
  • USB transfer feature
  • Built-in spreadsheet application
  • 200-hours pf battery life


  • Graphs extremely faster than most TI calculators
  • Easy to use
  • Backlit display
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Big screen display
  • Value for money


  • Lacks a large memory

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13. What is a Good Grade in College Calculus?

As a STEM major in college or a business major, etc., a ‘B’ is a good-enough grade in college, but it implies that you have to work harder to be able to scale the next sequences of calculus.

The more important point to note however is whether or not you have been able to understand the course irrespective of your grade. ie either a Grade A, Grade B, or a Grade C can earn you a pass mark to move on to the next class, but an understanding of the course is what will make it easier for you to pass the next calculus class thereafter, and subsequent calculus classes.

14. Can You Test Out of Calculus in College?

Yes, you can test out of your college calculus class 

If your major requires you to take just calculus I in college, you can decide to test out of it or not.

It is however advisable not to test out of your college calculus class even if you’ve taken the AP calculus exam in high school, or a dual-credit calculus I exam as most times, students aren’t taught properly the real concept of calculus, but instead, to pass their exams. 

15. Can I Take Calculus Without College Algebra?

Yes, you can take calculus in college without college algebra.

However, skipping your college algebra class altogether makes it harder for you to understand class presentations and textbooks while studying, keeping you at a disadvantage as compared to your classmates who took the class you skipped.

16. Can I Take Calculus in Community College?

Yes, you can take calculus in community College, and even get a transferable credit for it if you do reach the specified requirements of your higher institution.

However, you should note that you wouldn’t be learning so much as most community colleges only teach introductory calculus courses, which is a much lower course level than even the AP calculus exams.

17. Does College Algebra Prepare You For Calculus?

Yes, college algebra does prepare you for calculus in college.

Most colleges require you to have taken college algebra I, college algebra II,  and precalculus classes before taking calculus I. 

18. Does Everyone Have To Take Calculus in College?

No, not everyone in college has to take calculus, as most higher institutions have different programs in different varieties of disciplines, many of which do not require you to take calculus in college.

Only when you are a STEM major can you then decide whether to satisfy your course requirements by taking the SATs or the AP calculus exams in high school so that you can test out of calculus class, or to take the course in college irrespective. 

19. What Do You Learn in College Calculus?

Calculus generally aims to connect algebra and arithmetic to a basic understanding of how things around us change and accumulate.

In college calculus, there are either 3- or 4-sequence calculus classes based on your higher institution and they all aim to teach you differentiation, integration, series and sequence, and multivariable situations in differentiation and integration.

You also learn implicit differentiation, integration by parts, partial differentiation, and differential equations, as well as the application of these topics in our day-to-day activities.

20. Is AP Calculus The Same As College Calculus?

No, AP calculus isn’t the same as college calculus. 

AP calculus can be broken down into two; AP calculus AB and AP Calculus BC. AP Calculus AB is similar to college calculus I, while AP calculus BC is similar to college calculus II.

However, one thing to note is that AP calculus isn’t as in-depth as college calculus. 

Also, most students take the AP calculus exams to seek an advantage in the competitive admissions race, making the student prepare to “pass”, and not “learn” which is why freshman students are advised to take college calculus class again even if they meet the AP calculus exam requirement to test out of their calculus class.

21. Is College Calculus Based on Physics?

No, college calculus isn’t wholly based on physics. 

In learning calculus, you could decide to only master the concepts alone. 

However, both calculus and physics overlap, and if you are required to further your calculus knowledge as part of your major requirements, you will notice that both courses require you to use the other.

22. Does College Algebra Include Calculus?

No, college algebra doesn’t include calculus.

Instead, college algebra is intended as a prerequisite for calculus I in college as it covers pre-calculus related topics that are quite related to algebra, and helps to prepare you for your calculus class in college.