Polar Equation Questions (Type 9)

AP  Questions Type 9:  Polar Equations (BC Only)

Ideally, as with parametric and vector functions, polar curves should be introduced and covered thoroughly in a pre-calculus course. Questions on the BC exams have been concerned only with calculus ideas related to polar curves. Students have not been asked to know the names of the various curves (rose curves, limaçons, etc.). The graphs are usually given in the stem of the problem; students are expected to be able to determine which is which if more than one is given. Students should know how to graph polar curves on their calculator, and the simplest by hand. Intersection(s) of two graph may be given or easy to find.

What students should know how to do:

  • Calculate the coordinates of a point on the graph,
  • Find the intersection of two graphs (to use as limits of integration).
  • Find the area enclosed by a graph or graphs: Area =\displaystyle A=\tfrac{1}{2}\int_{{{\theta }_{1}}}^{{{\theta }_{2}}}{(r(}θ\displaystyle ){{)}^{2}}dθ
  • Use the formulas x\left( \theta  \right)\text{ }=~r\left( \theta  \right)\text{cos}\left( \theta  \right)~~\text{and}~y\left( \theta  \right)\text{ }=~r(\theta )\text{sin}\left( \theta  \right)~  to convert from polar to parametric form,
  • Calculate \displaystyle \frac{dy}{d\theta } and \displaystyle \frac{dx}{d\theta } (Hint: use the product rule on the equations in the previous bullet).
  • Discuss the motion of a particle moving on the graph by discussing the meaning of \displaystyle \frac{dr}{d\theta } (motion towards or away from the pole), \displaystyle \frac{dy}{d\theta } (motion in the vertical direction), and/or \displaystyle \frac{dx}{d\theta } (motion in the horizontal direction).
  • Find the slope at a point on the graph, \displaystyle \frac{dy}{dx}=\frac{dy/d\theta }{dx/d\theta }.

When this topic appears on the free-response section of the exam there is no Parametric/vector motion question and vice versa. When not on the free-response section there are one or more multiple-choice questions on polar equations.

Free-response questions:

  • 2013 BC 2
  • 2014 BC 2
  • 2017 BC 2
  • 2018 BC 5
  • 2019 AB 2

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams:

  • 2008 BC 26
  • 2012 BC 26, 91

Other posts on Polar Equations

Polar Basics

Polar Equations for AP Calculus

Extreme Polar Conditions

Polar Equations (Review 2018)





Revised March 12, 2021


This question typically covers topics from Unit 9 of the 2019 CED .

Schedule of future posts for reviewing for the 2019 Exams

Exams for AP Calculus are Tuesday May 5, 2020 at 08:00 local time

NOTE: The type number I’ve assigned to each type DO NOT correspond to the 2019 CED Unit numbers. Many AP Exam questions have parts from different Units. The CED Unit numbers will be referenced in each post.

Tuesday February 25 – AP Exam Review 2020 
Friday, February 28 – Reviewing Resources 2020
Tuesday March 3, 2020: Rate and accumulation questions (Type 1) 
Friday March 6, 2020: Linear motion problems (Type 2) 
Tuesday March 10, 2020: Graph analysis problems (Type 3)
Friday March 13, 2020: Area and volume problems (Type 4)
Tuesday March 17, 2020: Table and Riemann sum questions (Type 5)
Friday March 20, 2020: Differential equation questions (Type 6)
Tuesday March 24, 2020: Other questions (Type 7)
Friday March 27, 2020: Parametric and vector questions (Type 8) BC topic
Tuesday March 31, 2020: Polar equations questions (Type 9) BC Topic
Friday April 3, 2020: Sequences and Series questions (Type 10) BC Topic









1 thought on “Polar Equation Questions (Type 9)

  1. Pingback: Pacing for AP Calculus | Teaching Calculus

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