Parametric and Vector Equations (Type 8)

AP Questions Type 8: Parametric and Vector Equations (BC Only)

The parametric/vector equation questions only concern motion in a plane. Other topics, such as dot product and cross product, are not tested.

In the plane, the position of a moving object as a function of time, t, can be specified by a pair of parametric equations \displaystyle x=x\left( t \right)\text{ and }y=y\left( t \right) or the equivalent vector \displaystyle \left\langle {x\left( t \right),y\left( t \right)} \right\rangle . The path is the curve traced by the parametric equations or the tips of the position vector. .

The velocity of the movement in the x- and y-direction is given by the vector \displaystyle \left\langle {{x}'\left( t \right),{y}'\left( t \right)} \right\rangle . The vector sum of the components gives the direction of motion. Attached to the tip of the position vector this vector is tangent to the path pointing in the direction of motion.

The length of this vector is the speed of the moving object. Speed = \displaystyle \sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {{y}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}. (Notice that this is the same as the speed of a particle moving on the number line with one less parameter: On the number line speed \displaystyle =\left| {v\left( t \right)} \right|=\sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}.)

The acceleration is given by the vector \displaystyle \left\langle {{x}''\left( t \right),{y}''\left( t \right)} \right\rangle .

What students should know how to do:

  • Vectors may be written using parentheses, ( ), or pointed brackets, \displaystyle \left\langle {} \right\rangle , or even \displaystyle \vec{i},\vec{j} form. The pointed brackets seem to be the most popular right now, but all common notations are allowed and will be recognized by readers.
  • Find the speed at time t: Speed = \displaystyle \sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {{y}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}.
  • Use the definite integral for arc length to find the distance traveled \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {{x}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {{y}'\left( t \right)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}. Notice that this is the integral of the speed (rate times time = distance).
  • The slope of the path is \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}}=\frac{{{y}'\left( t \right)}}{{{x}'\left( t \right)}}. See this post for more on finding the first and second derivatives with respect to x.
  • Determine when the particle is moving left or right,
  • Determine when the particle is moving up or down,
  • Find the extreme position (farthest left, right, up, down, or distance from the origin).
  • Given the position find the velocity by differentiating.
  • Given the velocity, find the acceleration by differentiating.
  • Given the acceleration and the velocity at some point find the velocity by integrating.
  • Given the velocity and the position at some point find the position by integrating. These are just initial value differential equation problems (IVP).
  • Dot product and cross product are not tested on the BC exam, nor are other aspects.

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


Free-response questions:

  • 2012 BC 2
  • 2016 BC 2
  • 2021 BC 2
  • 2022 BC2 – slope of tangent line, speed, position, total distance traveled

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams

  • 2003 BC 4, 7, 17, 84
  • 2008 BC 1, 5, 28
  • 2012 BC 2

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


Revised March 12, 2021, April 5, and May 14, 2022

Other Problems (Type 7)

AP Questions Type 7: Other topics 

Any topic in the Course and Exam Description may be the subject of a free-response or multiple-choice question. The topics discussed here are not asked often enough to be classified as a type of their own. The topics listed here have been the subject of full free-response questions or major parts of them. Other topics occasionally asked are mentioned in the question list at the end of the post.

Implicitly defined relations and implicit differentiation

These questions may ask students to find the first and/or second derivative of an implicitly defined relation. Often the derivative is given, and students are required to show that it is correct. (This is because without the correct derivative the rest of the question cannot be done.) The follow-up is to answer questions about the function such as finding an extreme value, second derivative test, or find where the tangent is horizontal or vertical.

What students should know how to do

  • Know how to find the first derivative of an implicit relation using the product rule, quotient rule, chain rule, etc.
  • Know how to find the second derivative, including substituting for the first derivative.
  • Know how to evaluate the first and second derivative by substituting both coordinates of a given point. (Note: If all that is needed is the numerical value of the derivative then the substitution is often easier done before solving for dy/dx or d2y/dx2, and as usual the arithmetic need not be done.)
  • Analyze the derivative to determine where the relation has horizontal and/or vertical tangents.
  • Write and work with lines tangent to the relation.
  • Find extreme values. It may also be necessary to show that the point where the derivative is zero is actually on the graph and to justify the answer.

Simpler questions about implicit differentiation may appear on the multiple-choice sections of the exam.

Example:

Implicit Differentiation,

Good Question 17

2004 AB 4

2016 BC 4

2012 AB 27 (implicit differentiation), Multiple-choice

2022 AB 5 (a) Implicit differentiation,

BC classes see Implicit differentiation of parametric equations, and A Vector’s Derivative

Related Rates 

Derivatives are rates and when more than one variable is changing over time the relationships among the rates can be found by differentiating with respect to time. The time variable may not appear in the equations. These questions appear occasionally on the free-response sections; if not there, then a simpler version may appear in the multiple-choice sections. In the free-response sections they may be an entire problem, but more often appear as one or two parts of a longer question.

What students should know how to do

  • Set up and solve related rate problems.
  • Be familiar with the standard type of related rate situations, but also be able to adapt to different contexts.
  • Know how to differentiate with respect to time. That is, find dy/dt even if there is no time variable in the given equations using any of the differentiation techniques.
  • Interpret the answer in the context of the problem.
  • Unit analysis.

Shorter questions on this concept also appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find.

For previous posts on related rates see Related Rate Problems I and Related Rate Problems II.

Examples

 2014 AB4/BC4,

2016 AB5/BC5

2019 AB 4 Related Rate

2019 AB 6

2022 AB2 (d), AB4/BC4 (d) Good example that requires using product and evaluation of an expression that include dr/dt and dh/dt.

Good Question 9


Family of Functions

A “family of functions” is defined by an equation with a parameter (sort of an extra variable). Changing the parameter gives a different but similar curve. Questions should be answered in general, that is, in terms of the parameter not a specific value of the parameter. These questions appeared on some exams long ago, may be making a comeback.

Examples:

1995 BC 5

1996 AB4/BC4

Good Question 5: 1998 AB2/BC2

2019 BC 5


Other Topics

Free response questions (many of the BC questions are suitable for AB)

  • Finding derivatives using the chain rule, the quotient rule, etc. from tables of values: 2016 AB 6 and 2015 AB 6
  • L’Hospital’s Rule 2016 BC 4, 2019 AB 3 (Don’t be fooled), 2019 AB 4(c)
  • Continuity and piecewise defined functions: 2012 AB 4, 2011 AB 6 and 2014 BC 5
  • Arc length (BC Topic) 2014 BC 5
  • Partial fractions (BC Topic) 2015 BC 5
  • Improper integrals (BC topic): 2017 BC 5, 2022 BC5 (c)

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams:

  • 2012 AB 27 (implicit differentiation), 77 (IVT), 88 (related rate)
  • 2012 BC 4 (Curve length), 7 (Implicit differentiation), 11 (continuity/differentiability), 12 (Implicit differentiation), 77 (dominance), 82 (average value), 85 (related rate) , 92 (compositions)

These questions may come from any of the Units in the CED.


Revised March 12, 2021, April 1, and May 14, 2022


Differential Equations (Type 6)

AP Questions Type 6: Differential Equations

Differential equations are tested in the free-response section of the AP exams almost every year. The actual solving of the differential equation is usually the main part of the problem accompanied by a related question such as a slope field or a tangent line approximation. BC students may also be asked to approximate using Euler’s Method. Several parts of the BC questions are often suitable for AB students and contribute to the AB sub-score of the BC exam. This topic may also appear in the multiple-choice sections of the exams. What students should be able to do
  • Find the general solution of a differential equation using the method of separation of variables (this is the only method tested).
  • Find a particular solution using the initial condition to evaluate the constant of integration – initial value problem (IVP).
  • Determine the domain restrictions on the solution of a differential equation. See this post for more on the domain of a differential equation.
  • Understand that proposed solution of a differential equation is a function (not a number) and if it and its derivative are substituted into the given differential equation the resulting equation is true. This may be part of doing the problem even if solving the differential equation is not required (see 2002 BC 5 – parts a, b and d are suitable for AB)
  • Growth-decay problems.
  • Draw a slope field by hand.
  • Sketch a particular solution on a given slope field.
  • Interpret a slope field.
  • Multiple-choice: Given a differential equation, identify is slope field.
  • Multiple-choice: Given a slope field identify its differential equation.
  • Use the given derivative to analyze a function such as finding extreme values
  • For BC only: Use Euler’s Method to approximate a solution.
  • For BC only: use the method of partial fractions to find the antiderivative after separating the variables.
  • For BC only: understand the logistic growth model, its asymptotes, meaning, etc. The exams so far, have never asked students to actually solve a logistic equation IVP
Look at the scoring standards to learn how the solution of the differential equation is scored, and therefore, how students should present their answer. This is usually the one free-response answer with the most points riding on it. Starting in 2016 the scoring has changed slightly. The five points are now distributed this way:
  • one point for separating the variables
  • one point each for finding the antiderivatives
  • one point for including the constant of integration and using the initial condition – that is, for writing “+ C” on the paper with one of the antiderivatives and substituting the initial condition; finding the value of C is included in the “answer point.” (In the older exams one point was earned for writing the +C and another point for using the initial condition.)
  • one point for solving for y: the “answer point”, for the correct answer. This point includes all the algebra and arithmetic in the problem including solving for C.
In the past, the domain of the solution was often included on the scoring standard, but unless it was specifically asked for in the question students did not need to include it. However, the CED. lists “EK 3.5A3 Solutions to differential equations may be subject to domain restrictions.” Perhaps this will be asked in the future. For more on domain restrictions with examples see this post. Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find. For some previous posts on differential equations see January 5, 2015, and for post on related subjects see November 26, 2012, January 21, 2013, February 16, 2013 The Differential Equation question covers topics in Unit 7 of the CED.
Free-response examples:
  • 2019 There was no DE question in the free-response. You may assume the topic was tested in the multiple-choice sections.
  • 2017 AB4/BC4,
  • 2016 AB 4, BC 4, (different questions)
  • 2015 AB4/BC4,
  • 2013 BC 5
  • and a favorite Good Question 2 and Good Question 2 Continued
  • 2021 AB 6, BC 5 (b), (c)
  • 2022 AB5 – sketch solution on slope field, tangent line approximation, solve separable equation.
Multiple-choice examples from non-secure exams:
  • 2012 AB 23, 25
  • 2012 BC: 12, 14, 16, 23

Previous posts on these topics for both AB and BC include:

Differential Equations  A summary of the terms and techniques of differential equations and the method of separation of variables Domain of a Differential Equation – On domain restrictions. Accumulation and Differential Equations  Slope Fields An Exploration in Differential Equations An exploration illustrating many of the ideas of differential equations. The exploration is here in PDF form and the solution is here. The ideas include: finding the general solution of the differential equation by separating the variables, checking the solution by substitution, using a graphing utility to explore the solutions for all values of the constant of integration, finding the solutions’ horizontal and vertical asymptotes, finding several particular solutions, finding the domains of the particular solutions, finding the extreme value of all solutions in terms of C, finding the second derivative (implicit differentiation), considering concavity, and investigating a special case or two.

Previous Posts on BC Only Topics

Euler’s Method Euler’s Method for Making Money The Logistic Equation  Logistic Growth – Real and Simulated


Revised 2/20/2021, March 29, May 14, 2022

Riemann Sum & Table Problems (Type 5)

AP Questions Type 5: Riemann Sum & Table Problems

Information given in tables may be used to test a variety of ideas in calculus including analysis of functions, accumulation, theory and theorems, and position-velocity-acceleration, among others. Numbers and working with numbers are part of the Rule of Four and table problems are one way they are tested. This question often includes an equation in a latter part of the problem that refers to the same situation.

 What students should be able to do:

  • Find the average rate of change over an interval
  • Approximate the derivative using a difference quotient. Use the two values closest to the number at which you are approximating.  This amounts to finding the slope or rate of change. Show the quotient even if you can do the arithmetic in your head and even if the denominator is 1.
  • Use a left-, right-, or midpoint- Riemann sums or a trapezoidal approximation to approximate the value of a definite integral using values in the table (typically with uneven subintervals). The Trapezoidal Rule, per se, is not required; it is expected that students will add the areas of a small number of trapezoids without reference to a formula.
  • Average value, average rate of change, Rolle’s theorem, the Mean Value Theorem, and the Intermediate Value Theorem. (See 2007 AB 3 – four simple parts that could be multiple-choice questions; the mean on this question was 0.96 out of a possible nine points.)
  • These questions are usually presented in context and answers should be in that context. The context may be something growing (changing over time) or linear motion.
  • Use the table to find a value based on the Mean Value Theorem (2018 AB 4(b)) or Intermediate Value Theorem. Also, 2018 AB 4 (d) asked a related question based on a function given by an equation.
  • Unit analysis.

Dos and Don’ts

Do: Remember that you do not know what happens between the values in the table unless additional information is given. For example, do not assume that the largest number in the table is the maximum value of the function, or that the function is decreasing between two values just because a value is less than the preceding value.

Do: Show what you are doing even if you can do it in your head. If you’re finding a slope, show the quotient even if the denominator is 1.

Do Not do arithmetic: A long expression consisting entirely of numbers such as you get when doing a Riemann sum, does not need to be simplified in any way. If you simplify a correct answer incorrectly, you will lose credit.

Do Not leave expression such as R(3) – pull its numerical value from the table.

Do Not: Find a regression equation and then use that to answer parts of the question. While regression is perfectly good mathematics, regression equations are not one of the four things students may do with their calculator. Regression gives only an approximation of our function. The exam is testing whether students can work with numbers.


This question typically covers topics from Unit 6 of the CED but may include topics from Units 2, 3, and 4 as well.


Free-response examples:

  • 2007 AB 3 (4 simple parts on various theorems, yet the mean score was 0.96 out of 9),
  • 2017 AB 1/BC 1, and AB 6,
  • 2016 AB 1/BC 1
  • 2018 AB 4
  • 2021 AB 1/ BC 1
  • 2022 AB4/BC4 – average rate of change, IVT, Rieman sum, Related Rate (part (d) good question)

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams:

  • 2012 AB 8, 86, 91
  • 2012 BC 8, 81, 86 (81 and 86 are the same on both the AB and BC exams)

Revised March 12, 2021, March 25, 2022


Area and Volume Problems (Type 4)

AP Type Questions 4: Area and Volume

Given equations that define a region in the plane students are asked to find its area, the volume of the solid formed when the region is revolved around a line, and/or the region is used as a base of a solid with regular cross-sections. This standard application of the integral has appeared every year since year one (1969) on the AB exam and almost every year on the BC exam. You can be fairly sure that if a free-response question on areas and volumes does not appear, the topic will be tested on the multiple-choice section.

What students should be able to do:

  • Find the intersection(s) of the graphs and use them as limits of integration (calculator equation solving). Write the equation followed by the solution; showing work is not required. Usually, no credit is earned until the solution is used in context (e.g., as a limit of integration). Students should know how to store and recall these values to save time and avoid copy errors.
  • Find the area of the region between the graph and the x-axis or between two graphs.
  • Find the volume when the region is revolved around a line, not necessarily an axis or an edge of the region, by the disk/washer method. See “Subtract the Hole from the Whole”
  • The cylindrical shell method will never be necessary for a question on the AP exams but is eligible for full credit if properly used.
  • Find the volume of a solid with regular cross-sections whose base is the region between the curves. For an interesting variation on this idea see 2009 AB 4(b)
  • Find the equation of a vertical line that divides the region in half (area or volume). This involves setting up an integral equation where the limit is the variable for which the equation is solved.
  • For BC only – find the area of a region bounded by polar curves: \displaystyle A=\frac{1}{2}{{\int_{{{{\theta }_{1}}}}^{{{{\theta }_{2}}}}{{\left( {r\left( \theta \right)} \right)}}}^{2}}d\theta
  • For BC only – Find perimeter using arc length integral

If this question appears on the calculator active section, it is expected that the definite integrals will be evaluated on a calculator. Students should write the definite integral with limits on their paper and put its value after it. It is not required to give the antiderivative and if a student gives an incorrect antiderivative, they will lose credit even if the final answer is (somehow) correct.

There is a calculator program available that will give the set-up and not just the answer so recently this question has been on the no calculator allowed section. (The good news is that in this case the integrals will be easy, or they will be set-up-but-do-not-integrate questions.)

Occasionally, other type questions have been included as a part of this question. See 2016 AB5/BC5 which included an average value question and a related rate question along with finding the volume.

Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find.

For some previous posts on this subject see January 911, 2013 and “Subtract the Hole from the Whole” of December 6, 2016.


The Area and Volume question covers topics from Unit 6 of the CED .


Free-response questions:

  • Variations: 2009 AB 4, Don’t overlook this one, especially part (b)
  • 2016 AB5/BC5,
  • 2017 AB 1 (using a table),
  • 2018 AB 5 – average rate of change, L’Hospital’s Rule
  • 2019 AB 5
  • Perimeter parametric curves 2011 BC 3 and 2014 BC 5
  • Area in polar form 2017 BC 5, 2018 BC 5, 20129 BC 2
  • 2021 AB 4/ BC 4
  • 2022 AB2 – area, volume, inc/dec analysis, and related rate.

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exams:

  • 2008 AB 83 (Use absolute value),
  • 2012 AB 10, 92
  • 2012 BC 87, 92 (Polar area)

Revised March 12, 2012, March 22, 2022


Graph Analysis Questions (Type 3)

AP  Questions Type 3: Graph Analysis

The long name is “Here’s the graph of the derivative, tell me things about the function.”

Students are given either the equation of the derivative of a function or a graph identified as the derivative of a function with no equation is given. It is not expected that students will write the equation of the function from the graph (although this may be possible); rather, students are expected to determine key features of the function directly from the graph of the derivative. They may be asked for the location of extreme values, intervals where the function is increasing or decreasing, concavity, etc. They may be asked for function values at points. They will be asked to justify their conclusions.

The graph may be given in context and students will be asked about that context. The graph may be identified as the velocity of a moving object and questions will be asked about the motion. See Linear Motion Problems (Type 2)

Less often the function’s graph may be given, and students will be asked about its derivatives.

What students should be able to do:

  • Read information about the function from the graph of the derivative. This may be approached by derivative techniques or by antiderivative techniques.
  • Find and justify where the function is increasing or decreasing.
  • Find and justify extreme values (1st and 2nd derivative tests, Closed interval test a/k/a Candidates’ test).
  • Find and justify points of inflection.
  • Find slopes (second derivatives, acceleration) from the graph.
  • Write an equation of a tangent line.
  • Evaluate Riemann sums from geometry of the graph only. This usually involves familiar shapes such as triangles or semicircles.
  • FTC: Evaluate integral from the area of regions on the graph.
  • FTC: The function, g(x), may be defined by an integral where the given graph is the graph of the integrand, f(t), so students should know that if,

\displaystyle g\left( x \right)=g\left( a \right)+\int_{a}^{x}{{f\left( t \right)dt}}, then  \displaystyle {g}'\left( x \right)=f\left( x \right)  and  \displaystyle {g}''\left( x \right)={f}'\left( x \right).

In this case, students should write \displaystyle {g}'\left( x \right)=f\left( x \right) on their answer paper, so it is clear to the reader that they understand this.

Not only must students be able to identify these things, but they are usually asked to justify their answer and reasoning. See Writing on the AP Exams for more on justifying and explaining answers.

There are numerous ideas and concepts that can be tested with this type of question. The type appears on the multiple-choice exams as well as the free-response. Between multiple-choice and free-response this topic may account for 15% or more of the points available on recent tests. It is very important that students are familiar with all the ins and outs of this situation.

As with other questions, the topics tested come from the entire year’s work, not just a single unit. In my opinion many textbooks do not do a good job with integrating these topics, so be sure to use as many actual AP Exam questions as possible. Study past exams: look them over and see the different things that can be asked.

The Graph Analysis problem may cover topics primarily from primarily from Unit 4, Unit 5, and Unit 8 of the CED 

For previous posts on this subject see October 1517192426 (my most read post), 2012 and January 2528, 2013

Free-response questions:

  • Function given as a graph, questions about its integral (so by FTC the graph is the derivative):  2016 AB 3/BC 3, 2018 AB3
  • Table and graph of function given, questions about related functions: 2017 AB 6,
  • Derivative given as a graph: 2016 AB 3 and 2017 AB 3
  • Information given in a table 2014 AB 5
  • 2021 AB 4 / BC 4
  • 2021 AB 5 (b), (c), (d)
  • 2022 AB3/BC3 – graph analysis, max/min

Multiple-choice questions from non-secure exam. Notice the number of questions all from the same year; this is in addition to one free-response question (~25 points on AB and ~23 points on BC out of 108 points total)

  • 2012 AB: 2, 5, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 26, 76, 78, 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87
  • 2012 BC 3, 11, 12, 15, 12, 18, 21, 76, 78, 80, 81, 84, 88, 89

A good activity on this topic is here. The first pages are the teacher’s copy and solution. Then there are copies for Groups A, B, and C. Divide your class into 3 or 6 or 9 groups and give one copy to each. After they complete their activity have the students compare their results with the other groups.


Revised March 12, 2021, March 18, 2022


Linear Motion (Type 2)

AP Questions Type 2: Linear Motion

We continue the discussion of the various type questions on the AP Calculus Exams with linear motion questions.

“A particle (or car, person, or bicycle) moves on a number line ….”

These questions may give the position equation, the velocity equation (most often), or the acceleration equation of something that is moving on the x– or y-axis as a function of time, along with an initial condition. The questions ask for information about the motion of the particle: its direction, when it changes direction, its maximum position in one direction (farthest left or right), its speed, etc.

The particle may be a “particle,” a person, car, a rocket, etc.  Particles don’t really move in this way, so the equation or graph should be considered a model. The question is a versatile way to test a variety of calculus concepts since the position, velocity, or acceleration may be given as an equation, a graph, or a table; be sure to use examples of all three forms during the review.

Many of the concepts related to motion problems are the same as those related to function and graph analysis (Type 3). Stress the similarities and show students how the same concepts go by different names. For example, finding when a particle is “farthest right” is the same as finding when a function reaches its “absolute maximum value.” See my post for Motion Problems: Same Thing, Different Context for a list of these corresponding terms. There is usually one free-response question and three or more multiple-choice questions on this topic.

The positions(t), is a function of time. The relationships are:

  • The velocity is the derivative of the position \displaystyle {s}'\left( t \right)=v\left( t \right).  Velocity has direction (indicated by its sign) and magnitude. Technically, velocity is a vector; the term “vector” will not appear on the AB exam.
  • Speed is the absolute value of velocity; it is a number, not a vector. See my post for Speed.
  • Acceleration is the derivative of velocity and the second derivative of position, \displaystyle {{s}'}'\left( t \right)={v}'\left( t \right)=a\left( t \right) It, too, has direction and magnitude and is a vector.
  • Velocity is the antiderivative of acceleration.
  • Position is the antiderivative of velocity.

What students should be able to do:

  • Understand and use the relationships above.
  • Distinguish between position at some time and the total distance traveled during the time period.
  • The total distance traveled is the definite integral of the speed (absolute value of velocity) \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{{\left| {v\left( t \right)} \right|dt}}.
  •  Be sure your students understand the term displacement; it is the net distance traveled or distance between the initial position and the final position. Displacement is the definite integral of the velocity (rate of change): \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{{v\left( t \right)dt}}
  • The final position is the initial position plus the displacement (definite integral of the rate of change from xa to x = t): \displaystyle s\left( t \right)=s\left( a \right)+\int_{a}^{t}{{v\left( x \right)dx}} Notice that this is an accumulation function equation (Type 1).
  • Initial value differential equation problems: given the velocity or acceleration with initial condition(s) find the position or velocity. These are easily handled with the accumulation equation in the bullet above but may also be handled as an initial value problem.
  • Find the speed at a given time. Speed is the absolute value of velocity.
  • Find average speed, velocity, or acceleration
  • Determine if the speed is increasing or decreasing.
    • When the velocity and acceleration have the same sign, the speed increases. When they have different signs, the speed decreases.
    • If the velocity graph is moving away from (towards) the t-axis the speed is increasing (decreasing). See the post on Speed.
    • There is also a worksheet on speed here
    • The analytic approach to speed: A Note on Speed
  • Use a difference quotient to approximate the derivative (velocity or acceleration) from a table. Be sure the work shows a quotient.
  • Riemann sum approximations.
  • Units of measure.
  • Interpret meaning of a derivative or a definite integral in context of the problem

Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find.

This may be an AB or BC question. The BC topic of motion in a plane, (Type 8: parametric equations and vectors) will be discussed in a later post.

The Linear Motion problem may cover topics primarily from primarily from Unit 4, and also from Unit 3, Unit 5, Unit 6, and Unit 8 (for BC) of the CED

Free-response examples:

  • Equation stem 2017 AB 5,
  • Graph stem: 2009 AB1/BC1,
  • Table stem 2019 AB2
  • Equation stem 2021 AB 2
  • Equation stem 2022 AB6 – velocity, acceleration, position, max/min

Multiple-choice examples from non-secure exams:

  • 2012 AB 6, 16, 28, 79, 83, 89
  • 2012 BC 2, 89


Revised March 15, and May 11, 2022