Regarding calculus

Let's talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room

First year calculus looks a bit tough on the surface.Did you know that throughout North America, the success rate for first-year calculus is around 50%? Daunting statistic? You bet. Have you heard the urban myth that universities fail a large number of students in calculus no matter what marks they get?  

This is completely false. What is true is that first year calculus comes with a lot of academic challenges for a student. Here's a fact - a large percentage of students successfully complete first year calculus. If you prefer to land on the right side of this statistic, there are some things you can do to get ready for calculus.

If you are planning on a degree in the Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology), Computer Science, Engineering, or Mathematics, you are more than likely required to take at least one introductory Calculus course. In some cases, you may be taking more advanced calculus courses. Students in non-science programs (BA and BBA) may also be advised to take a calculus course. It is vitally important that all students understand the various 1000 level Math courses at UNB Saint John.

The 1000 level UNB Saint John Math courses include:

1000 Level Math CoursesProgram Requirement
MATH 1001 Calculus for Life Sciences BHS and all BSc Biol / Psyc / Biol-Psyc / Env Biol / Marine majors
MATH 1003 Introduction to Calculus I BSC (non-biology), BScCS, BISc BScFM, BSE
MATH 1013 Introduction to Calculus II BSE, BScCS, BISc, BScFM, and some BSc non-biology majors
MATH 1863 Precalculus Mathematics Not usable for any SASE degree, but may be used to improve basic skills
MATH 1503 Introduction to Linear Algebra BSE, BScCS and some BSc non-biology majors
MATH 1853 Math for Business I Required for BBA

What's the difference between Math 1001 and Math 1003?

Math 1001 Calculus for Life Science is the preferred calculus course for students in BHS or BSc Biology, Marine Biology, Environmental Biology, Psychology, or Biology-Psychology. Math 1003 Intro to Calculus is a traditional introductory first year university calculus course. Math 1003 is genrally used by students in non-biology BSc majors, BSE, BScCS, BScFM, and BISc but Math 1003 MAY be used as a calculus credit for any BSc degree at UNB Saint John.

In the past, all BSc students took Math 1003 Calculus I and Math 1013 Calculus II - a full year of calculus in the first year. Several years ago, SASE reviewed these two courses and realized that students in the various UNB Saint John Biology majors and the Health Science program only required a few of the topics instructed in Math 1013. In response to this, Math 1001 was created for these students.


  • Math 1001 is not "easier" than Math 1003.
  • Students planning for two or more calculus courses at university should follow the Math 1003, 1013 path.
  • Math 1001 with a mark of B or higher may be used to enter Math 1013. 

Can I register for a Math course?

Any student may register for a Math course once the basic prerequisites have been met. The prerequisites for all UNB Saint John courses are listed in the academic calendar.  Most Math courses simply require successful completion of Gr 12 Mathematics.  Try out the sample questions below and register for the Math Readiness Program if you have concerns!

Math 1003 and Math 1001 have specific prerequisites/conditions.

  • You've earned at least 70% on the province-wide Math 122 or Math 120 exam written in your high school in the preceding academic year, and your teacher notified UNB.
  • You passed UNB's Calculus Challenge Exam.
  • Your UNB transcript shows pass (C or better) in any UNB MATH course.
  • Your UNB transcript shows that you once failed MATH1003.

I'm taking Math 1863 Precalculus Math - what does that mean?

Math 1863 Precalculus Math is taken by many students in all disciplines and majors. Math 1863 is a review of Grade 12 mathematics skills which are critical for the successful completion of any intro calculus course. Some students choose to take this course or it may be part of their BSc Entrance Science plan.

Math 1863 is a regular 3ch course - however, those 3ch may not be used toward the total credit hours needed to graduate any SASE related degree (BSc, BSE, BHS, BScCS, BScFM, BISc). More importantly, if a students math skills are lacking Math 1863 may be a necessary step to properly build the math foundation needed for most science degrees. Please note: taking Math 1863 should not put a student off a normal 4 year graduation plan.

How can I have greater success in first year calculus?

Take it seriously - Many students in universities across Canada find first-year calculus difficult. However, the faculty in your department have deemed that the skills involved in calculus are important for the university path you are taking. In many cases, the techniques learned in calculus directly support other topics. 

Pace yourself - University courses proceed at a faster pace than courses in high school. It is easy to fall behind and difficult to catch up, especially if your skills have diminished over the summer.

Prepare - In order to ease the transition from high school to university, we suggest you keep up your mathematical knowledge and skills during the summer.  During the term at lectures, your instructor will introduce and review details of every aspect of the course material.

Be a time manager - The instructor however will only be communicating the main ideas. As the student, you will be expected to do enough work on your own time to make sure you understand the details. Weekly tutorials and office hours visits will provide you with additional help from your instructor. It is recommended that you spend at least 3 hours study and review, for each hour of class time.

You are not in high school anymore - Faculty and staff will not be checking up on you to see if you are keeping up. You are an adult and you should expect to be treated as such. It is important to develop the discipline and organizational skills for wise time management.


  • Understand, don't memorize.
  • Ask why, not how.
  • See every problem as a challenge.
  • Learn techniques, not results.
  • Make sure you understand each topic before going on to the next.

More resources

Preparing for University Calculus at Atlantic Canadian Universities - website prepared by APICS (Atlantic Provinces Council on the Sciences) Committee on Mathematics and Statistics.

Math Placement Test (MPT) Sample Questions - prepared by UNB