All You Need To Know About Advanced Placement (AP) Physics

All You Need To Know About Advanced Placement AP Physics

Introduction

Physics is an exciting subject that helps us understand the natural world, from the tiniest particles to the vast universe. For high school students who want to explore this field deeply, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are a great opportunity. The College Board offers four different AP Physics courses, each designed to cater to various interests and academic levels. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of these four AP Physics courses. All the AP Physics courses for the May 2025 Exam have undergone some changes. We have incorporated these changes below. 

AP Physics Courses

The table below will provide a comprehensive overview of each of these courses, helping you understand their prerequisites, what you can expect to learn, and the structure of the exam. 

AP Physics Exam Units Covered Prerequisite Exam Structure
AP Physics-1
  • Kinematics
  • Force and Translational Dynamics
  • Work, Energy, and Power
  • Linear Momentum
  • Torque and Rotational Dynamics
  • Energy and Momentum of Rotating Systems
  • Oscillations
  • Fluids
  • Designed to be a first-year physics course that students can take without prior physics experience. 
  • Students should have completed geometry and be concurrently taking Algebra II or an equivalent course. 

Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

  • Number of Questions: 40 questions (decreased from 50)
  • Duration: 80 minutes (decrease from 90 minutes)
  • Options: multi-select questions removed.

Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

  • Number of Questions: 4 questions (decrease from 5)
  • Duration: 100 minutes (increased from 90 minutes)
AP Physics-2
  • Thermodynamics 
  • Electric Force, Field, and Potential 
  • Electric Circuits 
  • Magnetism and Electromagnetism
  • Geometric Optics
  • Waves, Sound, and Physical Optics 
  • Modern Physics
  • Students should have completed AP Physics 1 or a comparable introductory physics course. 
  • Students must have taken or been concurrently taking pre-calculus or an equivalent course.

Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

  • Number of Questions: 40 questions (decreased from 50)
  • Duration: 80 minutes (decrease from 90 minutes)
  • Options: multi-select questions removed.

Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

  • Number of Questions: 4 questions 
  • Duration: 100 minutes (increased from 90 minutes)
AP Physics C: Mechanics
  • Kinematics
  • Force and Translational Dynamics
  • Work, Energy, and Power
  • Linear Momentum
  • Torque and Rotational Dynamics
  • Energy and Momentum of Rotating Systems
  • Oscillations 
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics is the advanced version of AP Physics 1, which uses calculus. 
  • Students should have taken or been concurrently taking calculus courses. 

 

Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

  • Number of Questions: 40 questions (increased from 35)
  • Duration: 80 minutes (increased from 45 minutes)
  • Options: 4 options per question (changed from 5 options)

Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

  • Number of Questions: 4 questions (increased from 3)
  • Duration: 100 minutes (increased from 45 minutes)
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Electric Charges, Fields, and Gauss’s Law
  • Electric Potential
  • Conductors and Capacitors
  • Electric Circuits
  • Magnetic Fields and Electromagnetism
  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism is the advanced version of AP Physics 2 as it uses calculus
  • Students should have taken or been concurrently taking calculus.

Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

  • Number of Questions: 40 questions (increased from 35)
  • Duration: 80 minutes (increased from 45 minutes)
  • Options: 4 options per question (changed from 5 options)

Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

  • Number of Questions: 4 questions (increased from 3)
  • Duration: 100 minutes (increased from 45 minutes)

 

AP Physics Course Selection Cues

Selecting the right AP Physics course can be a crucial decision in your high school journey, especially if your school offers limited options. Here are some situations and the best options for each:

Situation Options
1. Strong in Math and Science Opt for AP Physics C (Mechanics or Electricity and Magnetism) to match the advanced level of math and science skills.
2. Limited Math Background Choose AP Physics 1 or AP Physics 2, as these courses require less advanced math.
3. Planning for Engineering or Physics Major Take AP Physics C, which aligns better with college-level coursework in these fields.
4. Non-STEM Major AP Physics 1 or 2 might be sufficient and more appropriate.
5. Concerned About Workload Assess your current and anticipated workload to ensure you can handle the course rigor.

 

Conclusion

By providing a clear understanding of these courses, students can make informed decisions about which AP Physics course aligns best with their academic goals and interests. Each course offers a unique perspective on the principles of physics, preparing students for further studies in science and engineering.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the prerequisites for AP Physics courses?

Ans: AP Physics 1 typically requires completion of geometry and concurrent enrollment in Algebra II or an equivalent course. AP Physics 2 requires completion of AP Physics 1 or a comparable introductory physics course and concurrent enrollment in pre-calculus or an equivalent course. AP Physics C courses require a strong foundation in calculus, typically concurrent enrollment or prior completion of calculus courses.

2. How do the changes in the AP Physics exams affect students?

Ans: The changes in the AP Physics exams for May 2025 include adjustments in the number and format of both multiple-choice and free-response questions. Understanding these changes can help students better prepare for the exams and manage their study time effectively.

3. Which AP Physics course is best for students interested in life sciences or pre-med studies?

Ans: Students planning to study life sciences, geology, or pre-med may benefit most from taking AP Physics 1 followed by AP Physics 2. These courses cover a broad range of foundational physics principles applicable to these fields.

4. Is it possible to take both AP Physics C courses (Mechanics and Electricity/Magnetism)?

Ans: Yes, students with a strong interest and capability in physics and calculus can take both AP Physics C courses. This option is particularly suitable for students aiming for rigorous preparation in physics and planning to major in engineering or physical sciences.

5. How should students decide between AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 if both are available at their school?

Ans: Students should consider their mathematical preparation and interest in specific topics. AP Physics 1 is introductory and requires less advanced math, while AP Physics 2 covers more diverse topics and requires pre-calculus. Choosing based on academic strengths and future goals is crucial.

 

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