AP Physics 1 Frequently Asked Questions

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Questions about the course

AP Physics 1 covers Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion); work, energy, and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits. The course also emphasizes inquiry-based learning and the development of science practices and skills. For more details go to the course home page.

AP Physics 1 is a full-year course that is the equivalent of a first-semester introductory college course in algebra-based physics.

AP Physics 2 is also a full-year course, equivalent to a second-semester introductory college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers fluid mechanics; thermodynamics; electricity and magnetism; optics; and quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics.

AP Physics C: Mechanics is a half-year course equivalent to a semester-long, introductory calculus-based college course. It covers kinematics; Newton’s laws of motion; work, energy, and power; systems of particles and linear momentum; circular motion and rotation; and oscillations and gravitation.

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, a half-year course following Physics C: Mechanics, is equivalent to a semester-long, introductory calculus-based college course and covers electrostatics; conductors, capacitors, and dielectrics; electric circuits; magnetic fields; and electromagnetism.

Yes. Students should have completed geometry and be taking Algebra II or an equivalent course. AP Physics 1 includes basic use of trigonometric functions, but students can learn those in the concurrent math course or in the AP Physics 1 course itself.

  • AP Physics 2 (recommended for students considering pre-med or life science majors), or
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics, which can be followed by:
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism (both Physics C courses are recommended for students considering physics or engineering majors).

The College Board does not recommend specific textbooks. However, a list of example textbooks appropriate for the course appears on the AP Course Audit page for this course.

These resources will help:

  • The AP Physics 1 Course and Exam Description (.pdf/6.67MB) defines the course. If you download only one thing this year, make this it.
  • Access the free teacher’s lab manual (.pdf/7.82MB). It describes nine inquiry-based labs appropriate for the Physics 1 course.
  • Be sure to also download these two ancillary lab guides for the course: one for students (.pdf/421.4KB) on data analysis, and one for teachers (.pdf/387KB) on quantitative skills.
  • Professional development such as one-day workshops, specialty conferences, and weeklong AP Summer Institutes are great for novices and experts alike.
  • The AP Physics Teacher Community gives you the opportunity to learn from colleagues and create a library of resources.

You will need to spend 25 percent of your class time on hands-on labs that emphasize inquiry-based investigations that provide opportunities to engage in the seven AP science practices for the course.

In this type of lab the students design/select procedures to investigate a question, which they either received from the teacher or came up with on their own. Teacher guidance can range from moderate to fully student-directed.

No special equipment is required, but your students must have what they need to conduct college-level physics labs as outlined in your syllabus.

Go to the AP Physics 1 Equation Tables (.pdf/187.5KB) on the AP Physics 1 student page for a chart of equations and formulas used in the course.

Yes. Since AP Physics 1 is a full-year course, there is ample time to cover state-mandated physics content.

The AP Teacher Community might be the best source for answers. You’ll also find articles, tools, and resources to help you teach the course on the course home page.

Questions about the AP Course Audit

The AP Course Audit is an authorization process that provides teachers and administrators with guidelines and requirements for offering AP courses. It also ensures that AP courses across high schools meet the same college-level criteria.

Yes. Every school wishing to offer an AP course must participate in the AP Course Audit.

The AP Course Audit requires the online submission of two documents: the AP Course Audit form and the teacher’s syllabus. The AP teacher and the school principal (or designated administrator) submit the Course Audit form, acknowledging the curricular and resource requirements. The syllabus, detailing how the AP course requirements will be met, is submitted by the AP teacher for review by college faculty. To give you more time to familiarize yourself with the new resources and supports launching in August, teachers won’t be required to submit a syllabus for course authorization until the 2020-21 school year. Go to the AP Course Audit page for this course for more information and guidance about the requirements for the 2019-20 school year. 

The AP Course Audit page for this course will give you the tools you’ll need to create and submit your syllabus for authorization, including information and guidelines, sample syllabi, and a tutorial.

Go to AP Course Audit for more FAQs, resources, and info about the whole course audit process.

Questions about the exam

These resources will help:

  • Several practice exams are available by logging in to your AP Course Audit account.
  • Starting in August 2019, you will have access to AP Classroom, a dedicated online platform designed to support you and your students throughout your AP experience. The platform features a variety of powerful resources and tools to give you year-long support and enable your students to receive meaningful feedback on their progress as they prepare for the AP Exam.
  • Free-response questions (FRQs) with student samples and scoring guidelines can be accessed from the course’s exam information page.
  • Scroll down the Scoring column in the free-response questions table to find yearly Chief Reader Reports (former title: Student Performance Q&A) from the Chief Reader that describe how students performed on the FRQs, typical student errors, and specific concepts that challenged students the most that year.
  • The Analysis of Experimental Uncertainty (.pdf/72KB) documents clarify expectations for student work and exam responses.

The exam is given each year in early May. Go to the Exam Calendar for the most current exam dates.

Students can take both exams in the same year. They are offered on different days.

That’s what we recommend, but colleges set their own policies. Tell your students to use the AP Credit Policy Search tool to verify the credit/placement policies at the colleges they are considering.

Go to the AP Physics 1 Exam Information page for answers. You’ll find specifics about the exam format and more.