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AP Physics 1 Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the course

What is the focus of the AP Physics 1 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 two-page Course Overview (.pdf/3.07MB).

What is the equivalent college-level course?

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

How does this course differ from the other three AP Physics courses?

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.

Are there any student prerequisites?

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.

What are a student’s options after taking AP Physics 1?

  • 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).

Which textbooks does the College Board recommend?

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.

How can I prepare myself to teach this course?

These resources will help:

What are the lab requirements?

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 (.pdf/106KB) for the course.

What is an inquiry-based lab?

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.

What equipment do I need to teach inquiry-based labs?

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

What formulas do my students need to know?

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.

Is there enough time in this course for me to cover our state requirements for physics?

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

Have more questions?

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

What is 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.

Is the course audit required?

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

What’s involved? Who needs to participate, and what do they need to do?

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.

Where can I get help preparing my course syllabus?

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.

Have more questions?

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

Questions about the exam

How can I prepare my students for the exam?

These resources will help:

  • Several practice exams are available by logging in to your AP Course Audit account.
  • Sample questions (.pdf/10.2MB) illustrate how the learning objectives are assessed.
  • 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 Student Performance Q&A’s 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 The Analysis of Experimental Uncertainty (.pdf/72KB) documents clarify expectations for student work and exam responses.

When is the AP Physics 1 exam?

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

Can my students take both Physics 1 and Physics 2 exams in the same year?

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

Will colleges award credit for completion of AP Physics 1 alone?

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.

Have more questions?

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

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