Advanced Placement Physics collectively refers to three College Board Advanced Placement Program courses and exams covering various areas of physics. Each course culminates in an exam for which high-performing students receive some credit towards their college coursework.
Advanced Placement Physics B is divided into five different sections: Newtonian Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism; Fluid Mechanics and Thermal Physics; Waves and Optics; and Atomic and Nuclear Physics. The course is equivalent to a one-year college course that includes a laboratory component. It is not the usual preparation for more advanced and infinite engineering courses.
Advanced Placement Physics C: Mechanics studies Newtonian mechanics. Methods of calculus are used wherever appropriate in formulating physical principles and in applying them to physical problems which is why most schools recommend that the student have completed or be concurrently enrolled in a calculus class. It is supposed to be equivalent to an introductory college course in mechanics for physics or engineering majors. This course, taken along with courses covering other areas, such as Electricity and Magnetism, Waves, Thermodynamics, and Modern Physics can help prepare students for the SAT Subject Test in Physics, also administered by College Board.
Advanced Placement Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism studies electricity and magnetism. Methods of calculus are used wherever appropriate in formulating physical principles and in applying them to physical problems. It is supposed to be equivalent to an introductory college course in electricity and magnetism for physics majors. This course, taken along with courses covering other areas, such as Mechanics, Waves, Thermodynamics, and Modern Physics can help prepare students for the SAT Subject Test in Physics, also administered by College Board.
The two AP Physics C courses are often combined to make a unified Physics C course that prepares for both exams, though each may be a separate course. In the former scenario, Electricity and Magnetism is typically taught second, as it requires much of the knowledge gained in the Mechanics course. When only one Physics C course is offered, it is typically Mechanics, and this in combination with the fact that many schools do not complete their unified Physics C courses before the exam date is the probable explanation for more students taking the Mechanics exam than the Electricity and Magnetism exam.
Recently changed from 2006, College Board requires test-takers to pay separately for the Mechanics part and the Electricity and Magnetism part. Previously, test-takers paid only once and were given the choice of taking either one or two parts of the Physics C test.