AP Physics

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In the United States, Advanced Placement (AP) Physics collectively refers to the College Board Advanced Placement Program courses and exams covering various areas of physics. These are intended to be equivalent to university courses that use best practices of physics teaching pedagogy.

Each AP Physics course has an optional exam for which high-performing students may receive some credit towards their college coursework, depending on which college or university they attend.[1]

AP Physics A (never materialized)[edit]

Designed concurrently with AP Physics B and AP Physics C, AP Physics A was supposed to be a conceptual-only version of AP Physics B (see below). This course would have employed little to no mathematics. AP Physics A never proceeded past the development stage, as colleges would not offer credit for physics without mathematics.[2][3][4]

AP Physics B (discontinued)[edit]

In 1969, the single AP Physics Exam was replaced by two separate exams, AP Physics B and AP Physics C.[5] AP Physics B was supposed to be equivalent to an introductory algebra-based college course in physics, with a laboratory component.[6] The course was non-calculus-based, utilizing algebra and basic trigonometry to solve various physics problems.[2] AP Physics B was divided into five different sections: Newtonian mechanics, fluid mechanics and thermal physics, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics, and atomic and nuclear physics.[2]

AP Physics B was replaced in 2014 by AP Physics 1 and 2.

AP Physics 1 and 2[edit]

AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 were introduced for the 2015 exam administration.[7] The courses were designed to emphasize critical thinking and reasoning as well as learning through inquiry.[8] They remain as algebra-based courses that do not require students to have taken calculus.[9]

AP Physics 1 covers the same Newtonian mechanics as AP Physics B plus rotational mechanics. The course used to cover introductory electricity (Coulomb's Law and simple DC circuits), as well as mechanical waves and sound. These units were removed during the 2020 - 2021 school year.[9]

AP Physics 2 covers the remaining subjects from AP Physics B: thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, optics, electricity and magnetism, and modern physics.[9]

AP Physics C[edit]

From 1969 to 1972, the AP Physics C course covered all of physics, including fluids, optics, and modern physics as well as mechanics and electricity and magnetism.[10] The College Board split AP Physics C into two different 90 minute tests in 1973, each equivalent to a semester-length calculus-based college course for majors in physical science or engineering:[11][12] Until 2006, both exams were available for a single fee; in 2006, this was changed to the exams having separate fees.

The two AP Physics C courses can be combined to make a unified Physics C course that prepares for both exams.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Credit & Placement". AP Students. The College Board. 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Physics Course Description (PDF), The College Board, May 2009, archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-01
  3. ^ Perlmutter, Carolyn (October 9, 2014). "AP Physics curriculum changes provide more time for conceptual understanding". J.J. Pearce High School Pony Express. Archived from the original on 2016-05-31. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  4. ^ Pinizzotto, J (June 18, 2018). "-". Twitter. Archived from the original on 2021-09-20. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  5. ^ Private AP Physics Exams collection 1956-1973(https://www.icloud.com/iclouddrive/0aaklyARPE3ips_Vw5DyoXwwQ#AP_Physics_1956-1973)
  6. ^ "AP Physics B". AP Central. College Board. 2011. Archived from the original on 2 July 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  7. ^ "AP Physics 1 and 2, 2014–15". AP: Advances in AP. The College Board. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014.
  8. ^ "AP Physics 1 Course Home Page". AP Central. The College Board. Archived from the original on October 15, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c AP® PHYSICS 1: ALGEBRA-BASED AND AP® PHYSICS 2: ALGEBRA-BASED – Course and Exam Description – Effective Fall 2014 (PDF), New York, NY: The College Board, 2014
  10. ^ Private collection of AP Physics exams 1956-1973. https://www.icloud.com/iclouddrive/0aaklyARPE3ips_Vw5DyoXwwQ#AP_Physics_1956-1973
  11. ^ a b AP® PHYSICS C: MECHANICS (PDF), College Board, December 2016, retrieved January 30, 2017
  12. ^ a b AP® PHYSICS C: ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM (PDF), College Board, December 2016, retrieved January 30, 2017