AP Physics B

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AP Physics B was an Advanced Placement science course in which high school students studied Newtonian mechanics, electricity and magnetism, fluid mechanics, and thermal physics, waves and optics, and atomic and nuclear physics in preparation for a cumulative exam given each May. The course was non-calculus-based and involved algebra and trigonometry to solve various physics problems. It was supposed to be equivalent to a year-long introductory college course in physics.[1]

This course also helped prepare students for the SAT Subject Test in Physics, which is also administered by College Board.

This course was discontinued and replaced with AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 beginning in the 2014–2015 school year. The last administration of the AP Physics B exam was in May 2014.


The exam was divided into two sections, a multiple choice section (70 questions) and a free response section (6–7 questions).[2] Students had to complete each section within 90 minutes. To test knowledge as well as skills, they took the multiple choice section without a calculator. The free response section would permit the use of a calculator as well as a list of common formulas. The scoring was weighted such that each section was worth fifty percent of the final score. Overall, the exam was configured to approximately cover a set percentage of each of the five target categories:[3]

Topic Percent
Newtonian Mechanics 35%
Fluid Mechanics and Thermal Physics 15%
Electricity and Magnetism 25%
Waves and Optics 15%
Atomic and Nuclear Physics 10%


According to the College Board web site, "the Physics B course provides a foundation in physics for students in the life sciences, premedicine, and some applied sciences, as well as other fields not directly related to science."[4]

Grade distribution[edit]

The grade distributions for the Physics B scores since 2010 are as follows:

Score 2010[5] 2011[6] 2012[7] 2013[8] 2014[9]
5 14.8% 16.4% 16.3% 16.6% 15.8%
4 18.5% 19.2% 19.3% 19.9% 18.5%
3 26.1% 25.9% 26.4% 26.1% 26.5%
2 18.6% 17.3% 16.8% 16.3% 17%
1 21.9% 21.3% 21.3% 21.1% 22.3%
Mean 2.86 2.92 2.93 2.95 2.89
Number of Students 67,312 75,648 80,584 89,263 93,574


Starting in the 2014–2015 school year, AP Physics B will no longer be offered, and AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 will take its place. Like AP Physics B, both will be algebra-based, and both will be designed to be taught as year-long courses.[10]


  1. ^ "AP Physics B". AP Central. College Board. 2011. Archived from the original on 2 July 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ "AP: Physics B: The Exam". Collegeboard.com. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ "AP: Physics B: Topic Outline". Collegeboard.com. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  4. ^ "2006, 2007 AP Physics Course Description" (PDF). Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  5. ^ 2010 AP Scores Distribution
  6. ^ 2011 AP Scores Distribution
  7. ^ 2012 AP Scores Distribution
  8. ^ 2013 AP Exam Score Distributions
  9. ^ 2014 Student Score Distributions
  10. ^ http://advancesinap.collegeboard.org/science/physics

External links[edit]