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 culminates in 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[edit]

Category A was the College Board's designation for physics courses that were not as mathematically rigorous as more formal courses. Courses of this type were generally intended for students not majoring in a science-related field. No AP course or exam was ever made for Category A.[2]

AP Physics B (discontinued)[edit]

AP Physics B was supposed to be equivalent to an introductory algebra-based college course in physics, with a laboratory component.[3] 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.[4] The courses were designed to emphasize critical thinking and reasoning as well as learning through inquiry.[5] They remain as algebra-based courses that do not require students to have taken calculus.[6]

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.[6]

AP Physics 2 covers the remaining subjects from AP Physics B: thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, optics, electricity and magnetism, and modern physics.[6]

AP Physics C[edit]

The College Board split AP Physics C into two different tests in 2006, each equivalent to a semester-length calculus-based college course for majors in physical science or engineering:[7][8]

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. ^ "AP Physics B". AP Central. College Board. 2011. Archived from the original on 2 July 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  4. ^ "AP Physics 1 and 2, 2014–15". AP: Advances in AP. The College Board. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014.
  5. ^ "AP Physics 1 Course Home Page". AP Central. The College Board. Archived from the original on October 15, 2014.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ a b AP® PHYSICS C: MECHANICS (PDF), College Board, December 2016, retrieved January 30, 2017
  8. ^ a b AP® PHYSICS C: ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM (PDF), College Board, December 2016, retrieved January 30, 2017