AP Physics 1 Exam

The AP Physics 1 Exam is a college-level exam administered every year in May upon the completion of an Advanced Placement Physics 1 course taken at your high school. If you score high enough, your AP Physics score could earn you college credit! 

Check out our AP Physics 1 Guide for the essential info you need about the exam:

What’s the format of the AP Physics 1 exam?

The AP Physics 1  exam is three hours long and consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

AP Physics 1 Section

Timing

Number of Questions

Multiple Choice

90 minutes

  • 45 single-select: discrete questions and questions in sets with one correct answer
  • 5 multi-select: discrete questions with two correct answers

Free Response

90 minutes

  • 1 experimental design
  • 1 qualitative/quantitative Translation
  • 3 short answer (requiring a paragraph-length argument)
TOTAL: 3 hours 55 questions

AP Physics 1 Multiple Choice

Single-select questions are each  followed by four possible responses, only one of which is correct. Multi-select questions require two of the listed answer choices to be selected to answer the question correctly. 

AP Physics 1 Free Response Questions

The free response section consists of five multi-part questions, which require you to write out your solutions, showing your work. Unlike the multiple-choice section, which is scored by a computer, the free-response section is graded by high school and college teachers. They have guidelines for awarding partial credit, so you may still receive partial points should you not correctly respond to every part of  the question.

What topics does AP Physics 1 cover?

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in your AP Physics 1 course. They explain that you should be familiar with the following topics: :

  • Kinematics
  • Dynamics: Newton’s laws
  • Circular motion and universal law of gravitation
  • Simple harmonic motion: simple pendulum and mass-spring systems
  • Impulse, linear momentum, and conservation of linear momentum: collisions
  • Work, energy, and conservation of energy
  • Rotational motion: torque, rotational kinematics and energy, rotational dynamics, and conservation of angular momentum
  • Electrostatics: electric charge and electric force
  • DC circuits: resistors only
  • Mechanical waves and sound

How is AP Physics 1 scored?

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics I exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. Here’s how students scored on the May 2017 test:

AP Physics 1 Score

Meaning

2017 Percentage of Test Takers

5

Extremely qualified

5.4%

4

Well qualified

16.2%

3

Qualified

20.3%

2

Possibly qualified

20.3%

1

No recommendation

29.1%

Source: College Board

Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year, but as we see above, in May 2017 around 50% of test takers earned scores of 1 or 2. You’ll want to study hard and prepare for this tough exam.

What’s the difference between AP Physics 1, 2, and C?

  • AP Physics 1 is the equivalent of the first semester of an introductory college-level course on algebra-based physics, covering the topics of Newtonian mechanics; work, energy, and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits.
  • AP Physics 2 is the equivalent of the second semester in the college-level introductory course, covering the topics of fluid mechanics; thermodynamics; electricity and magnetism; optics; and quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics.
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism are each equivalent to college-level courses in calculus-based physics.
For a comprehensive content review, check out our line of AP guides.

Can you use a calculator on the AP Physics exam?

You are allowed to use a calculator on the entire AP Physics 1 Exam—including both the multiple-choice and free-response sections. Scientific or graphing calculators may be used, provided that they don’t have any unapproved features or capabilities (a list of approved graphing calculators is available on the College Board’s website).

What’s on the AP Physics 1 equation sheet?

A table of equations commonly used in physics will be provided to you at the exam site. Check out what the AP Physics 1 formula sheet looks like here .

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP Biology content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style. 

Read More