Students often ask whether they should take one course over another. In this case, which AP Physics course should they take? I.e., AP Physics 1 vs 2. Describing it in this manner makes it sound as if you have to choose between the two tests, but in actuality, these are two halves of the same whole.

Male high school student raising his hand in class.

As the test makers at the College Board put it, each part covers the material of a one-year college physics course, and it is highly recommended that you take AP Physics 1 (or at least fully understand the pre-requisite subject matter) before moving on to AP Physics 2.

That said, the specific topics for each course are changing for the May 2025 exam, so here’s what you now need to know if you’re aiming for a 5 on either Physics 1 or Physics 2. (Physics C is a story for another day!)

What Are the Tested Content Topics for AP Physics 1 vs 2?

  • Kinematics
  • Dynamics
  • Circular motion and gravitation
  • Energy
  • Momentum
  • Simple harmonic motion
  • Torque and rotational motion
    • In 2025, this will also cover translational motion.

By contrast, on AP Physics 2, you’ll be tested on:

  • Fluids: pressure and forces
    • Beginning in 2025, this will be tested as part of AP Physics 1.
  • Thermodynamics
    • Beginning in 2025, blackbody radiation will also be tested.
  • Electric force, field, and potential
  • Electric circuits
  • Magnetism and electromagnetic induction
  • Geometric and physical optics (light)
  • Quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics
  • Waves (standing, sound)—this won’t happen until the 2025 administration.

Will Any Physics 1 Topics Show Up on the Physics 2 Exam?

Physics 1 is a pre-requisite for Physics 2, so while questions on the AP Physics 2 exam will first and foremost be on the topics above, they may require prior knowledge.

For instance, a question about fluids on AP Physics 2 might require you to solve the problem using a definition of forces from kinematics or torque and rotation motion, both of which are introduced and tested in AP Physics 1.

What’s the Format of Each Test?

Both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 have similar formats—the content is what differs. For 2025, the new types of free-response questions will include math routines, translation between representations, experimental design, and qualitative/quantitative.





90 minutes for Section I
90 minutes for Section II

80 minutes for Section I

100 minutes for Section II


Section I: 45 single-correct multiple-choice and 5 multi-correct multiple-choice questions.

Section II: 5 free-response questions

Section I: 40 single-correct multiple-choice questions.

Section II: 4 free-response questions.

What Can I Bring to Each Test?

Because both exams are algebra-based, you are permitted to bring a scientific or graphing calculator (so long as it’s on the College Board’s list of permitted devices).

You will be provided an equation sheet during the test, and you’ll want to make sure you know how to quickly enter each of those calculations. You’ll also want to review how the data that you’re given may change the way in which you work with the given equation.

For instance, if asked about parabolic motion for a kinematics question in Physics 1, you need to know how initial velocity and its direction can affect the horizontal and vertical acceleration.

Which Test Is Better to Take?

Despite AP Physics 2 having a wider range of content, some students feel more comfortable with this exam because it is offered in the spring (while AP Physics 1 is in the fall), which means that the AP Physics 2 content is fresher in their mind come the May test date. 

Of course, if you’re properly studying for the exam with a supplemental course or a test-prep book like ours , you should be ready to take either. (You can also take both but note that these two tests are generally offered back-to-back, which means you’d be spending about seven hours straight in Physics-land.)