The AP Physics 2 Exam is a college-level exam administered every year in May upon the completion of an Advanced Placement Physics 2 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 2 Guide for the essential info you need about the exam:

What’s on the AP Physics 2 exam?

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in your AP Physics 2 course. They explain that you should be familiar with the following topics:

  • Fluids (fluid systems, density, pressure and forces, fluid and free-body diagrams, buoyancy, conservation of energy in fluid flow, conservation of mass flow rate in fluids)

  • Thermodynamics (thermodynamic systems, pressure, thermal equilibrium, and the ideal gas law, thermodynamics and forces, heat and energy transfer, thermodynamics and collisions, probability, thermal energy, and entropy)

  • Electric Force, Field, and Potential (electric systems and charge, charge distribution, electric permittivity, electric forces and free-body diagrams, gravitational and electromagnetic forces, electric charges and fields, conservation of electric energy)

  • Electric Circuits (definition and conservation of electric charge, resistance and resistivity, resistance and capacitance, Kirchhoff’s loop rule, Kirchhoff’s junction rule and the conservation of electric charge)

  • Magnetism and Electromagnetic Induction (magnetic systems, magnetic permeability and magnetic dipole moment, vector and scalar fields, magnetic fields and forces, forces review, magnetic flux)

  • Geometric and Physical Optics (waves, electromagnetic waves, periodic waves, refraction, reflection, and absorption, images from lenses and mirrors, interference and diffraction)

  • Quantum, Atomic, and Nuclear Physics (systems and fundamental forces, radioactive decay, energy in modern physics, mass-energy equivalence, properties of waves and particles, photoelectric effect, wave function and probability)

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

AP Physics 2 Sections & Question Types

The AP Physics 2 exam is three hours long and consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

AP Physics 2 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 54 questions

AP Physics 2 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 2 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.

Can you use a calculator on the AP Physics exam?

You are allowed to use a calculator on the entire AP Physics 2 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 2 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 2 formula sheet looks like here.

How is AP Physics 2 scored?

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics 2 exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. Here’s how students scored on the May 2020 test:

AP Physics 2 Score

Meaning

2020 Percentage of Test Takers

5

Extremely qualified

14%

4

Well qualified

24.3%

3

Qualified

35%

2

Possibly qualified

21.3%

1

No recommendation

5.4%

Source: College Board

Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year. You’ll want to study hard and prepare for this tough exam.

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP Physics 2 content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style. 

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