AP Physics C Exam

The AP Physics C Exams are college-level exams administered every year in May upon the completion of an Advanced Placement Physics C course taken at your high school. There are two different exams offered, AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. You can take one or both of these exams. If you score high enough, your AP Physics score(s) could earn you college credit

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

What’s on the AP Physics C exam?

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

Mechanics

  • Kinematics
  • Newton's Laws of Motion
  • Work, Energy, and Power
  • Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum
  • Rotation
  • Oscillations
  • Gravitation
Electricity & Magnetism
  • Electrostatics
  • Conductors, Capacitors, and Dielectrics 
  • Electric Circuits 
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Electromagnetism

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 C Sections & Question Types

The AP Physics C exam is broken down into two separate, 90-minute tests: AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. Both consist of a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.  

AP Physics C: Mechanics

Timing

Number of Questions

Multiple Choice

45 minutes

  • 35 single-select: discrete questions and questions in sets with one correct answer

Free Response

45 minutes

  • 3 free-response questions
  • One of the three free-response questions will include an experimental or lab-based component
TOTAL: 1 hour 30 minutes 38 questions

AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism

Timing

Number of Questions

Multiple Choice

45 minutes

  • 35 single-select: discrete questions and questions in sets with one correct answer

Free Response

45 minutes

  • 3 free-response questions
  • One of the three free-response questions will include an experimental or lab-based component
TOTAL: 1 hour 30 minutes 38 questions
Note: The College Board has not yet announced if the 2021 digital version of the AP Physics C exams will be in place for future exam years. For updates on the digital test and its format, please visit the AP Physics C pages on the College Board's website.

AP Physics C Multiple-Choice

Single-select questions are each followed by five possible responses, only one of which is correct.

AP Physics C Free Response Questions

The free response section consists of three 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 C 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 C 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 C formula sheet looks like here.

How is AP Physics C scored?

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

Score

Meaning

2020 Percentage of AP Physics C: Mechanics Test Takers

2020 Percentage of AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism Test Takers

5

Extremely qualified

41.6%

40.4%

4

Well qualified

26.4%

24.4%

3

Qualified

16.3%

11.6%

2

Possibly qualified

9.2%

16.2%

1

No recommendation

6.5%

9.5%

Source: College Board

How can I prepare?

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

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