Everything you wanted to know about the AP exam

Official Physics 1 AP Central Course Page (link)

AP Physics 1 & 2 Course Framework (link)

Can I use a calculator during the exam? What about a reference packet?
  • The short answer is "yes" and "yes"
  • https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse/ap-physics-1/exam-policies

How much time to I get & how many questions are on the test?

Can I see example problems from past exams?
  • There are NO publicly available multiple choice questions for Physics 1
  • 2016 Released Free Response Questions (link)
  • 2015 Released Free Response Questions (link)
  • Past Free Response from Physics B with annotations and sample solutions (link)

What are the lab requirements for the two new courses?
  • In the new courses, instructional time devoted to laboratory investigations has increased from 20 to 25 percent. The investigations now emphasize student-centered inquiry instruction and learning. Inquiry investigations foster student engagement in the practices of science through experimenting, analyzing, making conjectures and arguments, and solving problems in a collaborative setting, where students direct and monitor their progress.

What are the expectations for analysis of uncertainty in laboratory investigations?
  • Some colleges and universities expect students to submit a laboratory notebook to receive credit for laboratory courses. Given the emphasis on time spent in the laboratory, students should be introduced to the methods of error analysis including and supported by mean, standard deviation, percentage error, propagation of error, and linear regression, or the calculation of a line of best-  t. Colleges will expect students to be familiar with these methods and to have carried out the procedures on at least some of the laboratory experiments they undertake, particularly since the use of computers and calculators have significantly reduced the need for students to perform computations on their own.

Some exam terminology defined... On the AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 exams, the words “describe,” “explain,” “justify,” “calculate,” “derive,” “what is,” “determine,” “sketch,” “plot,” “draw,” “label,” “design,” and “outline” have precise meanings.
  • Students will be asked both to “describe” and “explain” natural phenomena. Both terms require the ability to demonstrate an understanding of physics principles by providing accurate and coherent information that clari es the nature of the phenomenon (description) or clari es the cause of or action within phenomenon providing a claim with reasoning and evidence (explanation). Students will also be asked to “justify” a previously given answer. A justi cation is an argument, supported by evidence. Evidence may consist of statements of physical principles, equations, calculations, data, graphs, and diagrams as appropriate.  e argument, or equations used to support justi cations and explanations, may in some cases refer to fundamental ideas or relations in physics, such as Newton’s laws, conservation of energy, or Bernoulli’s equation. In other cases, the justi cation or explanation may take the form of analyzing the behavior of an equation for large or small values of a variable in the equation.
  • Calculate” means that a student is expected to show work leading to a  final answer, which may be algebraic but more o en is numerical. “Derive” is more specific and indicates that the students need to begin their solutions with one or more fundamental equations, such as those given on the AP Physics 1 or AP Physics 2 Exam equation sheet.  The  final answer, usually algebraic, is then obtained through the appropriate use of mathematics. “What is” and “determine” are indicators that work need not necessarily be explicitly shown to obtain full credit. Showing work leading to answers is a good idea, as it may earn a student partial credit in the case of an incorrect answer. Strict rules regarding significant digits are usually not applied to the scoring of numerical answers. However, in some cases, answers containing too many digits may be penalized. In general, two to four significant digits are acceptable. Exceptions to these guidelines usually occur when rounding makes a difference in obtaining a reasonable answer.
  •  The words “sketch” and “plot” relate to student-produced graphs. “Sketch” means to draw a graph that illustrates key trends in a particular relationship, such as slope, curvature, intercept(s), or asymptote(s). Numerical scaling or speci c data points are not required in a sketch. “Plot” means to draw the data points given in the problem on the grid provided, either using the given scale or indicating the scale and units when none are provided.
  • Exam questions that require the drawing of free-body or force diagrams will direct the students to “draw and label the forces (not components) that act on the [object],” where [object] is replaced by a reference speci c to the question, such as “the car when it reaches the top of the hill.” Any components that are included in the diagram will be scored in the same way as incorrect or extraneous forces. In addition, in any subsequent part asking for a solution that would typically make use of the diagram, the following will be included: “If you need to draw anything other than what you have shown in part [x] to assist in your solution, use the space below. Do NOT add anything to the  gure in part [x].”  is will give students the opportunity to construct a working diagram showing any components that are appropriate to the solution of the problem.  is second diagram will not be scored.