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How Many AP Physics Courses Are Offered

Feb 7, 2023

You’re likely thinking about taking AP classes if you’re like most high school students who want to join a selective institution. These College Board-created courses offer college-level instruction inside a high school environment. If your school offers them, you can sign up for them and face an AP examination at the academic year-end. This may allow you to receive college credit or exempt you from taking introductory-level coursework.

There are currently 38 possibilities for AP classes, and more are being added. This indicates that numerous options are available for every interest, including studio arts, foreign languages, science, and engineering. But occasionally, someone just starting to investigate the course alternatives could find them a little perplexing. Well, AP physics classes are no doubt an example that might leave you in a pool of confusion.


Four AP Physics classes are available, each of which has a confusing name. Don’t miss this post to discover more about the various AP Physics classes offered, their distinctions, and which one you should consider.

How Many AP Physics Courses Are Offered

Three AP physics courses were previously available through the AP Program. It included AP Physics B, AP Physics C: Mechanics, plus AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism.


However, AP Physics B, a one-year course, has been replaced by two one-year periods, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2. These AP physics courses are algebra-based, so Algebra II is the minimum math needed for both.

There are still two courses and examinations for AP Physics C available through the AP program. One is Physics C: Magnetism and Electricity, and another are Physics C: Mechanics. These are frequently taught in tandem classes or with a single topic. These two courses both rely on calculus.


Thus, there will now be four AP Physics tests:

  • Electricity and magnetism in AP Physics 1 
  • AP Physics 2
  • AP Physics C Mechanics
  •  AP Physics C

AP Physics Course 1

The first semester of an algebra-based collegiate physics course is analogous to the AP Physics 1 curriculum. The AP Physics course is the most fundamental option offered to contain Newtonian mechanics. It covers work, power, virtual circuits, rotational Motion, sound, mechanical waves, and many more. 

Since the course extensively emphasizes inquiry-based learning, 25% of class time is dedicated to practical laboratory work. Thus, the students can make comments, draw conclusions, design experiments, analyze data, and develop arguments. 


Although AP Physics 1 does not officially require any prerequisites, you will be required to have finished geometry and be studying Algebra II or a comparable course to understand the calculations needed for the program.

AP Physics Course 2

Another college-level physics course with an algebraic foundation is AP Physics 2. It explores several more complex issues than Physics 1, though. 


Physics 2 examines magnetic fields, electromagnetic, physical, and geometric optics, thermodynamics with kinetic theory, PV diagrams and probability, fluid statics and dynamics, magnetic fields, electrostatics, quantum physics, electrical circuits with capacitors, and many more. 

The second year of physics was intended for AP Physics 2. This indicates that it should occur after AP Physics I or any other introductory physics course. Its material is comparable to the previous AP Physics B curriculum. Advanced physics knowledge and skills, such as fluid dynamics, quantum physics, electric currents, magnetism, and, will be the focus of this course.


AP Physics C Mechanics 

A calculus-based first-semester collegiate physics course would be equivalent to the content of AP Physics C: Mechanics. It is frequently taken over a full academic year, but in high schools which provide block scheduling, it occasionally can be done over just one semester. This course uses differential and integral calculus to cover kinematics, Newton’s equations of Motion, particle systems and oscillations, linear momentum, gravitation, circular Motion, rotation, work, and power. 

The course also strongly emphasizes science practices, and as a result, students spend at least 20% of class time performing practical laboratory work.


There are no official prerequisites for the course. However, candidates must be competent in college-level numerical methods and, at the very least, have taken or currently taken calculus before enrolling in AP Physics C: Mechanics.

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 

The most challenging AP Physics subject is called AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. For students who have finished AP Physics C: Mechanics during the first semester, it is typically provided as a 2nd-semester course.

Using differential and integral calculus throughout, the AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism course includes electrostatics, conductors, electric circuits, capacitors, dielectrics, magnetic fields, and electromagnetic.

The course also strongly emphasizes science practices, and as a result, students spend at least 20% of class time performing practical laboratory work.

The College Board strongly advises taking AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism as a physics course in the second year. In addition, students should have assumed or been enrolled in calculus to be ready for college-level calculus-based assignments.

The AP Physics Exam Pattern  

The AP physics exam is no doubt a tough one. Knowing the AP Physics exam pattern for various AP physics exams is necessary to follow the needed study schedule.





No. of Questions in Section 1 No. Of Questions in Section 2 
AP Physics 1 


3 Hours 50 MCQ’s Three short-answer questions, a question on experimental design and a question about translating quantitative and qualitative data 
AP Physics 2 


3 Hours 50 MCQ’s Two short-answer questions, a question on experimental design and a question about translating quantitative and qualitative data 
AP Physics Mechanics 


1.5 Hours 35 MCQ’s Three quick-response questions 
AP Physics Electricity and Magnetism 


1.5 Hours 35 MCQ’s 


Three quick-response questions 

Which Course Should You Choose?

You may be unsure of which class to enroll in now that you have some knowledge of the various AP Physics classes offerings. If you are interested in taking over one, you might be thinking about the ideal sequence to take the courses in. Here we have outlined some options that might be suitable for you.

Option 1

Start with a standard or honors physics class to understand the fundamentals of physics if your institution doesn’t provide AP Physics 1 or if you don’t want your first class to be an AP class. You can then enroll in AP Physics 2 for your second physics course.

Candidates who do not have the time or inclination to take numerous AP Physics classes and those where schools do not even offer various AP Physics subjects should choose this option. The ideal AP Physics course to take following a regular or honors physics class is Physics 2. 

Option 2 

According to the College Board, studying Physics 1 and 2 gives prospective pre-med, geology, and biosciences students a strong foundation in physics. They add that it’s a fantastic alternative for college students who may need to meet a science prerequisite but are not majoring in the subject.

If your school provides an orientation to physics courses but still not AP Physics 1, students can substitute that course for AP Physics 1. However, a second-year physics subject, AP Physics 2, is not to be taken immediately.

You could study Physics 1 followed by another natural science curriculum (such as chemistry or biology), an elective if your school offers AP Physics 1 and not AP Physics 2. If your institution provides AP Physics C, you might also consider enrolling.

Option 3 

For college students planning to major in engineering or physical science, the AP suggests taking Physics C besides having AP Calculus AB or Calculus BC. It might be overkill to take all three types of AP physics courses. You would waste time if you took biology and chemistry instead. However, for a well-rounded, demanding high school career, particularly if you’re heading into science or engineering, it’s crucial to get exposure to all three natural sciences. Additionally, you want to confirm that you can enroll in a minimum of one AP Calculus course.

To study Physics C, begin with AP Physics 1 and then pursue AP Physics C, giving you a maximum of two physics courses in high school.

Don’t enter Physics C unprepared; at minimum, it is designed to be a second course. As you study AP Physics C, be sure you have done or are currently studying calculus.


You can benefit in different ways from each course. Even though AP Physics 1 and 2 are suitable for many other STEM majors and can even satisfy the science course need for a humanities major, you should take into account taking AP Physics C if you are considering a profession in engineering or physics.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1) Is AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 required before AP Physics C?

It’ll be OK because Physics C entirely reteaches the subject from scratch. Physics 1 and 2 are not that useful because those two classes did nothing but confuse me and give me a shaky basis for physics C. Calculus is the most crucial component you’ll need for Physics C.

2) How to prepare for the AP Physics 1 exam?

You should feel pretty comfortable with the entirety of the Algebra 1 curriculum and fundamental trigonometry before taking the AP Physics 1 exam. You should unquestionably be familiar with sine, cosine, tangent, and inverse operations. Since the course is primarily concerned with mechanics and does not go deeply beyond algebra, you should start reviewing if algebra is a challenge for you.

3) How To Prepare For the AP Physics C exam?

Work quickly. Work quickly and make sure you’ve completed multiple independent practice exams. Hold the big picture in mind and avoid becoming bogged down in math.

AP Physics Exam


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