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Difference Between AP Physics 1, 2, and C

May 13, 2024
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Choosing the perfect combination of courses for high school is a challenge. With the decision to choose Difference Between AP Physics 1, 2, and C courses of similar names, the situation adds to the complexity. With a thorough understanding of what each of the AP Physics courses encompasses and the level of difficulty they offer, the choice will be informed. 

So, if you are in high school and struggling between the AP physics courses, you are at the right place. Dive in. 

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AP Physics Courses 

The four AP physics courses available from College Board are: 

  • AP Physics 1
  • AP Physics 2 
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics 
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 

Here, AP Physics 1 and 2 are algebra-based courses, while AP Physics C is calculus-based. Now, let’s uncover what each encompasses. 

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AP Physics 1

It is the algebra-based physics course equivalent to the first semester. It is an introductory course that involves foundational principles of physics. AP Physics 1 also includes hands-on laboratory training. Learning the topics here involves using algebra-based math to solve problems, data analysis, making observations, designing experiments, and constructing arguments in a collaborative setting. While there are no AP Physics prerequisites, interested candidates can get familiar with geometry and Algebra II in preparation. 

Units in AP Physics 1

  • Unit 1: Kinematics 
  • Unit 2: Dynamics 
  • Unit 3: Circular Motion and Gravitation 
  • Unit 4: Energy 
  • Unit 5: Momentum 
  • Unit 6: Simple Harmonic Motion 
  • Unit 7: Torque and Rotational Motion 

AP Physics 1 Exam

Exam Duration Section 1Section 2
3 hours 50 Multiple-Choice Questions3 Short-answer Questions1 Experimental Design Question1 Quantitative/ Qualitative Translation Question

AP Physics 2 Exam 

It is a continuation or follow-up to AP Physics 1, which is a prerequisite here. It is equivalent to the second semester. The courses also allow the candidates to gain hands-on laboratory training. Compared to its prerequisite, it involves more complex and advanced topics of mechanical physics. Other associated AP Physics prerequisites are precalculus. 

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Units in AP Physics 2

  • Unit 1: Fluids 
  • Unit 2: Thermodynamics
  • Unit 3: Electrical Force, Field, and Potential  
  • Unit 4: Electrical Circuits 
  • Unit 5: Magnetism and Electromagnetic Induction 
  • Unit 6: Geometric and Physical Optics  
  • Unit 7: Quantum, Atomic, Nuclear Physics  

AP Physics 2 Exam

Exam Duration Section 1Section 2
3 hours 50 Multiple-Choice Questions2 Short-answer Questions1 Experimental Design Question1 Quantitative/ Qualitative Translation Question

AP Physics C: Mechanics 

The two constituents of AP Physics C are calculus-based courses. AP Physics C: Mechanics is equivalent to a first-semester college course. It is taken for a year or within a semester, depending on the school. It also offers knowledge—and skill-based learning with hands-on practice. While there aren’t AP Physics prerequisites to take this course, learning calculus is recommended. 

Units in AP Physics C: Mechanics 

AP Physics C: Mechanics Exam

Exam Duration Section 1Section 2
1 hour 30 minutes 35 Multiple-Choice Questions3 Short-answer Questions

AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism

It is considered the highest-level AP physics course. AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism requires AP Physics C: Mechanics and Calculus as the prerequisite. Similar to other courses, the emphasis here also lies in both knowledge and laboratory work. The candidates learn to define the relationship between physical qualities and support their claims with evidence. 

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Units in AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism

  • Unit 1: Electrostatics 
  • Unit 2: Conductors, Capacitors and Dielectrics 
  • Unit 3: Electric Circuits    
  • Unit 4: Magnetic Fields 
  • Unit 5: Electromagnetism    

AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism Exam

Exam Duration Section 1Section 2
1 hour 30 minutes 35 Multiple-Choice Questions3 Short-answer Questions

Which AP Physics to Choose in High School?

Your choice will be determined by two factors: the available AP Physics course and your long-term goals. 

Availability: While you will go along with what’s offered as the compulsion, certain schools might also allow choice. In such a scenario, the reason for learning Physics will be helpful in the selection. In case of choices, you can also opt for a regular or honours-level physics course instead of AP Physics 1. 

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Choice: AP Physics 1 and 2 will be fine for pursuing career choices like medicine, life science, geology, and others. However, if you are interested in physical sciences or majoring in the field, AP Physics C is more beneficial. 

Conclusion

Uncovering the difference between AP Physics 1, 2, and C, you must now be well aware that the first two are algebra-based, and the latter is calculus-based. While we have enlisted all the important information and simultaneously guided you on what to choose, queries or questions might persist. 

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If you are reluctant or lack confidence in taking the AP Physics course and exam, feel free to connect with us. At Turito, we are a team of expert educators who know how to help you clear the exam. With dedicated teachers and doubt solvers in a class, all the queries of the students are valued. 

FAQs

Which types of calculators are allowed in AP Physics exams? 

The College Board allows four functions, scientific or graphing calculators, in both sections of the AP Physics exam. 

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What is the experimental design question in AP Physics? 

The experimental design question will include a theoretical experiment and its aim. The candidate will have to answer conceptual questions related to the experiment. 

What will be used in quantitative/qualitative translation? 

This question will be a standard physics problem, and candidates will need to use equations and formulas to derive the answer.

Physics 1, 2, and C

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