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Overlap of Content Tested on the AP Physics Exams


Welcome to the wacky and wonderful world that is AP Physics! While so many students are enrolled in AP Physics courses, the language and delineation of these courses can often be confusing. Below we will break down every AP Physics course, the prerequisites, and any overlap  that exists!

There are currently four different AP Physics exams offered by the College Board: AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, AP Physics C Mechanics, and AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism. AP Physics 1 and 2 are each 3-hour long algebra-based exams, whereas AP Physics C mechanics and AP Physics C electricity and magnetism are each 1.5-hour long calculus-based exams. 


AP Physics 1 and 2

There is no physics prerequisite for AP Physics 1, which covers only mechanics topics. AP Physics 2 covers only non-mechanics topics (including but not limited to electricity and magnetism), but an understanding of mechanics is necessary to solve many of the problems, so there is a physics prerequisite of either AP Physics 1 or a similar introductory physics course. 

See the College Board blog posts linked below for additional information: 

“The Difference Between AP Physics 1 and 2” 

“Planning for AP Physics 1 and 2”

AP Physics C Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism

AP Physics C mechanics covers all of AP Physics 1 and more, and tests the mechanics topics at a calculus-level. AP Physics C electricity and magnetism covers all of the electricity and magnetism topics covered in AP Physics 2 and more, and tests those “E & M” topics at a calculus-level. As with AP Physics 2, while AP Physics C electricity and magnetism covers non-mechanics topics, an understanding of mechanics is necessary to solve many of the problems. 

The College Board has put together two summaries of the calculus relationships tested on the AP Physics C mechanics and AP Physics C electricity and magnetism exams, which are especially helpful for students who are taking calculus concurrently with AP Physics C. 

See the College Board summaries linked below:

“Quantitative Skills and Advanced Calculus Topics in AP Physics C: Mechanics”

“Calculus Relationships in AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism”

Looking Ahead

The College Board is making a few changes that will go into effect starting with the 2024-25 school year, most notably moving the fluids unit from AP Physics 2 to AP Physics 1, increasing the coverage of waves and circuits in AP Physics 2, and increasing the length of both AP Physics C exams to 3 hours each. 

See the College Board blog post linked below for additional information:  

“AP Physics Revisions for 2024-25”

Ready to connect with an AP Physics tutor? Call a Director today or contact us here!


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