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Which AP Physics Courses Are Available?

Three physics courses were previously available through the AP Programme: AP Physics B, AP Physics C: Mechanics, and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism.

However, the AP programme recently substituted two one-year courses, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2, for the one-year AP Physics B course. Both of these physics courses are algebra-based, so Algebra II is the minimum math requirement for them.

There are still two courses and exams for AP Physics C available through the AP programme: Physics C: Magnetism and Electricity and Physics C: Mechanics. Calculus is used in both of these courses, which are frequently taught in tandem classes or with a single subject.

Thus, there will now be four AP Physics exams:

  • AP Physics 1
  • AP Physics 2
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and magnetism
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics, AP Physics C

It can be perplexing that there are now four AP Physics exams. You must therefore take Physics 1, Physics 2, and Physics C in that order. What has changed between Physics I and Physics II? We'll walk you through each course and assist you in selecting the one that's best for you.

One AP Physics

A college-level introductory physics course using algebra, and AP Physics 1 is offered. It examines fundamental physics ideas such as Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion), work, energy, power, mechanical waves and sound, and circuits.

You can enrol in AP Physics 1 without having yet to take any previous physics courses because it was created as a first-year physics course. The main departure from the previous AP Physics B course, which was intended to be taken as a second-year physics course, is this.

The AP programme advises that students enrol in this course while concurrently taking Algebra II and having at least taken geometry. Because maths is so crucial to physics, you might want to switch to a different science course until you're up to speed.

AP Physics 2

It explores some more complex topics than Physics 1, though.

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

The second year of physics was intended for AP Physics 2. It might follow AP Physics 1 or any other introductory physics course. Its content resembles the old AP Physics B course in large part.

The Advanced Placement website has detailed descriptions of AP Physics 1 and Physics 2.

Because both AP Physics C courses are calculus-based, you should either have taken calculus or be taking it right now while you take either AP Physics C course. This is the primary reason why Physics C is more difficult than Physics 1 and Physics 2.

But how do AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism differ from one another?

Kinematics, Newton's laws, work, energy, power, linear momentum, circular motion and rotation, oscillations, and gravitation are all covered by the field of mechanics. As you can see, many of these are the same ideas covered in Physics 1. However, this course is much more difficult than Physics 1 because it is more in-depth and uses calculus.

Electrostatics, conductors, capacitors, dielectrics, electric circuits, magnetic fields, and electromagnetism are all covered in the subject of electricity and magnetism.

There is some overlap with the content of Physics 2, but Physics C will be more challenging because it includes calculus.

Even though there are two different exams, the two topics are occasionally taught as one course with one semester of instruction for each. Mechanics is typically taught first in a single class, followed by Electricity and Magnetism.

Since mechanics builds on the concepts that are most frequently covered in introductory physics classes (Newton's laws, work, energy, power, etc.), it is often the only subject that schools teach.

Each topic is meant to be comparable to one semester of calculus-based college physics. This makes AP Physics C at the very least a second-year physics course highly advised. On the AP website, you can read a detailed description of Physics C.

Which AP Physics course ought you to enrol in?

Given what you now know about the various AP Physics classes, you may be wondering which one you ought to enrol in. Or, if you want to enrol in more than one, you may be considering the best sequence for your schedule. We'll outline a few potential paths, but we'll also provide you with action items to take with your school so you can pick the course that's right for you!

Option 1: Regular/Honors Physics, followed by AP Physics 2

Start with a regular or honours physics class to learn the fundamentals of physics if your school doesn't offer AP Physics 1 or if you don't want your first physics class to be an AP class. You can then enrol in AP Physics 2 for your second physics course.

Students who don't have the time or desire to take multiple AP Physics classes, as well as those whose schools don't offer multiple AP Physics classes, should choose this option. Although AP Physics C is also an option if you're taking/have already taken calculus, Physics 2 is the best AP Physics class to take after a regular or honours physics class (Physics 1 would essentially just repeat what you already learned).

Option 2: First take AP Physics 1, then AP Physics 2.

Future pre-med, geology, and life sciences students will have a strong physics foundation if they take Physics 1 and 2, according to the AP programme. They add that it's a good option for college students who will need to fulfil a science requirement but are not majoring in the subject.

If your school offers an Introduction to Physics course but not AP Physics 1, you can simply substitute that course for AP Physics 1. A second-year physics course, AP Physics 2 is not to be taken right away.

You could take Physics 1 and then another natural science course (such as chemistry or biology), a science elective, or think about taking AP Physics C if your school offers it if AP Physics 2 is not provided at your school.

Option 3: AP Physics 1 first, followed by AP Physics C

For students planning to major in engineering or physical science in college, the AP suggests taking Physics C along with AP Calculus AB or Calculus BC. It might be overkill to take AP Physics 1, Physics 2, and Physics C because you would have less time for biology and chemistry. For a well-rounded, challenging high school career, especially if you're going into science or engineering, it's crucial to get exposure to all three of the natural sciences. Additionally, you want to confirm that you can enrol in at least one AP Calculus course.

To take Physics C, start with AP Physics 1 (or a regular physics course), and then take AP Physics C, giving you a total of two physics classes in high school.

Don't enter Physics C unprepared; it is intended to be at least a second-year course. As you take AP Physics C, make sure you have taken or are currently taking calculus.

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