About The AP Physics I Exam

I. Exam Format

Section I

Multiple Choice — 50 Questions with 50% of Exam Score

1 Hour, 30 Minutes

Individual questions and Questions in sets

Questions 1 – 45: Single-select questions (Only one option is correct)

Questions 46 – 50: Multiple-select questions (two options are correct)

Section II

Free Response— 5 Questions with 50% of Exam Score

1 Hour, 30 Minutes

Experimental Design (1 question)

Quantitative/Qualitative Translation (1 question)

Short Answer (3 questions, one requiring a paragraph-length argument)


Exam questions are based on learning objectives, which combine science practices with specific content. Students learn to:

·         Provide both qualitative and quantitative explanations, reasoning, or justification of physical phenomena, grounded in physics principles and theories.

·         Solve problems mathematically — including symbolically — but with less emphasis on only mathematical routines used for solutions.

·         Interpret and develop conceptual models

·         Transfer knowledge and analytical skills developed during laboratory experiences to design and describe experiments and analyze data and draw conclusions based on evidence.

Section Il contains three types of free-response questions and each student will have a total of 90 minutes to complete the entire section. The three free- response question types include:


II. Cover Areas

·         Kinematics

·         Dynamics: Newton's laws

·         Circular motion and universal law of gravitation

·         Simple harmonic motion: simple pendulum and mass-spring systems

·         Impulse, linear momentum, and conservation of linear momentum: collisions

·         Work, energy, and conservation of energy

·         Rotational motion: torque, rotational kinematics and energy, rotational dynamics, and conservation of angular momentum

·         Electrostatics: electric charge and electric force

·         DC circuits: resistors only

·         Mechanical waves and sound


III. Students will be allowed to use a calculator on the entire AP Physics I exams — including both the multiple-choice and free-response sections. Scientific or graphing calculators may be used, provided that they don't have any unapproved features or capabilities.


IV. Notes from College Board Exam Description:

On the AP Physics I, exams, the words "describe," "explain," "justify," "calculate," "derive," "what is," "determine," "sketch," "plot," "draw," "label," "design," and "outline" have precise meanings.


Students should pay careful attention to these words in order to obtain maximum credit and should avoid including irrelevant or extraneous material in their answers


·         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 an accurate and coherent description or explanation. Students will also be asked to " justify" a previously given answer. A justification is an argument, supported by evidence. Evidence may consist of statements of physical principles, equations, calculations, data, graphs, and diagrams as appropriate. The argument, or equations used to support justifications 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 justification 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 often 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 I 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 specific 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 specific 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 figure in part [x]." This will give students the opportunity to construct a working diagram showing any components that are appropriate to the solution of the problem. This second diagram will not be scored.


·         Some questions will require students to "design" an experiment or "outline" a procedure that investigates a specific phenomenon or would answer a guiding question. Students are expected to provide an orderly sequence of statements that specifies the necessary steps in the investigation needed to reasonably answer the question or investigate the phenomenon.