AP® Physics 1 Exam FAQ: Everything You Need to Know for 2024 (2024)

To understand the requirements for AP® Physics 1 in 2024, you should consider the following AP® Physics 1 FAQs listed below.

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Is AP® Physics 1 Easy? What Can Make It Hard?

The AP® Physics 1 exam is considered one of the more difficult exams in the AP® collection of exams. Physics is considered an advanced science, and the AP® version of it is meant to escalate the complexity to the college level. This exam requires an understanding of trigonometry as well as algebra and geometry.

One way to gauge the difficulty of AP® exams is based on the percentage of students who passed the exam in past years.

Only 44.6% of those who took the AP® Physics exam in 2023 scored a 3 or higher. The mean score was 2.55. The annual passing rate and the average score on the AP® Physics 1 exam are consistently lower than all AP® exams’ averages.

Within the AP® Sciences category, there are seven AP® courses, four of which are physics courses. Of these, AP® Physics 1 generally has the lowest passing rate of all of the science exams. These passing percentages are based on a total test population of approximately 145,000 students each year. This is significantly higher than the typical testing populations of the other AP® Physics exams.

The relatively low passing rate on AP® Physics 1 is partly due to the large group of students taking the exam –some of the students in the course might be taking an advanced physics course for the first time or may not have deep expertise in the subject area.

Since this test has a lower passing rate than other AP® exams, it will be helpful for you to understand how the course contents are weighted on the exam. Using this information, you can be sure to devote more study time to those areas that are more heavily reflected on the exam.

There are seven total units covered in the AP® Physics 1 course. Each is reflected in the exam content at varying percentages. The unit with the highest amount of exam weight is Unit 4: Energy, which accounts for 20-28% of the exam content and Unit 2: Dynamics, which accounts for 16-20% of the exam. Unit 1: Kinematics, Unit 5: Momentum, and Unit 7: Torque and Rotational Motion, all make up 12-18% of the exam.

The rest of the units make up 14% or less of the exam content.

Historically, the exam covered ten total units, but starting in 2021, the exam now covers only the first seven units. Be sure to review all seven units to be completely prepared for the AP® Physics 1 exam.

As you can probably gather, scoring a 3 or better on the AP® Physics 1 exam will require significant effort and determination. You can ease the burden slightly by knowing how many questions you must answer correctly in each exam section. You can use Albert’s AP® Physics 1 score calculator to determine this information.

AP® Physics 1 Exam FAQ: Everything You Need to Know for 2024 (1)

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Is AP® Physics 1 Worth It?

The short answer is, yes, taking the AP® Physics 1 exam is worth it. There are several ways that you will benefit from taking this exam. Primarily, taking the AP® Physics 1 exam will give you the confidence that you are prepared for the rigors of college-level courses. This confidence can guide you as you choose your course load for that first semester on campus.

In addition, AP® courses can positively impact your college admissions process. Admissions counselors like to see that students are both serious about their education and that they will be able to succeed at the college level. Having AP® exams on your transcript can provide that reassurance.

But the most popular benefit to taking the AP® Physics 1 exam is that it can save you money. When you pass the AP® Physics 1 exam with a score of 3 or higher, you can receive college credit for that course while you are still in high school. You can enter college with college credits already under your belt. This can translate into real savings.

Some students use their AP® credits to graduate early. Others use those freed-up credits to explore a minor or a double major. Whatever you choose to do with your AP® credits, it will translate into savings.

Different colleges reward credit for the AP® Physics 1 exam differently depending on the policies of the college. The chart below highlights a few popular colleges and the estimated savings that could be coming your way from passing the AP® Physics 1 exam.

SchoolMinimum Score RequiredNumber of CreditsEstimated Tuition Savings
Northeastern University45$7,885
Arizona State University44$4,604
Ohio State University35$6,225
Columbia University46$10,896
University of Southern California44$7,452
Rutgers University44$3,660
University of Michigan510$6,560
Penn State University44$7,512

All the information above should help convince you that taking the AP® Physics 1 exam is worth your time, effort, and energy.

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When is the 2024 AP® Physics 1 Exam?

The 2024 AP® Physics 1 exam will be given in person using paper-and-pencil tests. The 2024 AP® Physics 1 exam will take place on:

Friday, May 17, 2024, at 8am local time

Curious about when other AP® exams are happening in 2024? View or download the complete AP® exam schedule here.

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Start your AP® Physics 1 test prep here

Can I use a calculator on the AP® Physics 1 exam?

Yes! You are allowed to use a “four-function, scientific, or graphing calculator” on all sections of the AP® Physics 1 test. More details are here.

When do AP® Physics 1 scores typically come out?

According to the latest update from the College Board exam season timeline, students will receive their AP® scores in July 2024. Historically, the College Board typically releases AP® scores early in the month of July.

You’ll be able to access your AP® scores online with your College Board account username and password

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How is AP® Physics 1 Scored? What’s the Weighting of Different Questions?

There are two types of questions on the AP® Physics 1 exam: multiple choice questions (MCQs) and Free Response Questions (FRQs).

SectionQuestionsTime% of Exam Score
1: Multiple Choice50 MCQs (45 are single-select; 5 are multi-select)1 hour and 30 minutes50%
2: Free Response5 FRQs1 hour and 30 minutes50%

As you can see, there is equal weighting between the exam’s multiple-choice and free-response portions. Each portion also has the same time requirement of one hour and 30 minutes.

The multiple-choice portion consists of 50 questions. There are 45 single-select multiple-choice questions that can be individual or grouped in sets. There are 5 multiple-select multiple choice questions, which are all individual. For all questions, you will be provided a prompt or set of data to use in answering the questions.

Section 2 of the exam includes 5 FRQs on the following topics:

  • Experimental Design (1 question)
  • Qualitative/Quantitative Translation (1 question)
  • Paragraph Argument Short Answer (1 question)
  • Short Answer (2 questions)

Pro tip: Get experience designing and setting up experiments. This will help you understand how to incorporate measurements into your calculations on the exam.

The weighting of the course units in the actual exam questions can be really helpful to know as you plan your study strategy. The breakdown is outlined below. How these breakdowns impact your actual exam score can also be useful information to have. You can find this using Albert’s free AP® Physics 1 score calculator.

UnitsExam Weighting
Unit 1: Kinematics12-18%
Unit 2: Dynamics16-20%
Unit 3: Circular Motion and Gravitation6-8%
Unit 4: Energy20-28%
Unit 5: Momentum12-18%
Unit 6: Simple Harmonic Motion4-6%
Unit 7: Torque and Rotational Motion12-18%

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What happens if you fail AP® Physics 1?

AP® Physics 1 Exam FAQ: Everything You Need to Know for 2024 (2)

AP® Physics 1 is a difficult course with a lower-than-average passing rate. If you fail the exam, know that there are ways to keep this from derailing your academic future.

Failing the AP® Physics 1 exam won’t affect your GPA or your ability to graduate high school. Your school uses your coursework and regular year tests to factor your course grade for AP® Physics 1. Your AP® Physics 1 exam score won’t even come out until your semester scores have been calculated and reported.

However, you will not be able to use a score of 2 or lower for college credit. The minimum score colleges will accept is a 3, and in some cases, the college will require a 4 or even a 5 in order to award credit.

If you want to be able to use the AP® Physics 1 exam score for credit, you will need to retake the exam. Luckily, you can retake the exam as many times as you want without penalty. You will just need to pay the exam fee each time you retake the exam.

In the end, you get to decide who sees your AP® exam scores. If you failed AP® Physics 1 or scored lower than you wanted to, you can decide not to share that score with colleges. If you did send in a low score, you can request that the college substitute your higher retake score in their records.

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Start your AP® Physics 1 test prep here

When Do Students Typically Take AP® Physics 1? When is Best?

When to take AP® Physics 1 depends on your reason for taking the course. Students who plan on majoring in engineering may take AP® Physics 1 earlier as a preparation course for taking AP® Physics C later in high school. Other students who want an introduction to Physics may choose to take it later in high school.

AP® Physics 1 has a fairly low passing rate, which usually denotes that the course content and exam are challenging for students. If you wait to take the course, you may find that those additional high school years have made you more academically confident and might help you on this exam.

AP® Physics 1 also has several prerequisites that you will need to take and pass before you can take AP® Physics 1. You must have completed geometry and at least be enrolled in Algebra II concurrently, if not prior to taking AP® Physics 1. The College Board also recommends that students be familiar with trigonometric functions but stresses that those can be learned in a concurrent course or in AP® Physics 1 itself.

When you decide to take AP® Physics 1 will depend on your academic goals and your aptitude for the subject. You should seek the advice of your guidance counselor, parents and teachers, but in the end, the choice is yours.

Where Can I find Past AP® Physics 1 exams?

The College Board has made past AP® Physics 1 exams available for review on the AP® Central Website.

These past exams contain a gold-mine of useful information that can help prepare you for this year’s exam. You should take the time to review all of the information listed below. Incorporating these tools into your study plan can save you from studying the wrong things and focus your attention on what matters.

You can find past free-response questions of AP® Physics 1 exams here:

While the free-response questions account for half of your overall AP® Physics 1 exam score, the multiple-choice portion makes up the other half. You will want to allocate some study time to these questions as well. You can find limited practice questions in the AP® Physics 1 Course and Exam Description.

Since only 16 sample questions are in the exam description guide, you will want to consult Albert’s AP® Physics 1 page to get more practice. This page has hundreds of additional multiple-choice questions that parallel the learning objectives of the course.

The College Board’s AP® Central website contains some extremely valuable tools that can assist you in preparing for the AP® Physics 1 exam. You should allot time to review these resources as part of your study strategy.

The Scoring Guidelines report lets you understand how points are awarded for each question. You can view the question and the elements that make up a full-credit answer. This knowledge will allow you to understand the level of detail and specificity the graders seek.

The Chief Reader Reports might be the most valuable reports of the ones listed above. These reports are written by the Chief Reader for the AP® Physics 1 exam, who is usually a college professor and someone who is considered an expert in the field of teaching physics.

This report will break down each free-response question and point out where students did well or lacked answers. The report also outlines areas students should pay particular attention to when studying in order to answer the questions properly.

The Chief Reader Report for 2019 noted that in the responses for question 3, many students did not understand how the measured variables corresponded to the variables in their mathematical expressions. They were too vague in reference to their measured variables.

Another useful tool that isn’t listed above is the list of sample responses that are available for each past exam question. These reports show three separate sample responses for each question.

For the 2019 exam, of the 7 possible points for Question 1, one response earned 6 points, one earned 4 points and one only earned two points. You can view all of the responses and a breakdown of why they missed points.

You will undoubtedly want to spend a large portion of your time studying for the free-response portion of the exam, but don’t forget the multiple-choice portion as well. Albert’s AP® Physics 1 exam page can save you time and energy and quickly get you up to speed on this section. There you will find hundreds of multiple-choice practice questions specifically designed for the AP® Physics 1 exam.

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Start your AP® Physics 1 test prep here

Who Should Take AP® Physics 1? What Sort of Students May Like It More Than Others?

AP® Physics 1 Exam FAQ: Everything You Need to Know for 2024 (3)

AP® Physics 1 is considered an introductory physics course, so it is a good choice for a variety of students. On the one hand, it is a good early course for students who are either starting their physics education or plan to go on to either of the AP® Physics C courses.

On the other hand, it is also a good course for students who want to take a challenging AP® science course but don’t necessarily want to major in science or engineering in college. Students who fall into this category typically choose to take the course later in high school.

AP® Physics 1 will cover both text-based work and hands-on laboratory work. Students in this class will learn about systems, fields, force interactions, change, conservation, and waves. If these topics interest you and you have taken Algebra II, you would be a good candidate to take AP® Physics 1. You can learn more about the content of the AP® Physics 1 course in the course overview.

Since you are not required to take AP® Physics 1, you will want to explore other AP® courses to make sure that AP® Physics 1 is the right course for you. If the subject matter does not align with your interests and strengths, you should choose a different AP® course that interests you.

If scoring a 5 on your AP® exams is a goal, you will want to approach AP® Physics 1 with caution. This course has one of the lowest percentages of students who scored a 5 in 2019 at 6.7%. The overall passing rate is also lower than average, at 45.4%.

You have full control over which AP® courses you choose to take. Review the AP® course options with your guidance counselor, teachers, and parents to design an AP® course plan that works best for you.

How Do Students Typically Score on AP® Physics 1? What’s The Score Distribution?

As the AP® Physics 1 exam is one of the more difficult exams in terms of content and passing rates, the scores tend to trend lower than with some other AP® exams. Your score on this exam will be based on such factors as your aptitude for physics and your level of preparation for the exam. You might find the scoring breakdowns on the chart below helpful as you determine your likelihood to be successful on the AP® Physics exam.

Year% of 5s% of 4s% of 3s% of 2s% of 1sPass Rate %

As you can see from this chart, the passing rate for the AP® Physics 1 exam ranges from about 40% to 50%, which is well below the overall AP® exam average. This exam tends to attract both future and non-science majors, accounting for the lower overall scores.

In 2023, the average AP® Physics 1 exam score was 2.55. This mean was based on a total of 159,582 test takers.

Need Help Preparing For Your AP® Physics 1 Exam?

Albert has hundreds of AP® Physics 1 practice multiple-choice questions, free-response questions, and full-length practice tests to try out.

Start your AP® Physics 1 test prep here

AP® Physics 1 Exam FAQ: Everything You Need to Know for 2024 (2024)


How long is the AP Physics 1 exam in 2024? ›

The AP Physics 1 exam is three hours long and consists of multiple-choice and free-response sections. You have about 90 seconds per multiple-choice question and about 12 minutes per free-response question.

What percent is a 5 on the AP Physics 1 exam? ›

45-59% = 3. 60-74% = 4. 75% or more = 5.

How many students fail AP Physics 1? ›

As you can see from this chart, the passing rate for the AP® Physics 1 exam ranges from about 40% to 50%, which is well below the overall AP® exam average. This exam tends to attract both future and non-science majors, accounting for the lower overall scores.

Is AP Physics 1 the hardest exam? ›

Yes, the general consensus is that AP Physics 1 course is considered one of the hardest AP classes. It is considered the 2nd toughest AP subject when compared with all the 39 subjects.

What is the hardest AP exam? ›

The hardest AP class is AP Physics 1, covering topics like Newtonian mechanics and electrical charge and force. Students also spend about 25% of their class time performing college-level lab experiments and writing reports.

Why is the AP Physics 1 pass rate so low? ›

The pass rate for AP Physics 1 is 43.3%. Now, you might think that sounds low, but remember, AP courses are designed to push you and evaluate your college-level skills. The pass rate depends on factors like the exam's difficulty, your preparation, and how you study.

What is the shortest AP Exam? ›

Hey there! I'd be happy to help you with your question about AP exams. The shortest AP exams are typically those without essays, and as of the last few years, the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam has been the briefest. It's only 90 minutes long, consisting of multiple-choice questions followed by free-response questions.

Is a 5 on AP Physics 1 good? ›

Your AP Physics 1 exam score will range from 1 to 5. A 1 is the lowest you can get, and a 5 is the best. How well you do on the exam determines if you can get college credits or advanced placement.

Is a 70% a 5 on the AP exam? ›

Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.

Is AP Physics 1 curved? ›

The scores on AP® exams are curved every year by the College Board to standardize student performance across years and across subjects. Courses, AP® Physics 1 included, are essentially college-level subjects. The scoring guidelines are intended to emulate the austerity of similar college courses.

Has anyone gotten a perfect score on AP Physics 1? ›

To put this in perspective, Jin Wook is one of only two students out of nearly 145,000 test takers in the world to have earned every available point on the AP Physics I exam last spring. Clare, Abigail, and Rachel are among 343 out of over 19,000 test takers to achieve a perfect score.

Do colleges care about AP Physics 1? ›

Successful completion of the AP Physics 1 exam is a student's key to earning college credit.

Is it ok to get ab in AP Physics 1? ›

The level of difficulty of your class also matters (Regular/Advanced/Honors/AP/other). A "B" in an AP class is considered better than a "B" (or even an A) in a Regular class. When you're trying to challenge yourself with rigorous coursework, colleges will take it positively.

What to remember for AP Physics 1? ›

The first set of formulas you need to know for AP Physics 1 are the FOUR kinematics formulas, which relate to the motion of objects. These include formulas for distance, displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Table showing the big 5 kinematic equations and the one missing variable in each equation.

Do you need prior knowledge for AP Physics 1? ›

Students enrolled in an AP Physics 1 course encounter university-level introductory physics content rooted in algebra. Learners typically complete geometry and algebra II courses before beginning their AP Physics 1 coursework.

What math should you take before AP Physics 1? ›

There are math requirements, so you will need to have taken geometry and algebra II before trying AP® Physics 1. This is technically only a suggestion, but you should consider it an absolute requirement. Going into a physics course with weak math skills is like going into a history course with weak literacy skills.

What is required for AP Physics 1? ›

You should have completed a geometry course and be concurrently taking Algebra II or an equivalent course.

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