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The Ultimate AP Physics 1 Study Plan: Prep for Success

Jason Kuma
Jason Kuma

Writer | Coach | USC - Physics B.S & Business B.A. | Fremont, CA

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Preparing for the AP Physics 1 exam can be daunting, but with a solid study plan in place, you can feel confident and prepared on test day. In this article, we’ll provide you with 6 actionable steps to take in order to create the ultimate AP Physics 1 study plan that will help you achieve success.

AP Physics 1 Exam Format

The first step in creating a study plan is to understand the exam format.

The AP Physics 1 exam consists of:

  • 50 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) – 90 mins
  • 5 free-response questions (FRQ) – 90 mins

3 Step Summary for Success

  • How to Ace the MCQ section: Unique strategies to get you ahead
    • Solve each questions under 90 seconds, or mark it wrong.
    • Understand concept pairing and how to prepare for it.
    • Understand common questions types and how to tackle them

Concept Pairing

Concept pairing is the single most important thing understand when it comes to the AP Physics 1 exam. 

Nearly every question will require you to use multiple topics to solve a single problem. You will almost never see a problem that you can solve using one concept.

For example, a popular combination is Forces and Momentum. 

To learn more about concept pairing and other things that make the AP Exam difficult, check out this short article.

While you practice questions, identify concept pairs. Become extremely good at choosing which topics college board is asking you to use for each question. This is straight forward as most think.

Know What You Need to Know

AP Physics 1 covers a range of topics, from mechanics to energy and momentum. Make sure you’re familiar with the exam content by reviewing the course outline provided by the College Board.

Create a checklist of concepts and equations you need to know, and rank them based on your strengths and weaknesses.

For a comprehensive list of all 

If you are having trouble on all of them, it is likely you were not taught well in general. Nerd-notes aims to solve this with a combination of free resources and 1-to-1 elite tutoring that has been proven to increases understanding by 100% on the very first lesson.

Here are the topics you need to know along with the exam weighting for the MCQ portion of the AP Exam. Click each link to read a speed review of the unit and test your knowledge.

Gather Study Materials

To be successful in AP Physics 1, you must have 2 things:

  1. Mock exams or AP level questions
  2. Review guides

Watching review videos or just reading the guide will not help.

Review Guides

Nerd-Notes has free “Speed Review Guides” for each topic along with AP style practice questions.

Alternative you can purchase the latest Princeton review, Barrons, or 5 step to a 5 booklet. College board has updated the AP Physics curriculum in 2021 so, be sure to purchase the most recent version of the review books.

Mock Exams and Practice Questions

I’ve worked with many students that have scored 5’s.

One thing in common common to success, the numerous practice questions completed. drive to do as many questions as possible. I had a student do over a 1000 questions with me over the course of 4 months — and it works!

To put it simply, you must practice and fully understand a total of 100 questions per unit. You can find questions from you text book, online, or your teacher.

Mock exams are equally as important. Intact if you only have a few weeks to study for the exam, I would highly recommend spending them taking as many mock exams, throughly understanding the ones you missed and improving your overall score by 10-15% per week. Ask your school or tutor for mock exams. Take a minimum of four.

Create a Study Schedule

Now that you have the necessary knowledge and materials, it’s time to create a study schedule. Include time for taking practice exams, reviewing challenging areas, and self-care breaks to prevent burnout.

Dedicate 5 to 8 weeks to studying for the exam. Take a mock exam to establish a baseline score and aim to increase it by a certain amount each week. Identify areas of weakness to focus on. It’s essential to allocate around 4-5 hours on weekends and 2-3 hours on weekdays. If you’re having difficulty sticking to a schedule or need motivation, Nerd-Notes provides a five-week program that increases your chances of getting a 5. The program includes all materials, resources, and a personalized 24-hour learning plan that has helped over 200 students achieve stellar results.

If you’re struggling with concepts or stuck on specific questions, consider seeking professional assistance to expedite your learning. Alternatively, you can access free help from your school or friends.

Example Schedule

Date (6 to 8 hours per week)Goals
Week 1Take a mock exam. Set a baseline score. Identify areas of weaknesses and create a study plan according to that.
Week 2Tackle your weak points first. Practice numerous questions on the topic until you can solve each question under 90 seconds. Take another mock exam; time yourself to get an accurate feel for the test!
Week 3Keep practice weak points, and throughly reviww questions missed on the mock exam. It’s highly recomded to do this with a tutor or teacher that can properly explain the underlying concept and probelm solving strategy.
Week 4Take another mock exam. Repeat processes above. You should see around a 20% improvement in score by now.
Week 5Take another mock exam. Keep practicing questions and understanding the missed ones.
Week 6Review all the questions in it’s entirety and come up with a strategy for each topic, each section, and each type of question. The more you can come up with the easier the exam will be.

Practice with Realistic Questions

Practice makes perfect, and practicing with realistic AP Physics 1 questions is essential for success. Use past AP Physics 1 exams and practice questions provided by your study materials to simulate the exam experience. This will help you get used to the format and pace of the exam, and identify areas where you need more practice.

You can find these specific resources right here on nerd-notes, or from any physics teacher and tutor.

Get professional coaching

Don’t be afraid to reach out for support when you need it. Consider forming a study group with classmates or seeking help from a tutor or teacher. Discussing and solving problems with others can help solidify your understanding of concepts and identify areas where you need more practice.

Jason Kuma
Jason Kuma

Writer | Coach | USC - Physics B.S & Business B.A. | Fremont, CA

Get Tutoring

Units in AP Physics 1

Unit 1 – Linear Kinematics

Unit 2 – Linear Forces

Unit 3 – Circular Motion

Unit 4 – Energy 

Unit 5 – Momentum 

Unit 6 – Torque 

Unit 7 – Oscillations 

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