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The Ultimate AP Physics 1 Study Plan: Prep for Success

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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 Steps for Success

Concept Pairing – PRO TIP #1: #2

Concept pairing is the single most important thing understand before taking the exam. 

This involves using a combination of topics/laws to solve a single problem. For example, momentum and center of mass.

Another popular combination is forces (unit 2) and momentum (unit 5).

So while you practice questions, identify concept pairs. Become extremely good at choosing which topics college board is asking you to use for each question.

If you’re looking for questions with concept pair checkout out UBQ – a free physics question bank.

Topics to know

We’ve reviewed the course outline provided by the College Board so you don’t have to.

Here are the topics you need to know. Click each link to read a speed review of the unit and test your knowledge.

PRO TIP #3: Right now, grab a half sheet of paper. Jot down as many concepts, topics, and formulas you remember for each unit. Then click on each speed review and see how many laws/formulas you were able to get.

PRO TIP #4: You can get a 5 with just 15 equations and 20 concepts.

Having trouble or don’t know where to start. We offer a one-to-one program that has helped over 500 students score a five in five weeks. Click here to check it out.

Gather Study Materials

Don’t spend hours reviewing notes or watching youtube videos.

To be successful in AP Physics 1, you must do two thing:

  1. Take Mock Exams
  2. Review Missed Questions

Mock Exams

I’ve worked with many students that have scored 5’s. All of them did 100’s of question and mock exams before taking the exam.

PRO TIP #5: Practice 100 AP level questions per unit. AND full understand the ones you missed.

Don’t understand what you did wrong? Phy, the most advanced problem solver, can help with that.

Supercharge Your Study Schedule

Lets create a study schedule based on the things we just discussed.

Dedicate the next 5 to 8 weeks:

  • for taking mock exams
  • for reviewing challenging areas
  • for taking breaks to avoid burnout

First take a mock exam to establish a baseline score. Your goal is to increase this score by 5-10% each week.

Allocate around 4 hours a day 4 days a week, to review missed questions prevent it from happening again.

If you’re having difficulty sticking to a schedule or need motivation, Nerd-Notes provides a five-week program that increases your chances of scoring a 5. The program includes all materials, a personalized learning schedule, and has helped over 500 students score a 5.

Example Schedule

Week 1Take a mock exam. Determine you baseline score. Identify specific areas of weaknesses. Go over at least 5-10 of the missed question in depth and fully understand what was missed.
Week 2Take a second mock exam. Aim to score at least 10 percent higher than you baseline score. Once again, identify specific weak points in each missed question and do an in depth review.
Week 3 Repeat the process from week 2. This time aim for not only accuracy, but speed. Also aim for a 10%+ improvement in score. Practice with a tutor or teacher that will properly show problem solving strategies.
Week 4Take another mock exam. Repeat processes above. You should see another 5-10% improvement in score. Make some notes on frequent question types you see, strategies that work, etc.
Weeks 5 – 8Take as many more mock exams as possible. Use questions from UBQ to enhance understanding, especially missed questions.

Practice with Realistic Questions

Practice makes perfect, and practicing with realistic AP Physics 1 questions is essential for success.

  • Use College Board’s offical papers for FRQs
  • Ask your teacher for College Board’s practice MCQs
  • Use Nerd-Notes Physics UBQ for both FRQs and MCQs

Get professional coaching

PRO TIP #6: 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 much faster and easier.

Picture of Jason Kuma
Jason Kuma

Writer | Coach | Builder | Fremont, CA


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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