# What makes the AP Physics exam so difficult?

###### Jason Kuma

Writer | Coach | Builder | Fremont, CA

###### Article Content
Are you a high school student preparing to take the AP Physics exam? If so, you may be wondering why this exam is so difficult. Let’s take a closer look at some statistics and factors that make this exam challenging.

### Exam Performance Statistics

According to the College Board, the average score for the AP Physics 1 exam in 2021 was 2.55 out of 5. Additionally, only 12.3% of students who took the exam received a score of 4 or 5. These statistics highlight the difficulty of this exam and the importance of preparing adequately.

### Concept Pairing in MC Questions

One of the main challenges of the AP Physics 1 exam is concept pairing in multiple-choice (MC) questions.

These questions test for two concepts at once, such as momentum and kinetic energy, or forces and kinematics.

A common concept pair is momentum and center of mass. This appeared as question one on the 2021 AP Physics 1 exam and, according to the College Board, only 33.6% of students earned full credit on this question.

### Difficult Free-Response Questions

The free-response questions (FRQs) are another aspect of the AP Physics exam that can be challenging. These questions require you to apply your knowledge of physics to real-world situations and can involve multiple steps to solve.

According to the College Board, the average score for the FRQs on the 2021 Exam was only 1.55 out of 5. This statistic highlights the importance of practicing FRQs and understanding how to apply your knowledge effectively.

### Limited Time

You only have 90 minutes to answer 50 tricky MCQs and another 90 minutes to solve long FRQs.

According to the College Board, only 47.5% of students completed all questions on the 2021 Exam. This statistic highlights the importance of practicing rapid calculations by hand and developing strong problem-solving skills.

### How to Prepare for the AP Physics Exam

Now that we’ve looked at the statistics and factors that make the AP Physics exam difficult, let’s discuss how you can prepare for it. Here are some tips:

1. Practice with Concept Pairing

To prepare for the MC questions, you need to practice applying multiple concepts at once. Look for practice problems that involve pairing different concepts and work through them until you can apply both concepts correctly.

1. Focus on Understanding Concepts

Rather than memorizing formulas, focus on understanding the underlying concepts of physics. This will help you apply your knowledge to real-world situations and solve problems more effectively.

1. Practice FRQs

To prepare for the FRQs, practice solving problems that involve multiple steps. Make sure to read the question carefully, identify the relevant concepts, and apply them correctly. Work on improving your problem-solving skills and time management.

### Conclusion

The AP Physics 1 exam is a difficult but manageable challenge. By understanding the statistics and factors that make this exam challenging, and by following the tips we’ve outlined, you can increase your chances of success.

Remember to practice with concept pairing, focus on understanding concepts, and practice solving FRQs. With these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to acing the AP Physics exam.

###### 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

Unit 8 – Fluids

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KinematicsForces
\Delta x = v_i t + \frac{1}{2} at^2F = ma
v = v_i + atF_g = \frac{G m_1m_2}{r^2}
a = \frac{\Delta v}{\Delta t}f = \mu N
R = \frac{v_i^2 \sin(2\theta)}{g}
Circular MotionEnergy
F_c = \frac{mv^2}{r}KE = \frac{1}{2} mv^2
a_c = \frac{v^2}{r}PE = mgh
KE_i + PE_i = KE_f + PE_f
MomentumTorque and Rotations
p = m v\tau = r \cdot F \cdot \sin(\theta)
J = \Delta pI = \sum mr^2
p_i = p_fL = I \cdot \omega
Simple Harmonic Motion
F = -k x
T = 2\pi \sqrt{\frac{l}{g}}
T = 2\pi \sqrt{\frac{m}{k}}
ConstantDescription
gAcceleration due to gravity, typically 9.8 , \text{m/s}^2 on Earth’s surface
GUniversal Gravitational Constant, 6.674 \times 10^{-11} , \text{N} \cdot \text{m}^2/\text{kg}^2
\mu_k and \mu_sCoefficients of kinetic (\mu_k) and static (\mu_s) friction, dimensionless. Static friction (\mu_s) is usually greater than kinetic friction (\mu_k) as it resists the start of motion.
kSpring constant, in \text{N/m}
M_E = 5.972 \times 10^{24} , \text{kg} Mass of the Earth
M_M = 7.348 \times 10^{22} , \text{kg} Mass of the Moon
M_M = 1.989 \times 10^{30} , \text{kg} Mass of the Sun
VariableSI Unit
s (Displacement)\text{meters (m)}
v (Velocity)\text{meters per second (m/s)}
a (Acceleration)\text{meters per second squared (m/s}^2\text{)}
t (Time)\text{seconds (s)}
m (Mass)\text{kilograms (kg)}
VariableDerived SI Unit
F (Force)\text{newtons (N)}
E, PE, KE (Energy, Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy)\text{joules (J)}
P (Power)\text{watts (W)}
p (Momentum)\text{kilogram meters per second (kgm/s)}
\tau (Torque)\text{newton meters (Nm)}
I (Moment of Inertia)\text{kilogram meter squared (kgm}^2\text{)}
f (Frequency)\text{hertz (Hz)}

General Metric Conversion Chart

Example of using unit analysis: Convert 5 kilometers to millimeters.

1. Start with the given measurement: \text{5 km}

2. Use the conversion factors for kilometers to meters and meters to millimeters: \text{5 km} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{m}}{1 \, \text{km}} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{mm}}{1 \, \text{m}}

3. Perform the multiplication: \text{5 km} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{m}}{1 \, \text{km}} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{mm}}{1 \, \text{m}} = 5 \times 10^3 \times 10^3 \, \text{mm}

4. Simplify to get the final answer: \boxed{5 \times 10^6 \, \text{mm}}

Prefix

Symbol

Power of Ten

Equivalent

Pico-

p

10^{-12}

Nano-

n

10^{-9}

Micro-

µ

10^{-6}

Milli-

m

10^{-3}

Centi-

c

10^{-2}

Deci-

d

10^{-1}

(Base unit)

10^{0}

Deca- or Deka-

da

10^{1}

Hecto-

h

10^{2}

Kilo-

k

10^{3}

Mega-

M

10^{6}

Giga-

G

10^{9}

Tera-

T

10^{12}

1. Some answers may be slightly off by 1% depending on rounding, etc.
2. Answers will use different values of gravity. Some answers use 9.81 m/s2, and other 10 m/s2 for calculations.
3. Variables are sometimes written differently from class to class. For example, sometime initial velocity v_i is written as u ; sometimes \Delta x is written as s .
4. Bookmark questions that you can’t solve so you can come back to them later.
5. Always get help if you can’t figure out a problem. The sooner you can get it cleared up the better chances of you not getting it wrong on a test!

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