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Difference Between AP Physics 1, 2, and C

High school students often struggle with the decision of choosing between AP Physics 1, 2, and C. Which one is right for you? Should you study all of them? We will help you make a decision by explaining the difference between them. Read on.

 AP physics offered by the College Board

 is one of its most interesting courses delving into the physical interpretations of happenings in the world around us.

The primary differences between the three categories of physics are:

  1. AP Physics 1:

This is the most basic level among the three courses and is recommended for the first years. It provides students with a basic understanding of physics and the concepts surrounding it thereby strengthening their foundation.

This course surrounds the algebra behind the courses of mechanics, work, power, and energy. Apart from this, students are also given a brief overview of the fundamental applications of electricity in circuits.

This course covers concepts taught in the first semester of college.

Units Covered in AP Physics 1 are: 

  • Unit 1: Kinematics – 10% to 16%
  • Unit 2: Dynamics – 12% to 18%
  • Unit 3: Circular Motion and Gravitation – 4% to 6%
  • Unit 4: Energy – 16% to 24%
  • Unit 5: Momentum – 10% to 16%
  • Unit 6: Simple Harmonic Motion – 2% to 4%
  • Unit 7: Torque and Rotational Motion – 10% to 16%
  • Unit 8: Electric Charge and Electric Force – 4%-6%
  • Unit 9: DC Circuits – 6%-8%
  • Unit 10: Mechanical Waves and Sound – 12%-16% 

   2. AP Physics 2:

AP Physics 2 covers concepts taught in the second semester of college. This course is also algebra-based and helps students learn about electricity, magnetism, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and atomic and nuclear physics.

Unlike Physics 1, Physics 2 has a prerequisite. You must have finished the AP Physics 1 course. 

A good understanding of Algebra and Geometry is a must.

Physics 2 is generally taken by high school seniors.

Units covered in this course are:

  • Unit 1: Fluids – 10% to 12%
  • Unit 2: Thermodynamics – 12% to 18%
  • Unit 3: Electric Force, Field, and Potential – 18% to 22%
  • Unit 4: Electric Circuits – 10% to 14%
  • Unit 5: Magnetism and Electromagnetic Induction – 10% to 12%
  • Unit 6: Geometric and Physical Optics – 12% to 14%
  • Unit 7: Quantum, Atomic, and Nuclear Physics – 10% to 12%

  3. AP Physics C:

Unlike AP Physics 1 or 2, AP Physics C is a calculus-based course and relies on several concepts taught in basic calculus courses to teach students advanced concepts of electricity and magnetism.

AP Physics C is divided into two sub courses that can each be taken separately. They are, electricity & magnetism and mechanics.

With these two being radically different topics, this course might get a tad bit difficult.

So, AP Physics C is recommended for those with an aptitude for science and math. Most students rate  Physics C as one of the difficult AP courses. 

Units covered in this course are:

Electronics & Magnetism:

  • Unit 1: Electrostatics – 26%-34%
  • Unit 2: Conductors, Capacitors, Dielectrics – 14%-17%
  • Unit 3: Electric Circuits – 17%-23%
  • Unit 4: Magnetic Fields – 17%-23%
  • Unit 5: Electromagnetism – 14%-20%

Mechanics:

  • Unit 1: Kinematics – 14%-20%
  • Unit 2: Newton’s Laws of Motion – 17%-23%
  • Unit 3: Work, Energy, and Power – 14%-17%
  • Unit 4: Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum – 14%-17%
  • Unit 5: Rotation – 17%-20%
  • Unit 6: Oscillations – 6%-14%
  • Unit 7: Gravitation – 6%-14%

The percentages are just a broad approximation of how much each chapter weighs in the grand scheme of things and which subjects need more of your attention.

Source: Collegeboard

With the advanced courses approaching closer and closer, students are forced to overstress and find alternate ways of studying while coping with the pressure. However, there are ways to get around this problem including simple solutions like:

  • Following an organized time table
  • Getting the help of an online tutor
  • Solving sample questions

If you keep these simple points in mind, you are sure to do well no matter which paper you attempt or which year you attempt them in.

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Written by George K.

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