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AP Physics

  1. May 22, 2012 #1
    I'm going to be taking AP Physics next year, and I really want to get an A
    (I'm going to be a senior, so in case my application gets deferred, I'll be able to improve my transcript).

    I've only taken two AP classes; AP Psych and AP Computer Science, both of which I got an A in

    Can you guys give me any tips? What did you find was the best way to stay organized? Which topics
    did you find the easiest/most difficult? Any things that you would have done differently?

    Most of you guys have probably taken this class a long time ago, but any help would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: AP Psychics

    there's a good book to get by Tsokos called Physics for the IB Diploma that may be of interest to you for studying ahead of time or as an alternative resource for when you get stuck. The best piece of advice to know what you dont know and ask questions to fill the gaps before a test comes. Your first indicator is when you dont understand whats being taught and then that you cant do the homework. Make sure you find out why your homework isn't right. Be diligent physics can be counterintuitive. Also work with others and learn how they solve problems, look for elegant understandable solutions.

    Use your mistakes to tell you what you dont know and go from there.

    PS: I liked your thread title but being diligent is better than being a psychic in physics.
  4. May 22, 2012 #3
    Re: AP Psychics

    Thanks a lot!

    tbh the title was a typo lol
  5. May 23, 2012 #4
    Re: AP Psychics

    I'm actually taking AP Physics next year as well. From what I've heard, it's a difficult class (which I'm sure you're aware of).

    A senior who I work with told me that the first quarter was probably the easiest out of them all for him (the Motions section) and that the rest (Heat and Waves, Electricity, Electromagnetism, and Atomic Physics) was difficult.

    My school has two science teachers who are qualified to teach AP Physics, and apparently one is way better than the other. If you get a bad teacher, my guess is that it's better to rely on your schoolmates and to try and get together with them and study.

    From my past AP class experience (I took AP European History this year, and will take AP Physics, Psychology, and Government next year), getting a study group of other people who are equally interested in the class who can hold each other accountable and study together works extremely well for the AP exam.

    AP Physics, for me, is a 3 quarter course for a 4 quarter school year, and we take the exam (everybody does) in the 4th quarter. That means that you'll have to find time outside of school to study for a class that you aren't even in, which can be difficult. Having a group of people to get together with makes it that much easier.

    Good luck!
  6. May 23, 2012 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: AP Psychics

    yes the teacher issue can be a problem unless you're a self leaner. Reading about Feynman might help too. He had a unique approach to physics that goes to the heart of the matter.
  7. May 23, 2012 #6
    Re: AP Psychics

    Would you mind elaborating on that? Are you saying that we should try to study and learn physics using the mindset that Feynman used to approach physics?

    I've read his whole wiki page (except for the gibberish that's far beyond the intellect of a 16 year old who has yet to take a physics class), and don't remember anything mentioning him having a unique or better way to learn physics.
  8. May 23, 2012 #7
    Re: AP Psychics

    The best thing to do is make sure you understand calculus beforehand and have a book (any that are not pretentious, really) that you actually read.

    When I took AP physics, I lost on both regards. It basically happened due to my unwillingness to study a thing or do much homework. My teacher would assign 20 to 40 difficult (at the time) problems every two weeks with the answers posted (no solution). We would then shift papers around and have us grade each other on effort - you could tell he really didn't care about HW grade. Students would then write their answers on the board, a challenge problem tricking everyone almost always (i.e. no one wrote it on the board). So I would just copy garbage down and set it equal to the answer since I wanted to play video games.

    I was in AP calculus mechanics, which used differentiation almost everywhere, without any calculus, and then I transitioned into electricity and magnetism while beginning calculus. So while I was learning the derivative, I was actively using integration. Since I didn't have the simple conceptual understandings of calculus and I didn't know a few simple rules such as u-sub, product rule, etc., it was really hard to grasp the physics. About the only thing I knew how to do was integrate and differentiate a polynomial, which for mechanics solved many problems (not the case for E&M! natural logs are everywhere!).

    And we had two textbooks issued. Back then, I didn't feel like studying a thing, so I never cracked it open once. The effects were a puny 4 and 3 on the exams, no college credit, and a B and a C in the classes.

    So in sum, you just have to know calculus, read the book at least once, perhaps rereading areas of confusion, and do semi-difficult and difficult problems. You will easily make an A and two 5s.

    You can also begin studying by watching these videos: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-01-physics-i-classical-mechanics-fall-1999/

    You can also work the problems my old AP physics teacher has on his website:

    "objectives and homework" and "example problems" have many problems to work. If you can solve all of these problems, the AP exam and any test you take in HS will be very easy.
  9. May 23, 2012 #8


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: AP Psychics

    There are some Feynman interviews on the web where he talks about,what his father taught or how he learned things, and how he taught his kids. Reading the wiki wont help much there. Feynman's lectures to freshman are available too in book form and you can see how he frames his arguments to physics topics. They are expensive, challenging and different but bring out more of the problem than a typical teacher might. There's also reduced versions of the lectures called 'Six Easy Pieces' and 'Six Not So Easy Pieces'. Each book containing the best lectures of the freshman course for the interested layman.
  10. May 23, 2012 #9
    Re: AP Psychics

    But there's only one AP exam, right? I know that you can take it more than once if you want to, but it's all under one exam.
  11. May 24, 2012 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: AP Psychics

    There are three, count 'em, three, different AP Physics courses, and each has a separate exam.

    "Physics B" is a full-year course that does not use calculus. It also covers a a few topics not covered in the two Physics C classes (for example, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, plus some atomic, quantum, and nuclear physics).

    "Physics C: Mechanics" is a one-semester course using calculus.

    "Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism" is a one-semester course using calculus, and typically taken after C: Mechanics.

    The two Physics C classes are more appropriate for somebody planning to major in physics or engineering, as calculus is an important part of learning these subjects.

    The Physics B class is considered more appropriate for somebody planning to major in biology or other life sciences.

    If you take Physics B, you do not have to worry about knowing calculus. But you do have to worry about learning extra topics that can be challenging conceptually.

    Also, your school might not offer all three options, so you should ask your AP physics teacher what your school does.

    p.s. the exams for the C classes are each half the length of the 3-hour exam for the B class.
  12. May 25, 2012 #11
    Re: AP Psychics

    At my highschool, we have block classes (as in I only have 4 classes a quarter, but each class is 1hr 30min long as opposed to having eight 45min classes a quarter), so I'm taking all 3 of the AP courses available in one year. I think that's where the confusion of there only being one test comes from, especially since most other AP courses only have one test.
  13. May 26, 2012 #12
    Yes, which AP Physics class are you planning to take?

    I am now taking the C course, and I would have to say it is VERY challenging. If you thought regular physics was easy, you might find C hard.

    You will need to learn that physics is NOT about learning formulas, it is about understanding the concepts. Just knowing that F=ma and F=mv2/r is not going to save you.

    You will need to spend a lot of time studying. At least a couple hours a week.

    I like the Halliday/Resnick book. I also use the Serway/Jewett book, but that is not as clear at times. It is nice to get a different perspective, however. Many other people like University Physics or other books.
  14. May 27, 2012 #13
    I'm taking AP Physics C, both Mechanics & Electricity/Magnetism (thanks Redbelly98, I had no idea there were different semesters, or that there was even an AP Physics B option).

    We got our textbooks recently so that we can finish the first 3 chapters before school starts, and it looks like it's the University Physics book you mentioned.

    So do you recommend I buy the 'Halliday/Resnick book' as well?

    p.s. Thanks RoshanBBQ for the MIT link! I definitely plan on using it
  15. May 27, 2012 #14
    The way to do well in physics is to actually understand the concepts by applying them to various problems. Do lots of practice problems.
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