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Difference between AP physics 1 and AP physics C mechanics

  1. Feb 15, 2015 #1
    What are the difference between AP physics 1 and AP physics C mechanics exams? What are the main differences?

    If I already learned AP Physics 1 (kinematics, newton's 3 laws of motion, torque, momentum, ucm, deformation of solids) and AP calculus AB, then should I take the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam? I know AP Physics 1 and AP Calculus AB concepts very well. So should I take it? What else should I learn to get a 5 on the exam?

    Is it worth taking the exam? Are AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C: Mechanics the same course in college/university?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Physics 1 & 2 do not use calculus. Physics C does. They correspond to different courses at the college/university level. Physics and engineering majors in college almost always use a calculus-based intro physics course.

    If you want to try the Physics C exam with your background, you need to study the mechanics part of a Physics C book (basically any college-level calculus-based intro physics book will do, I think) and (at least) learn how calculus is used with the concepts that you've already seen in Physics 1: velocity, acceleration, work, etc.

    For more details, you can probably find syllabi on the College Board web site, along with sample exams, so you can see what you're getting into.
  4. Feb 16, 2015 #3
    So if I take it it would be worth it (getting credit for another college course other than the college course that corresponds to AP Physics 1)?
    *assuming the college does give credit for getting above a 3 on the exam

    Also, what AP calculus class (AB or BC) should I take in order to have enough knowledge in calculus to understand AP Physics C Mechanics fully?
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
  5. Mar 1, 2015 #4


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Homework Helper

    Be aware that Physics 1 covers more than just mechanics. It also covers waves, electrostatics, and some basic electronic circuits. (But no magnetism.) If you have not learned those extra topics, and you do know calculus, then I think the Physics C:Mechanics exam is better suited to you right now.

    As jtbell said, the calculus-based physics courses are taken by physics and engineering majors in college. If you think you want to major in one of those, then earning credit college for Physics 1 would not help much, as you'd probably have to take the calc-based version in college anyway. Physics 1 would be useful if you plan to major in biology / life sciences, or go the pre-med route. (For college chemistry majors, to be honest I'm not sure which physics course is more suitable.)

    I'm not familiar with specific differences between calculas AB vs. BC. Generally, Physics C requires you to use differentiation or integration of basic functions to solve a few of the problems. There's often a free-response question requiring you to set up a differential equation, then solve it using separation of variables. The Physics C exam does provide a list of derivatives and integrals for common functions.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2015
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