The Structure of The AP Physics 1 Exam

The AP Physics 1 Exam consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. The multiple-choice section consists of two question types. Single-select questions are each followed by four possible responses, only one of which is correct. Multi-select questions are a new addition to the AP Physics 1 Exam, and require two of the listed answer choices to be selected to answer the question correctly. There are five multi-select questions that always appear at the end of the multiple-choice section.

Section Number of Questions Question Type Time Limit Percent of Score
I. Multiple Choice 45


90 minutes 50%
II. Free Response 1


Experimental Design

Qualitative/Quantitative Translation

Short Answer
90 minutes 50%

The free-response section consists of five multi-part questions, which require you to write out your solutions, showing your work. The total amount of time for this section is 90 minutes. Unlike the multiple-choice section, which is scored by a computer, the free-response section is graded by high school and college teachers. They have guidelines for awarding partial credit, so you may still receive partial points should you not correctly respond to every part of the question.

You are allowed to use a calculator on the entire AP Physics 1 Exam—including both the multiple-choice and free-response sections. Scientific or graphing calculators may be used, provided that they don't have any unapproved features or capabilities (a list of approved graphing calculators is available on the College Board's website). In addition, a table of equations commonly used in physics will be provided to you at the exam site. This can be found online and we've included it with both practice tests.

Grades on the AP Physics 1 Exam are reported as a number: either 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. Here is a description of each of these five numerical scores plus data on how students scored on the May 2018 test:

Score (Meaning) Percentage of Test Takers Equivalent Grade in a first-year college course
5 (extremely qualified) 5.7% A
4 (well qualified) 15.3% A−, B+, B
3 (qualified) 19.6% B−, C+, C
2 (possibly qualified) 28.6% C−
1 (no recommendation) 30.8% D

Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5, but some may grant credit for a 3. How well do you have to do to earn each grade? Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year, but as we see above, in May 2018 nearly 60% of test takers earned scores of 1 or 2, so you'll want to study hard and prepare for this very difficult exam. We'll get to that soon, we promise!

So, what is on the exam and how do you prepare? Take a look at the following list of the major topics covered on the AP Physics 1 Exam.

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