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Everything you need to know about AP Physics C Mechanics

Everything you need to know about AP Physics C Mechanics

Here is all you need to know about AP Physics C Mechanics

First of all, why should you take AP Physics C Mechanics?

At the end of the day, you alone will determine whether or not to enroll in AP Physics C: Mechanics. Remember to take into account your personal schedule, the subjects you are most interested in, and how AP Physics C: Mechanics will affect your plans in addition to the factors mentioned above as you make your choice. AP Physics C Mechanics is a one-semester class that is usually taken in the second year. This class is recommended to students aspiring to pursue STEM courses for undergrad. Here are some of your major options if you choose to study AP Physics C Mechanics:

What does it entail:

When you finish an Advanced Placement Physics C course at your high school, you are eligible to take the college-level AP Physics C Exams, which are given each May. There are two AP Physics C exams which are Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism. You may choose to take either of these tests or both. 

This is what you’ll be learning in Mechanics:

Unit Name What you’ll learn
Kinematics Position, Velocity, Acceleration and Time
Newton’s Law of Motion The Newton’s Law of motion which describes the relationship among moving objects and the forces acting on them
Work, Energy and Power Calculating work, energy and power and familiarize yourself with the principle of conservation
Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum Center of mass, impulse, momentum and the conservation of linear momentum
Rotation Rotational motion by investigating the torque and rotational statics, kinematics and dynamics
Oscillations Forces that cause the objects to repeat their motions with a regular pattern
Gravitation Gravitational forces and the relationships shared between planets, satellites and their orbits

This is what you can expect in the exam:

The AP Physics C Mechanics exam is entirely 1 hour and 30 minutes long which is one of the shortest AP exams. It is broken down into two 45-minute sections – Multiple Choice and Free Response. There will be a short break between the two sections, and you will be allowed a calculator throughout the test (standard four-function, scientific, or graphing calculators only).

A tip that I usually follow for the Multiple choice is to attempt all the questions I know first. Once I finish answering all the questions I know, I will be able to dedicate time into solving ones that require a little more time. This ensures two things: You don’t rush up in the end and mark the wrong circle and you will be able to read the question and answer correctly. Especially when it comes to Mechanics, because there are a lot of terminologies and numbers. These are two very common mistakes that are made by the AP students. 

Section Time Duration About the questions
Multiple Choice (50%) 45 minutes This section has 35 questions both individual and in sets. The set of questions can pertain to the same graphic or data presentation. 


Single-select questions are each followed by five possible responses, only one of which is correct.

Free Response (50%) 45 minutes This section has 3 free response questions. One of the questions on the free response section will be lab-based, or practical, while the other two will be traditional pen-and-paper questions.

Three multiple-choice questions make up the free response section. You must write out your answers to these questions to demonstrate your work. 

The free-response section is graded by high school and college teachers in contrast to the multiple-choice section, which is graded by a computer. If you don’t correctly answer every part of the question, you might still receive some points for the steps because they have rules for partial credit.

Every topic/unit has its individual weightage. The exam may have more questions from one topic than the other as the distribution is not equal. Below is a look at the seven units structured in a sequence recommended by the College Board, along with the weight each unit is given on the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam:

Unit Name Percentage weightage on the MCQ
Kinematics 14%-20% 
Newton’s Law of Motion 17%-23% 
Work, Energy and Power 14%-17% 
Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum 14%-17% 
Rotation 14%-20% 
Oscillations 6%-14% 
Gravitation 6%-14% 

The table above shows that the majority of the questions from the multiple choice exam are focused around Newton’s Law of Motion first, and then Rotation. Therefore, while you prepare for your exam, you can consider making these concepts a priority so it guarantees you those marks. However, this doesn’t mean disregarding the other concepts. Every mark counts!

How’s the exam scored? What were the stats for the last session?

AP exams are graded on a scale of 1-5 where 5 is an extremely good score. Colleges generally look for a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics C exams if you want college credit, but some may grant credit for a 3 as well. AP Physics has a reputation of being hard. But really, how hard is it? See the table below to find out what percentage of students scored 1-5. 

Score Percentage of students that scored
5 41.6%
4 26.4%
3 16.3%
2 9.2%
1 6.5%

What is the pass rate for AP Physics C Mechanics?

The percentage of students who pass the AP exam is one indicator of how challenging a particular AP class is. Scores for AP exams range from 1 to 5, with a 3 considered a passing grade. You may get a sense of how challenging the exam is for students by comparing the AP exam pass rate for AP Physics C: Mechanics to the overall average. The table below shows a comparison of the pass rate and the perfect score rate for the Physics C exam versus the average of the other AP subjects. 

AP Exam Pass Rate (3 or higher) Perfect Score (a 5)
AP Physics C Mechanics 73.5% 23.5%
Other AP classes 64.2% 16.8%

The pass rate and percentage of perfect scores for AP Physics C: Mechanics are above average. Pass rates on the AP exam, however, are not a reliable indicator of how challenging a subject is. Because the students who take certain AP tests, like AP Physics C: Mechanics, have prior knowledge of and preparation in the sciences and are prepared to challenge themselves, they tend to have better pass rates.

In addition, certain factors, such as the caliber of your teacher, will be unique to you and your school and will influence how challenging you find the course.

How do you prepare for the AP Physics C Mechanics exam?

Firstly, this is what will be expected from you if you take the subject: 

Your own topic knowledge could influence how challenging you find AP Physics C: Mechanics. Calculus-based science is covered in the AP Physics C: Mechanics course so essentially, you will need to know the basics of calculus and you would need to have an  interest for the same. The course will probably be simpler for students with a strong math background who enjoy higher-level math, are doing well in calculus, and have taken and enjoyed prior physics courses than for those who have difficulty with math and science.

To boil it down, here are a few ways that you can prepare for the exam:

  1. Your class notes reflect your understanding. Reading them will definitely help you recollect what was taught in class. You will be able to understand better from the notes you have taken down because essentially you are writing down what you understood. 
  2. A test prep book is definitely optional but a lot of the AP students use it because the book consists of practice problems and exams unique to each topic. You will be able to assess your strengths and weaknesses as there will be questions for each aspect of the unit. Some of the most recommended books are Barron’s and Princeton Review’s.
  3. Flash cards for revision in a flash. Making flash cards is probably the most effective way to remember definitions and where to apply formulas. These are an easy way to quickly revise and jog your memory on what needs to be remembered for the exam. 
  4. Practice tests. While this may already be in your prep books, try to find older AP exams so you would truly be ready for anything that comes your way. Practicing past paper AP exams will give you the best idea on how you will perform on the actual exam as the questions are very similar.

Here are a few tips you can keep in mind during the exam:

  1. Time management is key. Allocate an appropriate amount of time on the free-response section because Mechanics involves calculus and writing down the entire solution with the steps. You will also need to use your calculator so tick tock! Make sure you don’t spend too much time on one question and run out of time to at least try to answer all of the others.
  2. Show the process. Always. If the question involves calculations, be sure to outline every step you took to arrive at your conclusion. Strike out if you believe any of the workings to be incorrect rather than spending time completely erasing it.
  3. Reading has never been more significant. It is a good idea to read through all of the questions to decide which ones you feel most qualified to answer before starting to answer the free-response questions. Finish the questions you are most comfortable with so it is out of the way. After that, you can move on to answer the questions in a way that would help you perform at your peak. The most tricky part about the AP Mechanics paper is the keyword that they use in the question. Each keyword means a different thing and if there’s one thing that we always regret is, not reading the question properly. 
  4. Make sure you understand your answer so you know the examiner finds it legible too. Put your responses in the best possible order. Consider labeling your responses with the appropriate sub-part, such as (a), (b), or (c). You can guarantee that you address every subdivision of the free-response question by doing this.
  5. Correctly label your diagrams and graphs. All graphs and diagrams in Mechanics paper  should have appropriate labels that are both clear and accurate. Read the question carefully because it may include a graph title, unit-specific x and y axes labels, a best fit line, etc. The most common mistake during the exam is forgetting to label the axes or labeling it incorrectly. These things carry marks too, so make sure you don’t forget! 
  6. Include units everywhere. It is probably the most significant thing to do in a Physics exam. Where applicable, each number should be expressed in its appropriate units. It can help to ensure that you express answers in terms of the correct units if you keep track of units as you perform your calculations. If the units are wrong or absent from the answer, depending on the exam question, points may be deducted.
  7. Don’t lose hope even if the first sub division is wrong. Many free-response questions have multiple parts, each of which requires a separate answer (for example, parts a, b, c, and d). Since credit is given for each part separately, you should try to solve each one. For instance, you might get zero points for your response to component a but full points for part b, c, or d. Even if the earlier response to a question is incorrect, you might still be able to get full credit for the later response if it is necessary for the answer to an earlier part of the question.

Yep! That is all for AP Physics C Mechanics. We’re sure we left no stone unturned so anything you want to know, it’s in this blog!

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