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Guided by National Research Council and National Science Foundation recommendations, the AP Program spent several years collaborating with master AP teachers and faculty members from universities and colleges to evaluate and revise the AP Physics B course. This collaboration led to a decision to replace AP Physics B with two new courses, AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based and AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based. Higher education officials have endorsed the new courses enthusiastically. The courses will benefit all members of the AP community. AP will begin offering the courses in the 2014-15 academic year, and it will discontinue the AP Physics B program following the 2013-14 academic year.

Overview of Revisions

  • AP has implemented key recommendations by replacing AP Physics B with two new courses: AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.
    An in-depth study by the National Research Council (NRC) concluded that AP Physics B is a very broad course that “encourages cursory treatment of important topics in physics” rather than cultivating a deeper understanding of key foundational principles. The NRC further concluded that students should study Newtonian mechanics, including rotational dynamics and angular momentum, topics not covered in AP Physics B.

    The NRC also emphasized the need for an instructional approach that supports in-depth, student-led inquiry of topics. To achieve these important goals, and to provide the much-needed time for teachers to accomplish them, the NRC recommended spreading the course material over two years. After confirming this recommendation through college curriculum studies, higher education validations, reviews of state standards, and AP teacher timing trials, the AP Program is replacing AP Physics B with two separate full-year courses.

    AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based and AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based debut in fall 2014, followed by the first exam administrations in May 2015.
  • Students have the time needed to explore and deepen understanding.
    Splitting the AP Physics B course into two separate, full-year courses allows students to achieve in-depth understanding. They will have more time for hands-on explorations of physics content and inquiry labs. The full year also allows time for inclusion of physics content specified by state standards.

    Educators teach each course over a full academic year.

    • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based is the equivalent to a first-semester college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers Newtonian mechanics (including rotational dynamics and angular momentum); work, energy, and power; and mechanical waves and sound. It will also introduce electric circuits.
    • AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based is the equivalent to a second-semester college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers fluid mechanics; thermodynamics; electricity and magnetism; optics; and atomic and nuclear physics.
  • A new curriculum framework clarifies what knowledge and skills students should demonstrate to qualify for college credit and placement.
    AP developed the curriculum framework in the AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 Course and Exam Description in close consultation with college and university faculty and master AP teachers. The new framework differs from the AP Physics B "list of learning objectives" in significant ways and is:
    • Organized around seven foundational big ideas in physics that structure the courses.
    • Focused on a series of learning objectives that clarify the knowledge and skills students should demonstrate to qualify for college credit and placement. Each learning objective combines physics content with one or more of seven foundational science practices.
  • The science practices are emphasized.
    The ability to develop and use physics knowledge by applying it to the practice of scientific inquiry and reasoning is at the heart of the new physics courses and exams. Focusing on these science practices enables teachers to use the principles of scientific inquiry to promote a more engaging and rigorous experience for AP Physics students.
  • Inquiry-based investigations are emphasized.
    The amount of instructional time devoted to laboratory investigations has increased from 20 to 25 percent. These investigations now foster student engagement in the practice of science through experimenting, analyzing, making conjectures and arguments, and solving problems in a collaborative setting, where they direct and monitor their progress toward an academic goal.
  • Exam questions are based on the learning objectives as described in the curriculum framework.
    The curriculum framework in the new AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 Course and Exam Description includes measurable learning objectives, each of which combines the science practices with specific content to provide teachers with a clear and detailed description of what knowledge and skills students should demonstrate upon completing the courses. The new exams: 
    • Reduce the multiple-choice section from 70 to 50 questions, giving students more time to apply reasoning skills to questions on key concepts.
    • Emphasize the ability to use symbolic and proportional reasoning, and the ability to translate between multiple representations.
    • Reduce the number of free-response questions, allowing time to articulate qualitative and quantitative explanations, reasoning, and justifications of answers.
    • Include an experimental-design question that demonstrates understanding of the science practices.
  • The redesigned courses align with the knowledge and skills valued by college faculty members and department chairs.
    College department chairs and subject matter experts reviewed each element of the redesigned courses and revised exams. They identified the key concepts and skills students should learn — and confirmed that the design of the new AP Physics courses offer students a solid foundation for further science coursework in college.

    To learn more about the role of college faculty in course and exam development, visit the AP higher education website

The AP Course Audit

AP teachers will need to revise their course syllabus, based on the current course requirements, and have it authorized through the AP Course Audit. The audit process ensures that teachers have a thorough understanding of the redesigned course requirements and receive the support they need to create a syllabus for each course. To make the process of updating syllabi as straightforward as possible, teachers have the following options:

  • Option 1: Design and submit a syllabus aligned with the new curricular requirements using the resources available on the AP Course Audit website.
  • Option 2: Adopt and submit one of the Annotated Sample Syllabi.

The AP Course Audit will begin accepting syllabi for review in March 2014.

Resources to help teachers prepare their revised syllabi are now available on the AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 pages on the AP Course Audit website, including syllabus development guides, curricular requirements, four annotated sample syllabi for each subject, and example textbook lists.

Professional Development

AP offers a wide range of professional development options to ensure that teachers have access to the training they need to implement AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2. These options include one-day, face-to-face workshops and AP Summer Institutes, where participants learn practical ways to design a rigorous curriculum and prepare students for success on the exams.

  • AP Physics B workshops and AP Summer Institutes devote approximately 20 percent of the sessions to previewing the new courses, supporting the transition to the new curriculum framework. Additional one-day workshops focus specifically on building students' reasoning skills.
  • Beginning in June 2014, AP Physics workshops and AP Summer Institutes will focus on the new courses only.

Available now: Teachers can join the AP Physics Teacher Community, an online forum moderated by fellow educators where AP teachers can connect with colleagues, share classroom materials, and exchange ideas.

More Information

For more on the topics covered above, download FAQs on AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2. For information about implementing the new courses in your school's schedule and advising students of their options, download Planning for the New AP Physics Courses.

How to Get Ready