Guided by National Research Council and National Science Foundation recommendations, the AP Program spent several years collaborating with master AP teachers and eminent educators 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. The new courses were endorsed enthusiastically by higher education officials and will benefit all members of the AP community. AP will begin offering the eagerly awaited courses in the 2014–15 academic year, and it will discontinue the AP Physics B program following the 2013–14 academic year.
Revisions at a Glance
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 inquiry-based instruction and in-depth exploration 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.The AP Program will begin offering AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 in fall 2014, followed by the exams 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.
The New Courses
Each course is designed to be taught 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; 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; atomic and nuclear physics.
- A new curriculum framework clarifies what knowledge and skills students should demonstrate to qualify for college credit and placement.
The AP Physics 1: Algebra-based and AP Physics 2: Algebra-based Curriculum Framework was developed in close consultation with college and university faculty and master AP teachers nationwide. The new framework differs from the AP Physics B “list of learning objectives” in significant ways. The curriculum framework is now —
- Organized around seven, foundational big ideas in physics that structure the courses.
- Focused on a series of learning objectives that clarify what knowledge and skills students should demonstrate to qualify for college credit and placement. Each learning objective is a combination of specific physics content and 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 skills enables teachers to use the principles of scientific inquiry to promote a more engaging and rigorous experience for AP Physics students.
- Inquiry 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 described in the curriculum framework.
The new curriculum framework 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 50-55 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.
Each element of the redesigned courses and exams was reviewed by college department chairs and faculty from across the United States. They identified the key concepts and skills that 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.
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 is designed to ensure that teachers have a thorough understanding of the redesigned course requirements and receive any support they need to create a syllabus for each of the new courses. To ensure a stress-free process, teachers have the following options for creating a syllabus:
- Option 1: Design and submit a syllabus aligned with the new curricular requirements, guided by resources available at AP Course Audit.
- Option 2: Submit one of the Annotated Sample Syllabi to use as an approach to teaching each course.
The AP Course Audit will begin accepting syllabi for review in March 2014. As long as teachers submit a syllabus by January 31, 2015 and agree to incorporate feedback from reviewers, they will retain course authorization throughout 2014–15.
As teachers transition to the redesigned course, AP will support them by creating and posting online numerous resources to help plan for 2014–15, including practice exam questions, syllabus development guides, sample syllabi, course planning and pacing guides, and more. Please visit AP Course Audit Information for details.
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, as well as online workshops and events, where participants learn practical ways to design a rigorous curriculum and prepare students for success on the exams.
- Beginning in June 2013, AP Physics B workshops and AP Summer Institutes will devote approximately 20 percent of the sessions to previewing the new courses, supporting the transition to the new curriculum framework.
- Beginning in June 2014, AP Physics workshops and AP Summer Institutes will focus on the new courses only.
The AP Physics Teacher Community is an online space, moderated by fellow educators, where AP teachers can connect with colleagues, share classroom materials, and exchange ideas. Join the community today and begin conversations with peers.
For more on the topics covered above, download FAQs on AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.
Proposed Action Plan
- Read the AP Physics 1 and Physics 2 Curriculum Framework.
- Watch the video AP Physics 1: Algebra-based & AP Physics 2: Algebra-based: An Overview of the Course Redesign (.mp4), which describes the upcoming changes and explains key aspects of the curriculum framework.
- Become familiar with the AP Course Audit process.
- Plan to participate in professional development in 2013 and 2014 to become more familiar with the course changes and receive support in planning.
- Join the AP Physics Teacher Community and collaborate with peers in planning for the new courses.