This guide is for the 2021 AP Physics 1 exam
If I had to pick the best way to get a 5 in AP Physics 1 in five words, it'll be "familiarize, organize, research, practice, and ask."
The AP Exam has a lot of tricks up its sleeve 👕 and if you do these five things throughout the year (FORPA for short), you're on the right track towards earning that 5! 🎉
1. Familiarize yourself with the 2021 exam format 🔎
That's right. You got two major things to look at: the class and the exam. Knowing how you get tested and what the content that you test over is the key 🔑 to getting a 5. Like most STEM AP classes, your score is evenly split between MCQs and FRQs.
The Format of the 2021 AP Physics 1 Exam
The multiple-choice section makes up 50% of your score, and you have an hour and 30 minutes to answer 50 questions. The last 5 questions need you to pick two correct answers. The free-response section makes up the other 50% of your score. You have an hour and 30 minutes to answer 5 questions.
This section has four 4️⃣ question types:
Experimental Design (1 question)
Quantitative/Qualitative Translation (1 question)
Short Answer: Paragraph Argument (1 question)
Short Answer (1 question)
Now, let's talk about what's going to be tested on the exam. Some topics will be featured more prominently than others, so that should also influence how much you study a given unit compared to others. Here are the weights for each unit on the AP Exam:
Circular Motion and Gravitation: 4-6%
Momentum – 10-16%
Simple Harmonic Motion: 2-4%
Torque and Rotational Motion: 10-16%
Electric Charge and Electric Force: 4-6%
DC Circuits: 6-8%
Mechanical Waves and Sound: 12-16%
Use this information to guide your studying 👀! You'd want to prioritize unit 5+7 over unit 6 as it has a larger weight larger on the exam!
2. Organize your resources and notes 📎
Most students often skip this step because this often sounds inconvenient at the time. However, organization is one of the most important steps to be a successful student in this class.
So how exactly do you stay organized?
Use dividers and paper clips to keep your physics notes in the same place.
Color-code as you annotate and highlight your textbook and/or prep book. If you can't write on them, go all out with the sticky notes!
Bookmark all your online resources and save them in a folder dedicated to AP Physics 1 for future reference. For your convenience, check out our AP Physics 1 Self-Study & Homeschool
blog to see our favorite physics resources compiled, including Quizlet decks and teacher websites!
Remember, organization is inversely proportional to time wasted. The more you organize, the less time you waste decluttering and searching for notes & PDF copies in the long run! 📝
3. Research on key topics, especially ones you're having trouble with 📚
Every piece of knowledge matters. That means that you shouldn't stop at what you know inside the classroom! With physics, you need to understanding major topics both conceptually and mathematically.
Research in this case isn't what you're probably thinking right now: labs and professors. Here, research means tons of reading and looking at worked examples to see how to solve the problems on the AP Exam. The more you see about a certain topic, the more you're likely to remember and, ultimately, understand it
The point is: you can't go to school on the day of the test empty-handed.
4. Practice... and then keep practicing! ✏️
Now that you've looked at examples and maybe worked out a worksheet or two, it's time to move on to practice tests! For the MC section, I recommend looking at prep books <TK> (especially Princeton Review and Barron's) for AP-style questions. Time yourself and see how long it takes you to breeze through. Also, pay attention to topics that slow you down so you can allocate more review time for those.
For FRQs, use this list of past prompts
to find questions by unit, topic, and type (one of the four mentioned above). You can also check out some of these FRQ review streams to see walkthroughs of recent prompts:
5. Ask questions! ❓
As you know, physics is a highly conceptual field of science. Sometimes, analogies and real-life examples help you best in understanding specific concepts. For example, If your teacher is becoming too technical, you can always ask for a demo or an application of said concept so that everything makes more sense.
Questions aren't just limited to that, though. Feel free to ask about engaging "what-if" scenarios (e.g. "what if the static friction's force on an object is larger than another object's force on that object?"). Sometimes, all it takes for the puzzle pieces to fall into place is an answer to a question lingering in your mind for so long.
Wrapping It Up 🎁
See the common theme? Spending a little time every day outside of class to know what to do and then consolidating all your resources in one place will save time. Doing so will make your review sessions more productive than ever!
AP Physics 1 can pack a punch, but as long as you stay on top of classwork, homework, and exam, practice, you're bound to get a 5.