2021 AP Physics C: Mechanics Exam Guide

7 min readmarch 5, 2021


Your guide to the 2021 AP Physics C: Mechanics exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We have created a study plan that will help you crush your Physics C Mechanics exam. We will continue to update this guide with more information about the 2021 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you score that 5. Create a Fiveable account and join our Discord to stay involved in all things AP exams! 😁

Format of the 2021 AP Physics C: Mechanics exam

This year, all AP exams will cover all units and essay types. The 2021 Physics C: Mechanics exam will be 1 hour and 30 minutes and the format will be:
Early May/ Late May (paper)
  • Section 1: Multiple Choice (50% of score)
    • 35 questions to complete in 45 minutes
  • Section 2: Free Response (50% of score)
    • 3 questions to complete in 45 minutes
Early June (digital)
  • Section 1: Multiple Choice (50% of score)
    • 35 questions to complete in 45 minutes
  • Section 2: Multiple Choice (50% of score)
    • 35 questions to complete in 45 minutes
    • The digital exam does not include any free-response questions!

When is the 2021 AP Physics C Mechanics exam and how do I take it?

There are three different exam administrations this year and the tests will be taken in person at your school unless your AP Coordinator has indicated otherwise. Here is what we know from College Board so far:
  • The first exam date is May 3, 2021, at 12 pm, your local time—this will be a paper test at your school.
  • The second exam date is May 24, 2021, at 12 pm, your local time—this will be a paper test at your school.
  • The third and final exam date is June 9, 2021, at 4 pm EDT—this will be digital, in school, or at home.
Create a Fiveable account to get updates on the latest 2021 exam news. 

How should I prepare for the exam?

  • First, download the AP Physics C: Mechanics Cram Chart PDF - a single sheet that covers everything you need to know at a high level. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses! 
  • Review every unit and question type, and focus on the areas that need the most improvement and practice. We’ve put together this plan to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam
  • Join our Discord channel to talk to real students just like you studying for this exam! We have TAs in each subject channel to support you this Spring. 
  • Finally, check out our live Cram events so that you can review for the AP Physics exam with a rockstar teacher and study socially among other students! 🤓

Pre-work: set up your study environment

Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means you’ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual. 

🖥 Create a study space.

Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space. 

📚 Organize your study materials.

Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also, create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!

📅 Plan designated times for studying.

The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.

How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

🤝 Get support from your peers. 

There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join our Discord channel to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together! 

AP Physics C: Mechanics 2021 Study Plan

🚗 Unit 1: Kinematics

Everybody can see motion! However, motion is more than just moving. Motion is made up of a few different parts. For example, how can you describe the position of your body in relation to time? How can you tell that an object is faster than another? These are some of the questions physicists ask when studying kinematics. This is a major part of the course as the rest of AP Physics C: Mechanics has some sort of foundation within this unit.
📖Read these Fiveable study guides:
🎥Watch these videos:

🚀 Unit 2: Newton's Laws of Motion

Now that you understand motion, you ask yourself: what causes these things to move in the first place? A certain guy named Isaac Newton developed many theorems and laws that help explain how certain things move and stop. In this unit especially, you will need to learn how his three laws describe the relationship between an object's motion and the forces it interacts with. Plus, in this unit, you will get to know about how circular motion plays a role in movement. You will need a good understanding of this unit to successfully learn other units in this course.
📖Read these Fiveable study guides
🎥Watch these videos from College Board:

🎢 Unit 3: Work, Energy, and Power

Energy is one of the biggest concepts in physics, and you can see it in every unit we've covered in the past and will cover in the future. Almost every FRQ can be at least partially tackled with energy!
📖Read these Fiveable study guides:
🎥Watch these videos from College Board:

🎳 Unit 4: Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum

Momentum, like energy, is a concept that can be easily applied in most physics scenarios, even when it isn't conserved. Momentum is easy to use to connect different units because it can be used to describe basically any system of objects in motion. 
📖Read these Fiveable study guides:
🎥Watch these videos from College Board:

🚲 Unit 5: Rotation

This unit is allllll about objects that rotate! From a spinning record to a satellite, we can use this unit to describe the motion (or lack of) for these situations. Additionally, we will be making connections between this unit and previous units in ways such as demonstrating the analogs between translational and rotational kinematics.
📖Read these Fiveable study guides:
🎥Watch these videos from College Board:

🌊 Unit 6: Oscillations

Oscillations are seen everywhere, from the music we hear to the springs we play with, and even with some topics, we'll cover in electricity and magnetism 👀. In this unit, we'll cover some situations that involve simple harmonic motion and placing them in the context of units we have covered in the past.
📖Read these Fiveable study guides:
🎥Watch these videos from College Board:

🪐 Unit 7: Gravitation

Gravitation may be the last and shortest unit, but you can see the applications of everything you've learned so far in this unit! From momentum to energy to forces, everything has accumulated to this point.
📖Read these Fiveable study guides:
🎥Watch these videos from College Board:

More Resources to look into:

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