AP Physics 1 & 2 Tips and Test Taking Strategies

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We get it. Studying for the AP Physics exam can be difficult and finding a complete list of AP Physics tips is tough. For many people, this is going to be the hardest test you’re going to take out of all your AP courses. But if you have the right AP Physics 1 study guide and an AP Physics 2 study guide you may be able to help yourself along the way.

This comprehensive list of AP Physics tips is intended to provide you with AP Physics 1 resources as well as help you with many of the areas that you might find difficulty in AP Physics 2 if you tried to go it alone. We’re going to go over some of the best tips and tricks to help you understand where to focus your attention and how to get the 5 you’re looking for. It requires a thorough understanding of AP Physics 1 dynamics and Physics 2 areas as well.

Overall, this test is going to take 3 hours to complete. It’s divided into a multiple choice section and a free response section. Within the multiple choice, you’ll have 50 questions to answer. Within the free response, you’ll have 5. Keep in mind that those free response are not all the same.

Out of those questions, 3 will be short answer, 1 will be an experimental design, and 1 will be quantitative/qualitative translation. Make sure you’re prepared for each of the different styles that your questions could take.

Hopefully, each of these tips is going to get you off to the right start when it comes to your AP Physics 1 exam, and you’re AP Physics 2 as well. Whether you’re looking for general study tips or more specific AP Physics 1 resources and AP Physics 2 review, you’ll have no problem finding some great ideas right here.

If you’re looking for the best AP Physics 1 review books, read our guide here. Taking AP Physics 2? Our guide to the best AP Physics 2 review books can be found here.

AP Physics 1 & 2 General Study TipsGeneral Study Tips for AP Physics 1 & 2

When it comes to studying for anything, the first thing you should focus on are the general tips. These are the things that are going to help you with all aspects of the test, whether the multiple choice or the free response. Make sure you go over each of these and start implementing them into your practice. From there, you’re going to want to move on to more specialized areas for study. This is going to start the basics of your AP Physics 1 review and our overall AP Physics prep.

  1. Start with the major ideas of physics – Start your study process at the top by focusing on the major ideas that physics is broken into. Don’t try jumping immediately into the smaller, nuanced ideas.
  2. Take practice tests – Practice tests, especially the ones that come from CollegeBoard, are going to make it easier to figure out where you are, and that’s where you’ll get AP Physics 2 practice exam multiple choice questions. You’ll be able to get an idea of what the test will be like and which areas you struggle in. So make sure you take an AP Physics 1 practice test and an AP Physics 2 practice exam.
  3. Grade and review your practice tests – Look over the answers you get and the answers you get wrong and find out what you’re having troubles with. You’ll want to focus on the areas that you’re struggling with on your practice tests or questions.
  4. Know why you’re getting questions wrong – Pay attention to what it is that is leading you to incorrect answers. Are you choosing the wrong equations? Making math mistakes or confusing different concepts or something else? You’ll want to know the problems you’re having and why.
  5. Review your labs – By going through labs that you’ve already done, you’re going to be better prepared for the free response questions that will be asked on your test. Make sure you fully understand those labs and how they work such that you would be able to explain them.
  6. Study what’s actually on the test – Look at the topics that are actually on the test before you start studying. You definitely don’t want to waste your time trying to learn something when it’s not even going to be tested.
  7. Make flash cards – Flashcards allow you to remember specific information and they make it easier for you to study while you’re doing other things. These cards can be easy to take with you to school or wherever else you might go so you can squeeze in a few minutes of study at any random time.
  8. Pay attention to learning material – You’ll be studying for physics 1 & 2, but these are not the only physics tests being offered. Note that these tests are not the same as physics C or any of the others that you may find. They are also not the same as the old test B. These tests each cover different things.
  9. Don’t assume your class will be enough – You will definitely not be able to pass this test if you don’t do self-study outside of your class. You absolutely need to make sure that you are studying as much as possible and that you are getting help besides just your regular physics book. You’ll need more than an AP Physics 1 semester review. Knowing how to pass AP Physics class or the AP Physics unit 1 test is not going to be enough.
  10. Pay attention to CollegeBoard – These are the people who make the tests so if you can find study resources, practice questions and sample questions (including old questions with answers) study what you can find of these.
  11. Use your calculator – As we’ll talk about later, calculators are allowed. Make sure that you’re actually using yours. Even if you think you can do the math on your own, it’s important to check your answers at the very least with the calculator to make sure you haven’t made a mistake.
  12. Know the seven science practices – The seven science practices are going to be extremely important to be able to answer the questions you’re going to be asked because they’re going to relate to a number of different areas.
  13. Understand how to establish lines of evidence – You’re going to need to explain how you get from one thing to another and that means establishing lines of evidence that are clear, concise and thorough at the same time.
  14. Know how to develop testable explanations – When you make a statement you need to be able to explain it, and in physics, you need to be able to show how it can be tested and still found to be true (or false).
  15. Find a free course – There are several free courses that you can take online, and many of them are actually live, which means you can ask questions within the group discussion and you can get responses and information from people who really understand the test. You may even find AP Physics 1 teacher websites to follow.
  16. Reread the questions – There are certain words that will entirely change the meaning of a question, or if you mix up units, it could completely change the equation that you need to perform. Make sure you reread each question to make sure you haven’t misread anything.
  17. Memorize your basic equations – Math is going to be a big part of your physics test, and you’ll need to know the equations that are going to be asked. Studying and memorizing the mathematical equations is going to set you up to succeed. You will get an AP Physics 1 equation sheet, but it’s easier to know some of your equations beforehand.
  18. Know concepts from each major idea – Once you’ve started to delve into each of the major ideas of physics, you also want to go a little deeper into some of the concepts. Make sure you also know how they fit into each of the major ideas. You’ll need to know things like the AP Physics 1 kinematics test.
  19. Create a study group – Having a few people that you can study with is going to make it a whole lot easier to understand the information. You can each help out with the areas you’re strongest at and get help in the other areas.
  20. Study one major idea or topic at a time – Focus on one major idea at each time. If you try to jump into too many areas at once, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and struggling to remember how different ideas relate to one another.
  21. Practice math – There’s a lot of math involved with physics, so you want to make sure that you’re practicing those equations. Practice just doing the math and remember that you will have a calculator available to do the problems.
  22. Practice diagramming questions – Diagramming out questions is going to make it easier to answer them in a lot of cases. Practice how you can diagram out the different sections and different types of questions, so you’re fully prepared.
  23. Know what the question is asking you – Make sure in any type of question that you know exactly what’s being asked. If you don’t understand the question read it through until you do. Even if you think you know what it means read it through again to double-check.
  24. Study where you need help – Don’t spend a lot of time on areas that you’re already pretty solid. Instead, spend your study time working on the areas that you’re struggling in or that you don’t have the same solid grasp.
  25. Use review books – Review books, especially Princeton, are going to help you a great deal in learning the material you don’t know and reviewing the rest. You want to get a good study book that goes into all of the topics so you can get help in all the areas where you’re struggling.
  26. Study test prep books alongside the class – Get a test prep book while you’re taking the class rather than waiting until after. Then work through the prep book while you study those sections in class for a little extra help and support.
  27. Keep track of your time – Make sure you keep track of your time throughout the test. You have a set amount of time to get everything done so you want to make sure you can get them done in that amount of time. Time yourself on your practice tests as well.
  28. Always check your math – You should always check the math that you do because you want to make sure that you’re doing it correctly. Making a mistake on a math problem is easy and could make your entire answer incorrect.
  29. Watch videos on Khan Academy – AP Physics 1 Khan Academy has a number of great videos that dive deep into the information that you’re going to need for your physics test. It will help you focus on any of the areas that you need additional help.
  30. Watch videos on YouTube – Another great resource is YouTube, where you’ll find a number of lectures that will walk you through different points. Find lectures on different areas that you struggle in and make sure you aren’t paying for any of these videos.
  31. Keep your videos short – If you are watching videos don’t try to dive into ones that are too long. The best thing you can do is watch short videos that are going to give you information without bogging you down too much with information that you can’t remember.
  32. Use practice problems in your physics book – There are practice problems throughout your book. Make sure you’re using them to your advantage by studying each one and working out the problems. Use the answers in the back of the book as well.

AP Physics 1 & 2 Multiple Choice TipsAP Physics 1 & 2 Multiple Choice Tips

When it comes to the multiple choice questions, you’re going to get a total of 1 ½ hours to answer 50 AP Physics 1 multiple choice questions and answers and AP Physics 2 multiple choice as well. These questions will account for 50% of your score, so it’s vital that you pay attention and value your time. You’ll have a little under 2 minutes per question, so if you’re answering the questions the right way (which we’ll talk about), you shouldn’t have a problem getting an answer for each of them.

  1. Evaluate multi-select questions – There are almost always at least a couple of questions that will ask you to select more than one answer. Make sure that you evaluate these questions carefully to know what they’re asking and to choose the right answers.
  2. Choose the best answer in every case – In some cases more than one answer might seem to be correct. Don’t just choose the first correct answer. Always look for the answer that best fits the question and go with that one instead.
  3. Read every answer before you choose one – Along the same lines as the last point, make sure that you read every single answer before you pick the one that you’re going to go with. You might find one that fits the question better than the one you initially chose.
  4. Answer questions you know first – When you first get your test read through the questions quickly. Any questions that you know should be answered immediately. Skip over anything that you don’t immediately know the answer to.
  5. Keep track of your answer sheet – If you’re going to be skipping around on different questions, you want to make sure that you keep track of where you are on your answer sheet. Keep all the bubbles lined up with the proper question, so you don’t lose points for filling in the wrong bubble.
  6. Try to come up with the answer before you read the options – When you read the question see if you can come up with the answer before you even read the options. You may already know what the answer is and then you can fill it in quickly. That means you use up less of your time.
  7. Don’t second-guess yourself – When you feel confident in your answer or even if you just select an answer don’t go back to it. Don’t second-guess your choices. In most cases, the gut reaction you have to something is going to be correct and second-guessing could make you make a mistake.
  8. Make an educated guess – If you don’t know the answer to a question make an educated guess. That means narrow it down by eliminating the answers you know aren’t true and then picking one out of the ones left behind. You’ll at least improve your odds of getting the right one.
  9. Don’t leave any questions blank – You aren’t going to lose any points by getting a question wrong. That means you should never leave a question blank. Even if you didn’t eliminate any of the answers, you would have a 25% chance of getting it right compared to 0%. And in most cases, you can eliminate at least one answer.

AP Physics 1 & 2 FRQ TipsAP Physics 1 & 2 FRQ Tips

The second section of this test is the free response section, and you’ll have AP Physics 2 free response and Physics 1. This one actually encompasses several different types of questions, so it’s a little more complicated to explain, but you’re definitely going to want to pay attention here. You get another 1 ½ hours to complete this section, which is also worth 50% of your test score. In total, you’re going to have 5 questions. Of those, 3 will be short answer, 1 will be experimental design, and 1 will be quantitative/qualitative translation.

  1. Write in paragraph form – These questions require you to write out your answer in full paragraph form. You want to make sure that you are filling out your answers in complete sentences and breaking each area down into paragraphs to make it easier to read.
  2. Use proper vocabulary words – You want to make sure you have the proper vocabulary words throughout this section. You could lose points if you’re not careful and mix up some of your words or if you don’t use a word properly. Make sure you can explain how each of these words applies to your equations.
  3. Use evidence from physical principles and equations – Make sure you’re supporting everything you say with evidence. Evidence from physical principles and equations are going to be especially good for getting your point and information across.
  4. Always explain – Don’t just state a fact. Make sure that you actually explain what you’re saying and what kind of evidence you have to back it up. That’s going to support your position and help you get the points that you’re looking for.
  5. Draw diagrams when possible – Drawing out diagrams is going to make it even easier to back up what you’re saying and to show that you’ve done the work. These also let the reviewer know that you understand what you’re talking about and understand the problem.
  6. Answer easier questions first – Read through the questions and answer the ones that are easiest first. You want to make sure you get the most points possible, and by answering easier questions, you’re not going to be wasting your time on more complex ones. You’ll be able to get more done.
  7. Underline values or information in the question before you start – As you read through the question make sure you mark areas that are important. Mark the values you’ll need for equations and any information that you need in order to answer it. This allows you to go back through when you finish your answer and make sure you have everything.
  8. Explain equations, interim answers, steps, and principles used – Your explanation should always include equations, interim answers, steps, and principles. Make sure you talk about which ones you chose and why as well as showing each of them in your explanation.
  9. Move through the steps logically in your answer – Make sure you flow through each step in your answer. You want to get from step one (choosing the equation to use) all the way to the final step (your answer and explanation) in order. This makes it easier for the reviewer to understand.
  10. Avoid extraneous information – Don’t add in a lot of extra information. You’re going to bog down the reviewer, and you could actually end up with incorrect information that loses you points if you try to add in too much additional content.
  11. Label everything properly (especially vectors) – When you draw out graphs make sure you’re labeling everything. You should have vectors, units and everything else possible labeled properly, so it’s clear what you’re saying and what your graph means.
  12. Sum up with if-then statements – The conclusion of your free response questions should be if-then statements. Don’t forget to state your if-then but also state the reverse so that both outcomes are accounted for.
  13. Answer every part of a question – Make sure that when you go through the question, you answer every part of it. You may want to go through in the question and check each of the different parts to make sure that you’re getting through each of them.
  14. Label your answer to make each answer easy to find – When you answer the question, you may want to label out each of the different sections to make sure they’re easy to find and to make sure that you’ve answered each of them clearly and fully.
  15. Only the number of examples or equations asked for will be evaluated – If the question actually asks you for 1 example, that means the reviewer can only read the first example you give. If it’s incorrect, it doesn’t matter that other examples you gave may have been correct. They can only read the first ones given and up to the number required.
  16. Keep it simple – Don’t get too overcomplicated when you’re trying to explain things or you could lose points. Also, make sure you stay organized on paper. You want to keep your answer flowing in the right direction, and you want to make sure that it’s organized enough that a reviewer can see what you’re trying to say.
  17. Primarily focused on conceptual over mathematics – Most of these questions are going to be focused on concepts rather than mathematics. Understanding how to apply concepts and how those concepts work is going to be important for your ability to answer these questions. Knowing AP Physics 1 conceptual questions and AP Physics conceptual questions, in general, will help you here.
  18. Write clearly – Your handwriting could lose you points if you are not careful about how you answer. Try to write as clearly as possible so that a reviewer will be able to understand your answer and to read through it properly. If they can’t read it, they can’t give you points for it.

AP Physics 1 & 2 Test Day TipsAP Physics 1 & 2 Test Day Tips

When it comes to test day you want to make sure that you’re fully prepared. You want to make sure that you have everything you’re going to need (and don’t have anything you’re not allowed to). You also want to make sure that you’re going to be at your absolute best. That’s going to require you to put in a little bit of effort, by following the steps that we’re going to talk about below.

  1. Bring a calculator – You are allowed either a scientific, graphing or four-function calculator. You definitely want to make sure you have one even if you think you aren’t going to need it. It’s always best to be prepared for anything, and this will be one of your AP Physics 1 essentials.
  2. Bring an extra calculator – You are allowed two calculators in the test, but you are not allowed to share a calculator with anyone else. Make sure you have an extra calculator just in case something happens to the first one or the battery dies. You want to have a calculator at all times.
  3. Know where to be and when – Make sure you know what time the test is going to be and where it’s going to be held. You should practice driving there before the day of your test, so you’re comfortable getting there with plenty of time before your test starts.
  4. Know what you can and can’t have – Study the list of things that you can bring in with you and the list of things that you can’t. Make sure that you have only the things that you’re allowed to have and that you have all of the items you’re going to need. You’ll want to know what to bring to AP Physics 1 exam.
  5. Eat a good meal – Make sure you eat well before you go to your test. You want to be able to concentrate on the test, and that’s not going to happen if you’re hungry. If you’re given a break, you should also have a snack available to eat during that time to keep you focused through the entire test.
  6. Get plenty of sleep – The night before your test you should be getting plenty of sleep. Don’t stay up late studying or doing anything else. You want to be well rested so that you can focus when it comes time to start your test.
  7. Check your calculator is approved – Make sure the calculator that you’re planning to bring is an approved one. You don’t want to get there and find out that you can’t take your calculator in or that you’re going to be disqualified.
  8. Take some time off – Don’t study the night before the test or the day of the test. You want to take a little time off and make sure you get a break in. You won’t be able to really capture a lot of information if you try to cram it in later on in your studying or right before the test.

There are a number of different things that you should be doing in order to make sure you’re better prepared for your physics test. Make sure that you pay close attention to equations, that you get plenty of sleep and that you’re focusing on the overarching ideas all of this should help you on your AP Physics 1 practice and your AP Physics 2 exam review. Also, make sure that you never leave any of the questions blank and take an AP Physics 2 practice exam. You want to do well with this test, and hopefully, these tips are going to help you do just that.

Did you find this helpful? You may also like our guides to the best AP Physics 1 review books here and our guide to the best AP Physics 2 review books here.


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