AP Physics B
About the Exam
Exam Day 2014
The exam is approximately three hours long and has two parts — multiple choice and free response. Each section is worth 50% of the final exam grade.
You can use a scientific, programmable, or graphing calculator for the free-response section and you will be provided with tables of commonly used physics equations. For a list of acceptable calculators for the AP Physics B exam, please see the link to the right under Next Steps.
The portion of the exam covering each course topic area is:
- Newtonian Mechanics (35%)
- Fluid Mechanics and Thermal Physics (15%)
- Electricity and Magnetism (25%)
- Waves and Optics (15%)
- Atomic and Nuclear Physics (10%)
The order and sequence of these concepts is just a guide. Teachers have flexibility in how they choose to cover the topics in the concept outline.
Section I: Multiple Choice — 70 Questions; 1 hour and 30 minutes
These questions test the breadth of your knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of physics.
Total scores on the multiple-choice section are based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points are not deducted for incorrect answers and no points are awarded for unanswered questions.
Section II: Free Response — 6–7 Questions; 1 hour and 30 minutes
The free-response section requires you to demonstrate your knowledge of the principles that should be applied — and how you should apply them — to solve a variety of in-depth problems. These problems could include general questions or laboratory-based questions.
Questions may ask you to:
- Determine directions of vectors or paths of particles
- Draw or interpret diagrams
- Interpret or express physical relationships in graphical form
- Account for observed phenomena
- Interpret experimental data, including their limitations and uncertainties
- Construct and use conceptual models and explain their limitations
- Explain steps taken to arrive at a result or to predict future physical behavior
- Manipulate equations that describe physical relationships
- Obtain reasonable estimates
- Solve problems that require the determination of physical quantities in either numerical or symbolic form and that may require the application of single or multiple concepts
Laboratory-related questions may ask you to:
- Design experiments, including identifying equipment needed and describing how it is to be used; drawing diagrams or providing descriptions of experimental setups; or describing procedures to be used, including controls and measurements to be taken
- Analyze data, including displaying data in graphical or tabular form, fitting lines and curves to data points in graphs, performing calculations with data, or making extrapolations and interpolations from data
- Analyze errors, including identifying sources of error and how they propagate, estimating magnitude and direction of errors, determining significant digits, or identifying ways to reduce error
- Communicate results, including drawing inferences and conclusions from experimental data, suggesting ways to improve experiments, or proposing questions for further study
For the free response section, credit for answers depends on the quality of the solutions and explanations shown, so be sure to show your work. Some questions specifically ask you to justify your answer or to explain your reasoning. This analysis may generally be in the form of prose, equations, calculations, diagrams, or graphs.
On the AP Physics Exams the words “justify,” “explain,” “calculate,” “what is,” “determine,” “derive,” “sketch,” and “plot” have precise meanings. Students should pay careful attention to these words in order to obtain maximum credit and should avoid including irrelevant or extraneous material in their answers. For the precise description of these terms used on the exam, please see the course description section titled, “The Free-Response Sections — Student Presentation.”