The Ultimate Guide to Acing the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

The Ultimate Guide to Acing the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam

Are you a high school student preparing for the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this ultimate guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know to ace this important exam. From understanding what the exam entails to tips for studying and performing your best on exam day, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!

What is the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam?

The AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is an assessment administered by the College Board that measures your understanding of concepts in algebra-based physics.

It is designed to be equivalent to a first-semester college course in algebra-based physics. This exam tests your knowledge and skills in various areas of physics, such as kinematics, forces, energy, and waves.

Studying for the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam requires a solid foundation in algebra and a firm grasp of fundamental physics principles. It is essential to have a thorough understanding of mathematical equations and their applications in solving physics problems. This exam challenges students to think critically and apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios.

One of the key topics covered in the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is kinematics, which deals with the motion of objects. This includes concepts such as displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Understanding these principles is crucial in analyzing the motion of objects and predicting their future behavior.

Forces, another vital area of study, explores the interactions between objects. This includes Newton’s laws of motion, gravitational forces, and friction. By understanding these principles, students can analyze the forces acting on an object and determine its resulting motion.

Energy is another fundamental concept covered in the exam. It involves understanding the different forms of energy, such as kinetic energy, potential energy, and energy conservation. By grasping these concepts, students can analyze energy transformations and calculate the work done on an object.

Waves, both mechanical and electromagnetic, are also a significant part of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam. This includes understanding the properties of waves, such as wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. Additionally, students learn about wave behavior, including reflection, refraction, and interference.

By successfully passing this exam, you may earn college credit or advanced placement, which can save you time and money in the long run. It demonstrates your proficiency in algebra-based physics and can potentially exempt you from introductory physics courses in college. This can open up opportunities to take more advanced physics courses or explore other areas of study.

Why is the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam important?

The AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is significant for high school students pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields in college. By earning a high score on the exam, you demonstrate your proficiency in fundamental physics concepts, making you a competitive candidate for admissions committees and scholarship programs.

Moreover, successfully navigating this exam indicates that you have a solid foundation in scientific reasoning, problem-solving skills, and mathematics – all valuable attributes for any aspiring scientist or engineer.

One of the key reasons why the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is essential is because it provides a standardized measure of your understanding of physics. This exam covers many topics, including kinematics, dynamics, energy, and electricity. By testing your knowledge in these areas, the exam ensures that you have a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

Furthermore, the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam assesses your ability to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. The exam includes multiple-choice and free-response questions that require you to solve problems and explain your reasoning. This not only tests your understanding of the concepts but also evaluates your critical thinking and analytical skills.

Another reason why this exam is essential is that it can help you stand out among other college applicants. Admissions committees often look for students who have taken challenging courses and have excelled in them. By taking the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based course and exam, you demonstrate your commitment to academic rigor and willingness to challenge yourself in a demanding subject.

Moreover, a high score on the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam can also open doors to various scholarship opportunities. Many universities and organizations offer scholarships for students who excel in STEM subjects. By showcasing your proficiency in physics through this exam, you increase your chances of receiving financial aid to pursue your college education.

Lastly, the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is a stepping stone for future success in advanced physics courses. By mastering the concepts and skills tested in this exam, you build a strong foundation that will be invaluable as you continue your studies in college. It provides you with a solid understanding of the fundamental principles of physics, which will serve as a basis for more advanced topics in fields such as astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and engineering.

How hard is the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based exam?

According to various sources, the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based exam is considered challenging and one of the most difficult AP classes. The exam has the lowest pass rate of any AP exam, with a pass rate of 43.3% and only 7.9% of students scoring a 5.

However, it is essential to note that the difficulty of the exam can vary depending on individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as the quality of instruction and support provided by the school and teacher. Students with strong math and science skills are more likely to earn a passing score on the exam.

What factors affect the difficulty of the exam?

The difficulty of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based exam can be influenced by several factors, including:

  1. Conceptual understanding: A solid grasp of physics concepts and principles is essential for success in AP Physics 1. This includes understanding the fundamental theories and laws of physics and their applications.
  2. Mathematical aptitude: Proficiency in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus is crucial for solving the mathematical problems presented in the exam. Students must be able to manipulate equations, perform calculations accurately, and apply mathematical concepts to physics problems.
  3. Problem-solving skills: AP Physics 1 is designed to develop students’ problem-solving abilities, including critical thinking, reasoning, and analyzing complex problems. Students must be able to approach problems from multiple angles and apply different problem-solving strategies.
  4. Student’s background and knowledge: Students with a strong foundation in math and science are more likely to find the course more manageable. Previous exposure to physics concepts and mathematical skills can positively impact a student’s performance in AP Physics 1.
  5. Quality of instruction: The effectiveness of the teaching method and the support provided by the school and teacher can significantly impact the perceived difficulty of the course. Experienced and supportive teachers and access to resources can help students navigate the challenges of AP Physics 1.

These factors collectively contribute to the overall difficulty of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based exam. While the exam is regarded as challenging, individual experiences may vary based on these influencing factors.

How long is the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based exam?

The AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based Exam is three hours long. It consists of two main sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. The multiple-choice section lasts 90 minutes and contains 50 questions, while the free-response section lasts 90 minutes and contains five questions.

Let’s discuss these sections in more detail:

What is on the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam?

The exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice questions and free-response questions.

Multiple-Choice Section

The multiple-choice section is the first part of the exam and consists of 50 questions. These questions test your knowledge and comprehension of various physics topics. You will encounter many questions covering important areas such as kinematics, dynamics, circular motion, energy, momentum, rotations, and more.

These questions are not just about regurgitating facts and formulas; they require you to think critically and apply your understanding of physics principles to solve problems. You may be presented with scenarios and asked to analyze and interpret data, make predictions, or draw conclusions based on your knowledge of physics concepts.

Male student using a laptop while sitting on a table.

It is crucial to approach the multiple-choice section with a solid foundation of conceptual understanding. This section will challenge your ability to think analytically and apply your knowledge effectively.

Tackling the Multiple-Choice Section

To tackle the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam Multiple-choice section, you can follow these strategies:

  1. Read and understand the question: Take the time to carefully read and reread each question to ensure you understand what is being asked.
  2. Answer every question: There is no guessing penalty, so answering every question is important. If you are unsure, it’s better to make an educated guess than to leave a question unanswered.
  3. Use the formula sheet and a calculator: These resources will be provided at the exam, and you can also download them for practice. Utilizing these tools can help you solve problems more efficiently.
  4. Focus on heavily tested areas: Certain topics, such as energy, are tested more frequently in the AP Physics 1 exam. Prioritize studying and practicing questions related to these areas.
  5. Practice with different question types: The exam includes various question types, such as text-based, diagram-based, data table-based, graph-based, calculations required, and image answer-choice questions. Familiarize yourself with each type to be prepared for any question.
  6. Organize your answers: Label your answers clearly and neatly, and pay attention to task verbs used in the free-response questions to ensure that you complete the specific type of response required.
  7. Avoid the “scattershot” approach: Instead of writing many equations or lists of terms hoping that the correct one will be among them, focus on providing clear and concise responses.

Free-Response Section

The second part of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is the free-response section. This section includes both short-answer and long-answer questions that require you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and explain your reasoning.

You will be asked to respond concisely to specific prompts in the short-answer questions. These questions may involve calculations, data analysis, or conceptual explanations. It is essential to be clear and concise in your answers while demonstrating a deep understanding of the underlying physics principles.

The long-answer questions, on the other hand, will require more in-depth responses. You may be presented with complex scenarios or experimental setups and asked to analyze and solve problems. These questions will test your ability to apply your knowledge and skills to real-world situations.

When answering the free-response questions, it is crucial to show your work and provide clear explanations. Graders will not only evaluate the correctness of your answers but also assess your ability to communicate your reasoning effectively.

Overall, the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam assesses your conceptual understanding of physics and your ability to apply that understanding to solve problems. It is not a test of memorization but rather a test of your analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. So, study and practice extensively to prepare yourself for this challenging exam.

Tackling the Free-Response Section

To tackle the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam Free-Response section, consider the following strategies:

  1. Read and understand the question: Before solving the free-response questions, carefully read through them. Pay close attention to the task verbs used in the questions, as they direct you to complete a specific type of response. It’s essential to understand what is being asked before formulating your response.
  2. Include proper units: Ensure you include the proper units for each number where appropriate. Keeping track of units as you perform calculations can help ensure you express answers using the proper units. Incorrect or missing units can result in point deductions.
  3. Support your answers: When responding to free-response questions, support your answers with diagrams, equations, and references. This demonstrates a deep understanding of physics concepts and principles.
  4. Practice problem-solving skills: Develop strong problem-solving skills by breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts, identifying relevant equations and formulas, and applying them to solve problems. Additionally, practice using different problem-solving strategies and techniques, such as dimensional analysis and estimation, to approach physics problems from different angles.
  5. Use available resources: Utilize the formula sheet and a calculator provided during the exam. These resources can aid in performing mathematical steps, including algebraic expressions, suitably substituted numbers, and correct labeling of units and significant figures.


Here are some samples from previous exams so you’d know what to expect:

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AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam Scoring Breakdown

The AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is an important assessment that measures students’ understanding of fundamental physics concepts and their ability to apply algebraic reasoning in solving problems. The exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. Let’s look at how the exam is structured and the scoring breakdown is determined.

Each exam section contributes equally to the overall score, accounting for 50% each. This balanced approach ensures that students’ knowledge and skills are evaluated comprehensively.

The multiple-choice section assesses students’ understanding of critical concepts and ability to analyze and interpret data. It consists of a series of questions with four answer choices, where students must select the most appropriate option. This section accounts for 50% of the total score, reflecting its significance in evaluating students’ knowledge and comprehension of the subject matter.

The free-response section, on the other hand, challenges students to demonstrate their problem-solving skills and their ability to communicate their reasoning effectively. This section is divided into short-answer and long-answer questions, each contributing 25% to the overall score.

The short-answer questions require students to provide concise and precise responses to specific prompts. These questions often test students’ ability to apply concepts to real-world scenarios or to analyze experimental data. The short-answer questions are designed to assess students’ understanding of fundamental principles and their ability to apply them in a focused and concise manner.

The long-answer questions, on the other hand, provide students with more extensive opportunities to demonstrate their problem-solving skills. These questions require students to develop a detailed solution strategy, perform calculations, and justify reasoning. The long-answer questions assess students’ ability to think critically, analyze complex problems, and communicate their solutions effectively.

Scoring on the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is based on a holistic approach, considering both the accuracy of the responses and the quality of the reasoning and explanation provided. It is vital for students to not only provide correct answers but also to demonstrate a deep understanding of the underlying concepts and principles.

A score of 3 or higher on the exam is generally considered a passing score. However, it is essential to note that individual colleges and universities may have different policies regarding AP exam scores and the granting of college credit or advanced placement. Therefore, it is crucial for students to research the specific policies of the institutions they are interested in to determine the potential benefits of achieving a specific score on the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam.

Topics Covered in the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam

The AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam covers a wide range of topics in physics. It is designed to test your understanding and application of fundamental concepts in mechanics, including kinematics, dynamics, energy, momentum, rotational motion, and waves. By studying these topics thoroughly, you will be well-prepared to tackle the exam confidently.

Unit Exam Weighting (Multiple-Choice Section)
Unit 1: Kinematics 12%–18%
Unit 2: Dynamics 16%–20%
Unit 3: Circular Motion and Gravitation 6%–8%
Unit 4: Energy 20%–28%
Unit 5: Momentum 12%–18%
Unit 6: Simple Harmonic Motion 4%–6%
Unit 7: Torque and Rotational Motion 12%–18%

Kinematics: Kinematics is the study of motion, and it forms the foundation of mechanics. It involves understanding concepts such as displacement, velocity, and acceleration. By mastering kinematics, you will be able to describe and analyze the motion of objects in various scenarios, whether they are moving in a straight line or along a curved path.

Dynamics: Dynamics explores the causes of motion, focusing on the forces acting on objects. Newton’s laws of motion are fundamental to understanding dynamics. These laws describe the relationship between the motion of an object and the forces acting upon it. Studying dynamics allows you to analyze the forces acting on objects and predict their motion.

Energy: Energy is a fundamental concept in physics, and it plays a crucial role in understanding the behavior of objects. By studying energy, you will learn about work, power, energy conservation, and energy transfer. These concepts allow you to analyze how energy is transformed and transferred within a system, as well as how it is conserved in various processes.

Momentum: Momentum is a property of moving objects related to their mass and velocity. By studying momentum, you will learn about linear momentum, impulse, and collisions. These concepts allow you to analyze the motion of objects during interactions, such as collisions and explosions. Understanding momentum is essential for understanding the behavior of objects in motion.

Rotational Motion: Rotational motion involves the study of objects that rotate around an axis. By studying rotational motion, you will learn about torque, angular momentum, and rotational dynamics. These concepts allow you to analyze the motion of objects that rotate, such as spinning tops or wheels. Understanding rotational motion is important in many real-world applications, such as understanding the behavior of rotating machinery.

Waves: Waves are a fundamental aspect of physics, and they are present in various forms in our everyday lives. By studying waves, you will explore wave characteristics, interference, and sound. These concepts allow you to understand how waves propagate, interact with each other, and produce various phenomena, such as the sound we hear or the light we see.

These topics form the backbone of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam. By mastering these concepts, you will develop a solid foundation in mechanics and be well-prepared to tackle the exam. Remember to practice applying these concepts to solve problems and analyze real-world scenarios, which will help you develop a deeper understanding of the material.

The course and exam description for AP Physics 1 also delineates specific abilities, referred to as science practices, which students are encouraged to cultivate throughout the academic year. These skills are designed to foster a mindset and approach that mirrors the thinking and actions of physicists.

Science Practice Description Exam Weighting (Multiple-Choice Section) Exam Weighting (Free-Response Section)
1. Modeling Use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems 28%–32% 22%–36%
2. Mathematical Routines Use mathematics appropriately 16%–20% 17%–29%
3. Scientific Questioning Engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP course N/A N/A
4. Experimental Methods Plan and implement data-collection strategies in relation to a particular scientific question 2%–4% 8%–16%
5. Data Analysis Perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence 10%–12% 6%–14%
6. Argumentation Work with scientific explanations and theories 24–28% 17–29%
7. Making Connections Connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains 10–16% 2–9%

How to study for the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam

Preparing for the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam requires a combination of conceptual understanding, problem-solving practice, and effective study strategies. Here are some tips to help you maximize your preparation:

Start early

Give yourself enough time to review all the topics thoroughly. Physics is a complex subject that requires time and effort to grasp fully. Starting early will allow you to cover all the necessary content without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

Create a study schedule

Make a study plan covering all the topics and concepts that will be tested on the exam. Break down the content into manageable chunks and allocate specific time slots for each topic. This will help you stay focused and ensure that you cover everything in a timely manner.

Review your class notes and textbooks

Make sure you have a solid understanding of the fundamental concepts. Physics is built upon a foundation of core principles, so it is crucial to fully grasp these concepts before diving into more complex topics. Take the time to go through your notes, highlight key points, and clarify any areas of confusion.

Practicing with past exams

Familiarize yourself with the types of questions that may appear on the exam. This will not only help you become more comfortable with the format and structure of the test but also give you an idea of the difficulty level you can expect. By exposing yourself to a variety of questions, you will develop a better understanding of how to approach different types of problems.


Practice solving problems from textbooks and online resources. This will not only help you reinforce your understanding of the concepts but also improve your problem-solving abilities. Physics problems often require critical thinking and analytical skills, so the more you practice, the better you will tackle challenging questions on the exam.

Forming a study group

Collaborate with peers who are also preparing for the exam. Discussing concepts, solving problems together, and explaining concepts to one another can significantly enhance your understanding. Additionally, studying with others can provide motivation, accountability, and a fresh perspective on complex topics.

Seek additional resources to supplement your learning

Use online tutorials, videos, and practice resources to enhance your understanding. Numerous online platforms offer comprehensive study materials designed for the AP Physics 1 exam. Take advantage of these resources to gain a deeper insight into the subject matter and reinforce your knowledge.

Remember, consistent and focused study efforts will significantly increase your chances of success. Stay dedicated, stay motivated, and keep pushing forward. With the right approach and ample preparation, you can conquer the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam and achieve your desired score.

Tips on the day of the exam

Finally, the day of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam has arrived! Here are some tips to help you stay calm and perform your best:

  • Get a good night’s sleep: Ensure you are well-rested and refreshed for the exam.
  • Eat a balanced breakfast: Fuel your body and brain with a nutritious meal before the exam.
  • Arrive early: Avoid unnecessary stress by giving yourself ample time to find the exam location.
  • Read the instructions carefully: Take a few moments to read through the instructions for each section of the exam.
  • Manage your time: Pace yourself and allocate enough time for each section.
  • Answer easy questions first: Start with questions you feel confident about to build momentum.
  • Show your work: Clearly explain your reasoning and show all necessary calculations.

By following these tips, you can approach the exam with confidence and focus, maximizing your performance.

When is the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based exam in 2024?

The AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based exam is scheduled to take place on May 17, 2024, at 8 AM local time. 

For a complete list of the 2024 AP Exam dates, here’s a full list:

Week 1 Morning 8 a.m.

Local Time

Afternoon 12 p.m.

Local Time


May 6, 2024

United States Government and Politics Art History



May 7, 2024

Human Geography





May 8, 2024

English Literature and Composition Comparative Government and Politics

Computer Science A


May 9, 2024

Chinese Language and Culture

Environmental Science


May 10, 2024

European History

United States History


Spanish Literature and Culture

Art and Design: Friday, May 10, 2024 (8 p.m. ET), is the deadline for AP Art and Design students to submit their three portfolio components as final in the AP Digital Portfolio.
Week 2 Morning 8 a.m.

Local Time

Afternoon 12 p.m.

Local Time

Afternoon 2 p.m.

Local Time


May 13, 2024

Calculus AB

Calculus BC

Italian Language and Culture



May 14, 2024

English Language and Composition African American Studies

Physics C: Mechanics

Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

May 15, 2024

French Language and Culture

World History: Modern

Computer Science Principles

Music Theory


May 16, 2024

Spanish Language and Culture Biology

Japanese Language and Culture


May 17, 2024

German Language and Culture

Physics 1: Algebra-Based


Physics 2: Algebra-Based

When do AP scores come out?

AP scores are typically released in early to mid-July of the year the exams were taken. The exact release date may vary slightly from year to year, but students who took their AP exams in May can generally expect their scores to become available.

You can check for updates on the College Board’s official AP scores website if you are waiting for your AP scores. They will also email you when your scores are added to your score report. If you haven’t received your scores by mid-August, contacting AP Services for Students is recommended for assistance.

Post-exam tips

Once the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is complete, take a moment to reflect on your performance. Regardless of the outcome, remember that this exam serves as a learning experience to enhance your understanding of physics. Here are some post-exam tips:

  • Reflect on your exam experience: Analyze what went well and areas for improvement.
  • Review your answers: Take the time to review your answers and learn from any mistakes.
  • Continue exploring physics: Maintain your passion for the subject and continue exploring physics through further study or extracurricular activities.
  • Stay positive: Regardless of the score, remain positive and motivated for future academic challenges.

Remember, the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam is just one step on your educational journey, and with dedication and perseverance, you can achieve great success.


Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam, you are well-equipped to embark on your study journey with confidence. Remember to approach your preparation strategically, practice regularly, and stay focused. With the right mindset and diligent effort, you can master the concepts, problem-solving skills, and strategies necessary to excel in this challenging exam. Best of luck on your AP Physics 1: Algebra-based Exam!

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