Is AP Physics 1 Hard? (Definition, Worth, Structure, FAQs)

AP Physics 1 is arguably one of the most demanding AP science classes. This class has one of the lowest pass rates of all APs.

However, without dispute, AP Physics 1 class still offers high schoolers a feel of what they will experience in college and an opportunity to earn college credit.

This post will go through a series of essential pieces of information that will assist high school students in deciding if AP Physics 1 suits them.

What is the AP Physics 1?

AP Physics 1 focuses on foundational physics topics that are approached using algebra. This is why students take geometry and algebra before the AP Physics 1 coursework commences.

The curriculum of the AP Physics 1 is not large, but each topic is quite intense.

The topics that make up the curriculum of this program are change, conversation, circular motion and gravitation, dynamics, energy and momentum, force interactions, kinematics, simple harmonic motion, systems and fields, and torque and rotational motion.

Is taking the AP Physics 1 class worth it?

AP Physics 1 is a class that is highly recommended for students that are interested in the fields of math and science. This class will expose them to what to expect when they take physics classes in college.

Furthermore, since students also acquire practical understanding besides the theoretical knowledge that the class offers, they won’t find engaging in their practical coursework far easier when they enter the university.

Also, most academic institutions offer college credit to students with a minimum score of 3 on the AP Physics 1 exam.

What are the Indicators That AP Physics 1 is Hard?

AP Physics 1 is, undoubtedly, a challenging AP class, which is well evident in its pass rate of 52%. This pass rate is well below all AP classes’ 71% average pass rate.

It is still shocking that many students prefer to take the AP Physics 1 class more than most AP classes, with around 120,000 entries coming in for the AP Physics 1 class per year.

However, how good a teacher is at coaching the class and the level of support that a school provides for students can enable them to do better in this class.

Additionally, students with a strong knowledge of geometry and Algebra II will do well in AP Physics 1 over other students.

When is the Best Time to Take AP Physics 1?

AP Physics 1 is open to high school students, no matter their level of education.

However, because having a solid knowledge of geometry and Algebra II is required to pass this class, students should take AP Physics 1 after their first two years in high school.

Since AP Physics 1 is regularly rated among the toughest Aps, taking this class alongside another AP can be unbearable for any student.

Thus, it would be best if students assess their intellectual capacity and create a favorable schedule before enrolling in the AP Physics 1 class.

What is the Structure of the AP Physics 1 Exam?

The duration of the AP Physics 1 exam is three hours. This exam has one multiple-choice questions section and a written, free-response section.

Each section makes up 50% of the exam’s total Score and lasts one and a half hours each. While the multiple-choice section has 50 questions, the written, free-response section has five questions.

What is the Scoring Formula of the AP Physics 1 Exam?

The highest possible score that a student can achieve from the AP Physics 1 exam is five from a scoring chart of 1-5.

However, from records, less than 10% of students who have taken this class have achieved this Score.

As mentioned earlier, the two sections of the AP Physics 1 exam makes up 50% of each of the total marks and have different difficulty level.

Students should devote more time to preparing for any more challenging sections.  

What Score do you Need to Get college credit?

The get college credit from AP Physics 1, a student must achieve a score of not less than 3 in the exams.

However, while 3 or 4 is the minimum requirement for most schools, some only give college credit to those with the perfect Score of 5.

Is AP Chemistry Tougher than AP Physics 1?

Their pass rates clearly show that AP Physics 1 is more challenging than AP Chemistry. While AP Physics 1 has a pass rate of 52%, AP Chemistry has a pass rate of 56%.

Do Colleges Prefer Students that Take AP Physics 1 Class?

Admission officers are always impressed with students that have decided to take a challenging course such as AP Physics 1 in the first place.

But, students that take the AP Physics 1 class and have excellent scores at the end are favored for admission because they show they are ready for the challenging coursework they will experience in college.

These are the kind of students that colleges look out for when recruiting.

How to do well on the Multi-choice Section of the AP Physics 1 Exam

1. Understand the question well

Ensure that you try to understand a question very well before answering it. You can achieve this by reading the question twice or thrice.

AP Physics 1 does not adopt the same pattern in asking multiple-choice questions. Rushing to answer a question without proper understanding is a recipe for failure.

2. Start with the ones you know

Don’t waste time on any question that is challenging to you.

If a question makes you crack your brain too much, abandon it, move on to the next, and only return to it after you finish answering all the questions you know.

3. Guessing is allowed

If you don’t know the answer to any question and have few minutes left, proceed and guess the one that you feel is correct.

Unlike most standardized college-entry exams, there is no punishment for guessing in the AP exam.

4. Watch your time

The ideal manner of approaching questions on the AP Physics 1 exams is a target of 10 questions per 15 minutes.

This way, you will need just 75 minutes to complete all questions, with an extra 15 minutes remaining to review your answers.

5. Take advantage of the formula sheet

Don’t try to impress anyone by not using the formula sheet when writing the AP Physics 1 exam.

However, utilizing this sheet will make things easier for you, and you won’t struggle to navigate the difficulty of the exams.

6. Use a calculator

You can bring a scientific or graphing calculator into the AP Physics 1 exam hall. It will help you to save time and make your calculations more accessible and accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on AP Physics 1

What number of APs is good for gaining admission into Harvard?

A high GPA while taking 4 APs will improve your chances of admission into Harvard University.

Which AP has the lowest pass rate?

AP Physics 1 has the lowest pass rate of all APs.

What is the best AP Physics to take?

AP Physics C is the best AP for those wanting to enroll in a university’s engineering or physical science program.

Is AP Computer Science difficult?

AP Computer Science is one of the easiest APs out there. It even has a pass rate of 67% and is ranked as the fifth easiest large AP class.


One of the most challenging AP courses is AP Physics 1. Compared to other AP courses, this one has a meager success rate.

High school students who take the AP Physics 1 class can earn college credit and get a taste of what it’s like to study at the university level.

So, to do well in the AP Physics 1 exam, students should apply the tips above.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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Abasiofon Fidelis
Abasiofon Fidelis

Abasiofon Fidelis is a professional writer who loves to write about college life and college applications. He has been writing articles for over 3 years. He is the Content Manager at School and Travel.

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