# AP Physics 1 Lab Manual

Equation Sheets

Introduction

The AP Physics Tests will be going through a redesign and there are many changes to be aware of. These changes will show up on the tests in May 2025, therefore we are already teaching these courses in this new way at in many schools across the United States.

This article will start with structural changes and then in the second half we will discuss the content specific changes, for example new topics appearing on each exam. But, as a preview to that and to provide an outline of all four exams, I present figure 1 below.

Figure 1. This chart outlines the topics covered on each exam. The 1 and 2 exams are the algebra-based (trig based) and the C exams are calculus-based. It is the design of these courses that C and 1 are very similar. But also that after 1 students take 2, or after C: Mechanics students take C: Electricity and Magnetism.

Fig 2. Fluid physics is a recent addition to AP Physics 1. As we will see below, it should be called “Ideal Fluid Physics.”

Length Changes and Dates

All four of the AP Physics exams (AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, AP Physics C: Mechanics, and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism) are now the same length, three hours long. That is a big change for the AP Physics C exams which were previously ninety minutes each. But it is not much of a change for the AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 exams.

Figure 3. This chart summarizes the changes coming for all four AP Physics exams. The theme is unification of style and structure.

All of the exams will be on different days: May 13 for AP Physics 2, May 14 for AP Physics C: Mechanics, May 15 for AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, and May 16 for AP Physics 1. This places AP Physics 1 on the morning of the final day of AP Testing. All the other exams are given during the afternoon sessions.

Figure 4. The AP Physics exam dates and AP Physics exam schedule shows us that all the exams occur in the second week of May 2025

Format Changes

A very recent event, and a major change, is that the first portion of all of these exams (that is the section of multiple choice questions), will be entirely on computer. The second half, the free responses will be still hand written, with the questions provided on computer, but this may also change in the coming years.

Figure 5. To improve security, the AP Physics test will now be distributed via computer screens, especially the multiple choice. However, the written portion will still be done by hand.

The number and types of questions is now standardized across the four exams. Each exam now consists of 40 multiple choice questions and 4 free response questions. The way it is graded is also now changing: each half of each exam is equally weighted at 50% of the overall grade.

The length of time is not shared evenly between the exam portions; this we point out here because it is also a change. The multiple-choice section will now be 80 minutes long and the free response section will be 100 minutes long. All MC questions have 4 choices, and as usual there is no penalty for guessing. Specific to the AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 exams, we will no longer see the “pick two” style questions also students will no longer be asked to write a “clear coherent paragraph.”

When it comes to the types of Free Response Questions found on the exams, these are now all standardized. This means that the style or type of exam question (but not the content) will be identical on all four of the AP Physics Exams. Below is a chart that summarizes the four question types and what to expect, including the order of the four questions. Such a succinct explanation of what each of these questions types means is difficult to get elsewhere.

Please note that the total number of points is 40 points. This makes this portion of the exam comparable to the 40 multiple choice questions for a total of 80 points. Hence, every point on these exams counts as one point, which is different and somewhat simpler than before. The only uneven weighing of exam portions is in the time as more time is now allotted for the free response questions. The idea behind the additional time is to allow the exams to be testing our students’ physics knowledge rather than their abilities to complete exams quickly.

Lab Activities to Address these styles

Because the AP Physics exams includes experimental design and analysis portion, and because it is a lab-based course. It is advised that teachers perform approximately one lab per week. These can be either demonstration style labs, or hands-on content (preferred). The best scenario is that students are actively doing these labs.

The author of this paper, James Lincoln, has created a lab manual to meet the needs of teacher and students. This lab manual has 65 labs and includes the new section on Fluid Physics that has been recently added to AP Physics 1.

Figure 6. There is a new AP Physics Lab Manual that includes the updated content for the 2024-2025 exam.

Lab activities are crucial for students to connect with the ideas. The reason being is that they need to believe that what they are studying is true in order for it to take root in their minds. Additionally, a growing experience with the process of doing good lab work (such as repeating measurements, reducing systematic errors, etc) is part of being a competent student and is heavily tested in question 3 on experimental design.

Figure 7. Simple diagrams in the lab manual clearly explain what students should be measuring and many of the labs are open-ended, consistent with the style of AP Physics.

Content Specific Changes

Now we will talk about exam content specific changes.

AP Physics 1

AP Physics 1 is gaining an entire unit called fluids which is more or less extracted directly from the old AP Physics 2. The fluids unit focuses on the four main topics of ideal fluids: the relationship between force and pressure, the relationship between pressure and depth, the buoyant force, and Bernoulli’s Equation as well as the continuity equation.

Figure 8. The density manometer is an excellent experiment for AP Physics 1’s new unit on fluid physics.

Since AP Physics 1 will be covering only ideal fluids, meaning no viscosity and density is constant. On the other hand, the gas laws, and the atomic/molecular nature of matter are not part of the official curriculum, that includes Boyle’s Law and the compressibility of gases, but you may wish to include these topics in your instruction. For example, the concept of absolute pressure, and the pressure of the atmosphere is still part of the curriculum.

Figure 9. The spouting cylinder helps teach the Bernoulli equation while reviewing the topics of projectile motion.

AP Physics 1 is also gaining a few rotational dynamic specific topics such as the parallel axis theorem, and the relationship between rotational and translational acceleration, velocity and position, as well as a qualitative treatment of slipping while rotating or rolling.

Figure 10. Slipping while rolling is now included in both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C.

AP Physics 2

AP Physics 2 will now include waves and sound, including standing waves, and all the circuits curriculum that was previously part of the old AP Physics 1. Additionally, specific heat and a qualitative treatment of RC circuits are also now included.

Figure 11. Standing waves are now part of the AP Physics 2 exam.

Some deleted topics include relativity and quantum probability graphs, but E=mc2 problems are still included as well as de Broglie waves, Compton scattering, and an expansion of the details of the black body spectrum.

Radioactivity and Half-life problems are also on the exam.

Figure 12. AP Physics 2 is leaning in heavily toward some topics of modern physics while deleting some others.

AP Physics C

Regarding the C exams, there is very little content change. The changes are mostly in the length of the exams and the number and restructuring of the questions.

However, on the C Mechanics exam, the required content now specifically includes:

Gravity forces within a planet, which had already been tested previously, [1999]

The Physical pendulum, which in the same way we already saw on the 2009 exam.

Also, resistive forces such as air resistance and damped harmonic motion, though, as you probably know, these topics were tested for on many AP Physics C tests.

Figure 13. Some of the “new” topics appearing in AP Physics C have been tested already for decades. We are just now finally listing them properly.

On the C Electricity and Magnetism exam, the required content now includes:

Inductor-capacitor LC circuits, meaning that they resonate, but not LRC circuits, meaning that the circuits are ideal, no resistance. Note also that Resistor Capacitor RC and inductor resistor LR circuits still remain on the exam with their content unchanged.

Figure 14. Oscillating LC circuits (inductor-capacitor) are now explicitly included on the AP Physics C exam, but not with resistance, so they will just oscillate forever with a frequency (LC)½.

The AP Program has recently released the new versions of the equation sheets, which I link below. Here we can see some of the changes and additions in the AP Physics 1 curriculum, also many and a few additions from the AP Physics 2 are evident.

AP Physics C, remains largely unchanged, as you might expect, except with the very interesting addition of the electricity and magnetism equations are now getting their own equation sheet.

James Lincoln

Physics Instructor

James Lincoln is an experienced physics teacher with graduate degrees in education and applied physics. He has become known nationally as a physics education expert specializing in original demonstrations, the history of physics, and innovative hands-on instruction. The American Association of Physics Teachers and the Brown Foundation have funded his prior physics film series and SCAAPT's New Physics Teacher Workshops. Lincoln currently serves as the Chair of AAPT's Committee on Apparatus and has served as President of the Southern California Chapter of the AAPT, as a member of the California State Advisory for the Next Generation Science Standards, and as an AP Physics Exam Reader. He has also produced Videos Series for UCLA's Physics Demos Project, Arbor Scientific, eHow.com, About.com, and edX.org.

August 29, 2024 James Lincoln