Beginning in fall 2014, AP Physics B was replaced by two new courses—AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2. The new courses are each aligned to a one-semester introductory algebra-based college physics course. This redesign of Physics B is a reflection of our commitment to continually enhance AP’s alignment with current best practices in college-level learning. Learn more about the AP course and exam redesign.
For information about the Physics B course and exam, which was discontinued following the 2013–14 academic year, download the AP Physics 2 course description.
Foundations of the Redesign
AP reexamined AP Physics B in light of a National Research Council study titled Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools. The NRC report recommended that a two-year sequence of advanced physics study replace Physics B, enabling students to delve deeper into key physics concepts as they develop the reasoning and inquiry skills necessary to think like scientists.
A curriculum study of first- and second-semester college algebra-based physics courses informed the work of the committee. Physics 1 and Physics 2 were modeled upon the content coverage in the syllabi submitted during the study.
In 2011, 57 college physics faculty members were asked to review and validate the proposed Physics 1 and Physics 2 curriculum. These faculty members confirmed:
- The new Physics 1 and Physics 2 curricula would prepare students for success in subsequent college-level physics courses.
- The essential knowledge outlined in the curriculum frameworks for both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 is well-matched overall to the curriculum taught in the corresponding semesters of introductory college physics.
Overall, they were in favor of granting credit or placement to students earning qualifying scores on each of the two exams.
A follow-up study with 77 physics faculty members was conducted to ensure that each concept covered in the curriculum received appropriate coverage.
Course and Exam Overview
The AP Physics 2 course focuses on the investigation of seven big ideas in the introductory college-level physics sequence and seven science practices, providing students with enduring, conceptual understandings of foundational physics principles. These big ideas are:
- Objects and systems have properties such as mass and charge. Systems may have internal structure.
- Fields existing in space can be used to explain interactions.
- The interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces.
- Interactions between systems can result in changes in those systems.
- Changes that occur as a result of interactions are constrained by conservation laws.
- Waves can transfer energy and momentum from one location to another without the permanent transfer of mass and serve as a mathematical model for the description of other phenomena.
- The mathematics of probability can be used to describe the behavior of complex systems and to interpret the behavior of quantum mechanical systems.
AP Physics 2 covers:
- fluid statics and dynamics;
- thermodynamics with kinetic theory, PV diagrams and probability;
- electrical circuits;
- magnetic fields;
- physical and geometric optics;
- topics in modern physics
For more information, review the course and exam description.