All about AP Physics C exam

AP Physics C exam


The AP Physics C Exam is a crucial exam for high school students who have a strong interest in physics and plan to pursue further studies in science or engineering. Administered by the College Board, this exam is part of the Advanced Placement (AP) program, which allows students to take college-level courses and earn college credit while still in high school. 


Brief Overview of the AP Physics C Exam

The AP Physics C Exam is designed to test students’ mastery of physics concepts at a college level. It is split into two distinct sections:

  1.  Mechanics : This section covers topics such as kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, work, energy, power, systems of particles, linear momentum, circular motion and rotation, oscillations, and gravitation.
  2. Electricity & Magnetism  : This section delves into electrostatics, conductors, capacitors, dielectrics, electric circuits, magnetic fields, electromagnetism, and electromagnetic induction.

Each section of the exam consists of two parts: multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and free-response questions (FRQs). The MCQs test the student’s ability to quickly and accurately solve problems, while the FRQs require a deeper understanding and the ability to clearly communicate complex solutions.


Who Typically Takes the AP Physics C Exam?

The AP Physics C Exam is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors who have a strong foundation in mathematics, particularly calculus, as it is heavily used in both sections of the exam. These students are often enrolled in advanced placement or honors physics courses and are considering majoring in physics, engineering, or other STEM fields in college.


Exam Structure

There are some big changes in exam format from 2025 onwards. Here is the official release of revision in AP Physics C

  1. AP Physics C Mechanics :

  • This section covers the principles of classical mechanics, which is the branch of physics dealing with the motion of objects and the forces that affect them. Topics include kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, work, energy, power, systems of particles, linear momentum, circular motion and rotation, oscillations, and gravitation.
  • Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) : There are 40 multiple-choice questions designed to test students’ ability to quickly solve problems and understand key concepts.
  • Free-Response Questions (FRQs) : There are 4 free-response questions that require students to provide detailed written solutions, demonstrating a deep understanding of the topics and the ability to apply calculus in solving physics problems.

If AP Physics C Mechanics interests you, you may find AP Physics C mechanics: Key points you need to know helpful


     2.  AP Physics C Electricity & Magnetism :

  • This section focuses on the study of electric and magnetic fields and their interactions. Topics include electrostatics, conductors, capacitors, dielectrics, electric circuits, magnetic fields, electromagnetism, and electromagnetic induction.
  • Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) : Like the Mechanics section, there are 40 multiple-choice questions that test students’ conceptual understanding and problem-solving speed.
  • Free-Response Questions (FRQs) : There are 4 free-response questions that require students to demonstrate their ability to solve complex problems and communicate their reasoning clearly.


Duration and Format

Both types of the AP Physics C Exam—Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism—follows the same duration and format:

Total Duration : Both types of exams last for 180 minutes, split between multiple-choice and free-response questions.


Calculator Usage

For the AP Physics C Exam, the use of a calculator is permitted. Students are allowed to use graphing calculators, which can be extremely helpful for solving complex problems that require extensive calculations or graphing. The College Board has a list of approved calculators, and it is essential for students to familiarize themselves with their calculator’s functions well before the exam to ensure efficiency during the test.


Equation Sheet

The College Board provides an equation sheet for both sections of the AP Physics C Exam. This sheet includes fundamental constants, unit conversions, and key equations that are relevant to both Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. It is crucial for students to be familiar with the layout and content of the equation sheet prior to the exam. Understanding how to quickly locate and use these equations can save valuable time during the test and help avoid unnecessary memorization.

Interested to know more? Read AP Physics C Equation sheet


Combined Exam Format

For students who opt to take both the Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism exams, they are usually scheduled back-to-back on the same day, with a short break in between. This means a total testing time of approximately 6 hours, split into two 180-minute sessions.


AP Physics C Mechanics Section

The AP Physics C : Mechanics Exam covers a broad range of fundamental principles in classical mechanics. This part of the exam tests students’ understanding of motion, forces, energy, momentum, and rotational dynamics, among other topics. Here’s an in-depth look at the key topics covered and some practical tips to help you prepare.


Topics Covered

  1. Kinematics :

      v = v_0 + at (velocity-time relationship)

      s = s_0 + v_0t + \frac{1}{2}at^2 (position-time relationship)

      v^2 = v_0^2 + 2a(s - s_0) (velocity-position relationship)

  1. Newton’s Laws of Motion :

      First Law (Inertia) : An object remains at rest or in uniform motion unless acted upon by a net external force.

      Second Law (F = ma) : The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force acting on it and inversely proportional to its mass.

      Third Law (Action-Reaction) : For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

  1. Work, Energy, and Power :

      W = Fd \cos \theta (work done by a force)

      KE = \frac{1}{2}mv^2 (kinetic energy)

      PE = mgh (gravitational potential energy)

      P = \frac{W}{t} (power)

  1. Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum :

      \vec{p} = m\vec{v} (linear momentum)

      \sum \vec{p}_{\text{initial}} = \sum \vec{p}_{\text{final}} (conservation of momentum)


  1. Circular Motion and Rotation :

      a_c = \frac{v^2}{r} (centripetal acceleration)

      \tau = I\alpha (torque and angular acceleration)

      KE_{\text{rot}} = \frac{1}{2}I\omega^2 (rotational kinetic energy)


  1. Oscillations :

      x(t) = A \cos(\omega t + \phi) (position in SHM)

      \omega = \sqrt{\frac{k}{m}} (angular frequency of a spring)

      T = 2\pi \sqrt{\frac{L}{g}} (period of a pendulum)


  1. Gravitation :

      F_g = G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2} (gravitational force)

      U_g = -G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r} (gravitational potential energy)

All about AP Physics C Exam


AP Physics C Electricity & Magnetism Section

The AP Physics C : Electricity & Magnetism Exam covers various principles related to electric and magnetic fields and their interactions. This section is designed to test students’ understanding of both theoretical concepts and practical applications in these areas of physics. Below is a detailed exploration of the key topics covered in this section.


Topics Covered

  1. Electrostatics :

      Coulomb’s Law: F = k_e \frac{q_1 q_2}{r^2} (force between two point charges)

      Electric Field: \vec{E} = k_e \frac{q}{r^2} (electric field due to a point charge)

      Electric Potential Energy: U = k_e \frac{q_1 q_2}{r}


  1. Conductors :

      Conductors in Electrostatic Equilibrium: The electric field inside a conductor is zero, and any excess charge resides on the surface.

      Surface Charge Distribution: Charges distribute themselves to minimize potential energy.


  1. Capacitors :

      Capacitance: C = \frac{Q}{V} (capacitance is the charge stored per unit potential difference)

      Parallel Plate Capacitor: C = \frac{\epsilon_0 A}{d}

      Energy Stored: U = \frac{1}{2}CV^2


  1. Dielectrics :

      Dielectric Constant: \kappa = \frac{C_{\text{with dielectric}}}{C_{\text{without dielectric}}}

      Effect on Electric Field: Dielectrics reduce the effective electric field within the capacitor.


  1. Electric Circuits :

      Ohm’s Law: V = IR

      Series and Parallel Circuits: R_{\text{series}} = R_1 + R_2 + \ldots; \frac{1}{R_{\text{parallel}}} = \frac{1}{R_1} + \frac{1}{R_2} + \ldots

      Kirchhoff’s Laws: \sum V = 0 (loop rule), \sum I = 0 (junction rule)

  1. Magnetic Fields :

      Biot-Savart Law: d\vec{B} = \frac{\mu_0}{4\pi} \frac{I d\vec{l} \times \vec{r}}{r^3}

      Magnetic Force: \vec{F} = q\vec{v} \times \vec{B} (force on a moving charge)

      Ampere’s Law: \oint \vec{B} \cdot d\vec{l} = \mu_0 I_{\text{enc}}


  1. Electromagnetism :

      Faraday’s Law: \mathcal{E} = -\frac{d\Phi_B}{dt} (induced emf)

      Lenz’s Law: The direction of induced current opposes the change in magnetic flux.

      Maxwell’s Equations: Set of four equations describing how electric and magnetic fields propagate and interact.


  1. Electromagnetic Induction :

      Inductance: \mathcal{E} = -L \frac{dI}{dt} (self-induced emf)

      Energy in Inductors: U = \frac{1}{2}LI^2

      Mutual Inductance: \mathcal{E}_2 = -M \frac{dI_1}{dt}


Tips for Success


  • Understand Core Concepts: Focus on understanding the fundamental principles rather than just memorizing formulas.
  • Practice Regularly: Solve a variety of practice problems to reinforce concepts and improve problem-solving skills.
  • Utilize Visual Aids: Diagrams and sketches can help visualize electric and magnetic fields and circuit configurations.
  • Leverage the Equation Sheet: Familiarize yourself with the provided equation sheet to efficiently locate and apply relevant equations.
  • Use Calculators Efficiently: Practice using your calculator for complex calculations to save time during the exam.
  • Analyze and Apply: Break down problems into smaller parts and systematically apply relevant principles and equations.

If you are planning to take AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism, check out Succeeding in AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism

Resources for Success

Online Courses and Tutorials


  1. Khan Academy 

    Description : Khan Academy offers comprehensive and free online courses covering both AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism.

    Features : Video tutorials, practice exercises, and quizzes.

    Link : Khan Academy AP Physics C


  1. Tutoringmaphy 

    Description : Tutoringmaphy provides various physics and maths courses and have an official YouTube channel also, which can be helpful for AP Physics C preparation.

    Features : Self-paced learning, video lectures, and interactive exercises.

    Link : Playlist: AP Physics C Mechanics

    Link : Playlist: AP Physics C E&M


3. MIT OpenCourseWare 

    Description : MIT OpenCourseWare provides free course materials from actual MIT physics courses, useful for advanced understanding.

    Features : Lecture notes, assignments, exams, and solutions.

    Link : MIT OpenCourseWare Physics


Books and Workbooks


  1. “The Princeton Review: Cracking the AP Physics C Exam” 

    Description : Comprehensive review book with thorough content review, practice questions, and test-taking strategies.

    Features : Two full-length practice tests, detailed answer explanations, and strategies for tackling both multiple-choice and free-response questions.


  1. “Barron’s AP Physics C” 

    Description : Well-rounded review book offering in-depth content review, practice tests, and tips for mastering the exam.

    Features : Three full-length practice tests, review chapters for Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism, and practice problems with solutions.


  1. “5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics C” 

    Description : A strategic study guide designed to help students score a 5 on the exam.

    Features : Study plans, diagnostic tests, practice questions, and full-length practice exams.



Preparing for the AP Physics C Exam can be Challenging, but with the right resources, strategies, and mindset, you can excel. Focus on understanding the concepts, practice diligently, and stay confident. Remember, this exam is not just a test of your knowledge but also your problem-solving skills and perseverance. Good luck!



Q. How Long is the AP Physics C Exam?

The AP Physics C exam is divided into two separate sections: Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. Each section of the exam is 180 minutes long, making the total exam duration 6 hours if you take both sections on the same day. Here’s a breakdown:

1. AP Physics C: Mechanics 

Duration : 180 minutes
Format : 40 multiple-choice questions (80 minutes) and 4 free-response questions (100 minutes)

2. AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism

 Duration : 180 minutes
 Format : 40 multiple-choice questions (80 minutes) and 4 free-response questions (100 minutes)


Q. When is the AP Physics C Exam 2025?

The specific dates for the AP Physics C exams in 2025 are determined by the College Board and typically announced in the fall of the preceding year. AP exams are usually scheduled in early to mid-May. Historically, the Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism exams are held on the same day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, you should check the College Board’s official website or consult your AP coordinator.


Q. What to Bring to the AP Physics C Exam?

Preparing for the AP Physics C exam includes knowing what items to bring with you on exam day to ensure you are well-prepared and avoid any last-minute issues. Here’s a list of essential items:

1. Admission Ticket :
Print your AP admission ticket, which you can obtain from your College Board account.

2. Photo Identification :
Bring a valid government-issued or school ID.

3. Approved Calculator :
A graphing calculator is permitted for both the multiple-choice and free-response sections. Ensure it is an approved model.

4. Writing Instruments :

  1. No. 2 pencils for the multiple-choice section.
  2. Pens with black or dark blue ink for the free-response section.

5. Equation Sheet :
You will be provided with the necessary equation sheet during the exam, but you should be familiar with it beforehand.

6. Other Permitted Items :

  1. Extra batteries for your calculator (though they cannot be on your desk).
  2. A watch (without an audible alarm) to keep track of time (though many exam rooms will have clocks).
  3. Water and a snack for the break (these must be stored in a designated area).


Q. How Hard is the AP Physics C Exam?

The difficulty of the AP Physics C exam can vary depending on your background in physics and mathematics. Here are some factors that contribute to the perceived difficulty of the exam:

1. Mathematical Rigor :
The exam is calculus-based, requiring a solid understanding of differentiation and integration. If you are comfortable with calculus, this can make the physics problems more straightforward.

2. Depth of Content :
AP Physics C goes into greater depth than other high school physics courses, covering detailed concepts in Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. Mastery of these topics requires focused study and practice.

3. Problem-Solving Skills :
The exam tests not only your understanding of physics principles but also your ability to apply them to solve complex problems. Developing strong analytical and problem-solving skills is crucial.

4. Practice and Preparation :
Regular practice with past exam questions and timed practice tests can significantly impact your performance. The more familiar you are with the exam format and types of questions, the better prepared you will be.


Interested to know about the hardest AP exams? Check out this two part blog: A guide to the most difficult AP Exams Part 1  and Part 2

Planning to take AP Physics 1 first? Checkout How to study for AP Physics 1 exam

Confused about which AP Physics course is right for you? Read Which AP Physics should you take – AP Physics 1 or AP Physics C?



About Colin Phillips
About Colin Phillips

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