— Understanding connections of physics to other disciplines and to
societal issues
The first three of these goals are appropriate for the AP and introductory-level college
physics courses that should, in addition, provide a background for the attainment of
the fourth goal .
The AP Physics Exams have always emphasized achievement of the first two goals .
Over the years, the definitions of basic knowledge of the discipline and problem
solving have evolved . The AP Physics courses have reflected changes in college
courses, consistent with our primary charge . We have increased our emphasis on
physical intuition, experimental investigation, and creativity . We include more open-
ended questions in order to assess students’ ability to explain their understanding of
physical concepts . We structure questions that stress the use of mathematics to
illuminate the physical situation rather than to show manipulative abilities .
The committee is dedicated to developing exams that can be graded fairly and
consistently and that are free of ethnic, gender, economic, or other bias . We operate
under practical constraints of testing methods, allotted time and large numbers of
students at widely spread geographical locations . In spite of these constraints, the
committee strives to design exams that promote excellent and appropriate instruction
in physics .
T H E C O U R S E S
The AP Physics Exams are designed to test student achievement in the AP Physics
courses described in this book . These courses are intended to be representative of
courses commonly offered in colleges and universities, but they do not necessarily
correspond precisely to courses at any particular institution . The aim of an AP

5
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secondary school course in physics should be to develop the students’ abilities to do
the following:
1 .
Read, understand, and interpret physical information — verbal, mathematical,
and graphical
2 .
Describe and explain the sequence of steps in the analysis of a particular
physical phenomenon or problem; that is,
a .
describe the idealized model to be used in the analysis, including simplifying
assumptions where necessary;
b .
state the concepts or definitions that are applicable;
c .
specify relevant limitations on applications of these principles;
d .
carry out and describe the steps of the analysis, verbally, or mathematically;
and
e .
interpret the results or conclusions, including discussion of particular cases
of special interest
3 .
Use basic mathematical reasoning — arithmetic, algebraic, geometric, trigono-
metric, or calculus, where appropriate — in a physical situation or problem
4 .
Perform experiments and interpret the results of observations, including making
an assessment of experimental uncertainties
In the achievement of these goals, concentration on basic principles of physics and
their applications through careful and selective treatment of well-chosen areas is more
important than superficial and encyclopedic coverage of many detailed topics . Within

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