AP Physics Overhaul: What Students Need to Know About theMay 2025 Exam Changes

June 10, 2024

The College Board is, once again, overhauling its suite of AP Physics courses. As a student, you might be wondering whether the class you signed up for is still the best one for you and whether there is anything you should do over the summer in preparation for the updated class you will be taking in the fall. Before we dig into details about how the tests are changing, there are two key things you should know:

  1. Even with the changes, whichever variety of AP Physics made the most sense for you to take before should still be the class that makes the most sense for you to take now.  
  2. If you are interested in getting an AP specific prep book, make sure you get one that is updated for the 2025 test. In particular, don’t rely on a prep book from a friend or sibling who took the same test in the past.

Exam Structure Update

Up to this point, the AP Physics exams have been some of the quirkier AP tests. This update standardizes the tests so that all 4 AP Physics tests have the same structure:

  • An 80 minute, 40 question multiple-choice section where all questions have 4 answer choices
  • A 100 minute, 4 question free response section

For AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 this means that the tricky multiselect multiple choice questions are gone. It also means you get fewer questions and more time per question in both sections – a win all around for students! The only downside is that the past free-response exams that College Board releases no longer represent the structure of the test you will be taking next spring. 

For the two AP Physics C exams, this is College Board finally acknowledging that both Mechanics and E&M are comparable to full semester college courses on their own rather than two parts of one larger class. Instead of giving each of them an exam that is half as long as any other exam and squeezing them together into one testing time slot, both exams will now be full length AP tests with their own time slots. 

Content Updates

AP Physics 1

A quick bit of history: In 2019 AP Physics 1 had nine units. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, units were cut from most AP curricula. For everything except AP Physics 1, the curricula returned to their previous states in 2021. For AP Physics 1, it was determined that units the original units 8-10, which covered electricity, circuits, and waves, were redundant with AP Physics 2 and for 2021-2024 AP Physics 1 has only had 7 units. In this update, the Fluids unit is being removed from AP Physics 2 and added to AP Physics 1 to help balance the two classes.

AP Physics 2

College Board is acknowledging that Physics 1 is functionally a prerequisite for Physics 2 and to reflect this the new unit numbering is consecutive with Physics 1’s unit numbering. Fluids has been moved to Physics 1 and is no longer directly part of the Physics 2 curriculum. In addition, the unit on circuits is more robust, the optics and waves unit has been expanded into two units, and the modern physics unit has been updated. 

AP Physics C: Mechanics

There are no major content changes to AP Physics C: Mechanics. The main update for this class is the new structure of the test. 

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

There are no major content changes to AP Physics C: E&M. College Board is acknowledging that AP Physics C: Mechanics is functionally a prerequisite for AP Physics C:E&M and renumbering the units to continue consecutively with the AP Physics C: Mechanics units. The main update for this class is the new structure of the test.


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