Is AP Physics Hard? 

is ap physics hard

Is AP Physics hard? As a high school science student, this question will linger in your mind. And your concern is genuine, as only a few students have scored 5 in AP physics 1 and fewer in AP physics 2.

Researchers have also found that only 6 to 32% students gain positive experience after taking AP physics.

But despite this AP Physics remains one of the most sought after class. Why is it like that? Let’s dig deeper and determine if AP physics is complex or just a myth.

Is AP Physics Hard? 3 Factors That Determine Subject Difficulty

Before we go further, let me first tell you there are 4 AP physics courses. You can choose one or more of AP Physics 1 and 2 and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism and AP Physics C: Mechanics.

pen on physics paper

Now let’s find out the factors that determine AP physics’ difficulties and their prerequisites:

1. Prerequisites Required for each AP Physics Type

As a high school student, you can’t choose an AP physics course just because you want to. You have to consider a few criteria when enrolling in the course.

AP Physics Course Type Criteria
AP Physics 1 No eligibility is needed. Any high school student with thorough algebra knowledge can enroll.
AP Physics 2 Should have taken AP physics 1
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism Must know calculus or be taking it alongside this course
AP Physics C: Mechanics Strong math and calculus background


One has to move from easy AP physics courses to tougher ones. If a sophomore with no prior AP physics knowledge enrolls in AP Physics C courses, they will find the subject difficult.

Wondering which are the hardest AP classes? Read “What are theHardest AP classes” and know all about.

2. AP Physics Pass Rates and Score Distribution

Each AP physics course has separate exams and pass rates. Let’s look into pass rate and the rate of 5 score for different AP Physics subjects.

AP Physics Course Type 5 Score Overall Passing Scores
AP Physics 1 7.9% 42%
AP Physics 2 16.3% 69%
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 30% 69%
AP Physics C: Mechanics 25% 74%


If you look at it, students’ AP Physics exam score distribution is diverse.

The reason behind this is, when a student first starts taking AP classes, the course units and lab practices and intense study time take a toll over them. Moreover, they also have to take the AP test for the first time, which leads to added tension.

However, as time goes by and students start understanding AP physics subject matters vividly, they can get more confident and it reflects on their result.

3. Course Details of AP Physics Courses

Course contents are also essential if you want to know about a subject’s difficulty. Each AP Physics course has a specific number of units, which decides the length and difficulty of the course.

AP Physics Courses Number of units Number of Labs
AP Physics 1 7 Units 7 lab practices
AP Physics 2 7 Units 5 Lab practices
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism 5 Units 11 Lab practices
AP Physics C: Mechanics 7 Units 7 Lab Practices

Every AP course has a particular way of preparation. Once students start following the procedure for preparation, their chances of scoring 3+ increase.

To prepare for the AP physics exams, students need to:

  • Understand physics concept to make it strong. Solve extra applied math problems by graphing and manipulating linear and basic equations rather than just College Board’s ones
  • Use a good calculator and memorize physics formulas not present on the equation sheet
  • Read and answer every question for MCQs, and free response questions carefully
  • Focus on harder units like kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion rational motion, quantum physics, magnetism and torque from the beginning to clear their concepts and
  • Spend at least 25% of study time on lab practices and 45 minutes every day to study AP physics concepts

Facing trouble with your Physics C classes? Enroll in EnthuZiastic’s AP physics C classes and shoot your troubles

Is AP Physics hard? Here is what Teachers and Students Have to Say

AP physics becomes hard for them, who don’t find a good teacher.

Let’s see what students and other teachers have to say in this matter:

David Xu, who has studied AP Physics 1, says,

how difficult is ap physics review
Source: (Quora)

“The subject’s difficulty depends on the person taking it. AP physics 1 is mostly mechanics, so it’s less complicated than electricity and magnetics”.

On the other hand, Leah Olsson, a retired teacher, says,

“AP Physics is integrated algebra ii and calculus concepts. So, if you are good at math, AP physics wouldn’t be difficult for you”.

review from quora
Source: (Quora)

Agreeing with Leah Olsson, Hosea Siu says a Ph.D. in Aeronautics says,

“High school students start their AP physics journey with mechanics. It requires knowledge of calculus. Therefore, a lack of experience in math can make AP physics difficult.

There’s no place for memorization in AP physics. Moreover, the workload revolves around practicing problems and understanding concepts.

So, if test-takers are good at math, there’s no subject like AP physics”.

Demyan Volkov a software engineer says,

“AP physics looks good high school transcript and GPA. It proves students’ ambition and willingness to study college-level physics and take risks. AP physics will help you to find and emphasize logic. So, it’s worth studying the subject”.

is Ap physics hard - review
Source: (Quora)

Similarly, TJ evert, a former AP physics and calculus teacher, says,

“If you have a strong science and math background, then AP physics wouldn’t be a problem. Moreover, strong support groups and online resources are also needed to understand the subject. So if you fulfill these criteria, then this subject is for you”.

Rose Smith who’s an AP scholar when asked why is AP Physics hard says,

“A lot of students take AP physics and especially AP physics 1 class as an introductory physics class without prior knowledge. So, for them, it becomes difficult to succeed.

Why is ap physics 1 exam so hard
Source: Quora

Moreover, finding a good AP physics teacher in high school sometimes becomes challenging. Otherwise, neither the exams are difficult nor the material.”

Check out EnthuZiastic AP Courses to learn with the best teachers.

It’s Time To Hear The Verdict

If one asks Penny from Big Bang Theory whether AP physics is hard, she will agree with the question. But for Sheldon Cooper, AP physics is as easy as ABC.

Is AP Physics hard?
Source: (Pinterest)

AP Physics isn’t hard. It depends on a student’s prior knowledge of the subject, math, and how much they practice before AP exams.

Every student has their interests, likes, and dislikes. Students who love to solve algebra and calculus problems and learn about various physics concepts find AP physics interesting. Students whose interests lay elsewhere will find this subject hard.


Is AP Physics worth it?

If you want a career in science, then AP physics is worth it in high school. It will help you get extra college credit, and you can graduate early to go to university.

How many AP classes can I take in high school?

You can take 10 to 14 AP classes in high school, depending on your time and interests. However, you must know that every AP class needs much work. So, you have to plan your timetable.

Can I take AP world history, AP US History, AP European History, and AP physics c in my junior high?

As unlikely as it may seem, you can take these subjects in your junior high school. However, it’s best to stick to subjects on which you want to pursue a career. If you wish for a career in science, choose subjects other than history.

Do I need math skills to study AP physics 1?

Yes, you need strong math skills to study AP physics 1. AP Physics 1 class is mostly algebra-based. So, if you want to take AP physics 1, you need to hone your mathematical skills.

Which is the hardest AP Physics level to crack?

The difficulty of AP physics depends on a student’s interest and preparation. So, if you have subject proficiency, no AP physics level is difficult for you to crack.That said most students find AP physics 1 the hardest AP level to crack.

Will I find a support group and resources online for AP physics?

You will find tons of online support and study groups for your AP physics course matters.

How much time will I get for AP physics free-response questions?

You will get 43 mins for free-response questions. Please use this time to the fullest and answer each question carefully.

How many parts does AP physics c have?

AP Physics C has 2 parts, Electricity & Magnetism and Mechanics. Electricity and Magnetism have 5 units, and Mechanics has 7 units.

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Parting Thoughts

AP physics is an important subject, and hundreds and thousands of students take this subject every year. So, it is possible to crack AP physics.

However, you must know that AP physics requires much time to comprehend and prepare. So, if you are willing to give that time and energy, you are most welcome to take this subject.

It would be best to talk to your high school guidance counselor, and they will help you find your true academic calling.

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