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Advanced Placement

Is AP Physics C: Mechanics Hard? A Complete Guide [2024]

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

Updated on: 27 May 2024

Content

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  • AP Physics C Mechanics is one of the most challenging AP classes due to its rigorous curriculum.
  • The course covers fundamental topics such as kinematics, dynamics, and energy, with focus on calculus.
  • The average pass rate for AP Physics C Mechanics exams is approximately 74%.
  • The AP Physics C Mechanics Exam includes both multiple-choice and free-response questions.
  • AP Physics C Mechanics has a difficulty rating of 3.7 out of 5 based on a reddit survey by class alumnae.

Is AP Physics C: Mechanics hard? 

Yes, the AP Physics C: Mechanics course is considered one of the hardest AP courses by students due to its curriculum.

Based on a reddit survey, former students rated the course a 3.7 out of 5 in terms of overall difficulty, placing it as the third most difficult AP course.

AP Physics C – Mechanics is a relatively small class, with 48,803 entries in 2021 and 46,301 entries in 2022. However, a vast majority of students (97%) who took the class would recommend it to others.

It’s a rigorous course that requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but it’s also extremely rewarding for those who are up to the challenge. 

What are the topics covered in the AP Physics C Mechanics exam?

The AP Physics C Mechanics course includes several challenging topics, which are tested on the exam. These topics are listed below, along with their respective weightage in the exam.

Units CoveredPercentage Goal for the Exam (MCQ)
Unit 1: Kinematics14-20%
Unit 2: Newton’s Law of Motion17-23%
Unit 3: Work, Energy, and Power14-17%
Unit 4: Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum14-17%
Unit 5: Rotations14-20%
Unit 6: Oscillations6-14%
Unit 7: Gravitation6-14%
Topics covered in AP Physics C: Mechanics

The advanced physics concepts covered in this course are more intricate than those taught in introductory physics courses, and they demand a more profound comprehension of mathematical and physical principles.

Exam Tip: Each topic in AP Physics C Mechanics, from Newtonian mechanics to rotational dynamics and oscillations, presents distinct challenges. Our expert-vetted tutors specialize in these areas, offering personalized support. Achieve a thorough understanding of every subject with our expert AP Physics C: Mechanics Tutoring.

What determines the difficulty of AP Physics C: Mechanics? 3 key factors

To assess the level of difficulty of AP Physics C: Mechanics, there are several important factors to consider:

1. Course content

The course demands a heavy workload, with students expected to master challenging concepts and solve complex problems in a relatively short period of time. The course focuses on advanced physics concepts, with varying weightage in the exam.

The concepts are more complex than those covered in lower-level physics courses and require a deeper understanding of mathematical and physical principles. 

2. Proficiency in Subject Matter

An individual’s aptitude in the subject matter is another factor that contributes to the difficulty of the course. As a calculus-based science course, students who possess a solid math foundation, excel in higher-level math and calculus, and have previous experience in physics may find the course less daunting compared to those who struggle with math and science.

3. Critical Thinking Skills

AP Physics C: Mechanics requires students to develop strong critical thinking skills. Students must analyze and interpret data, apply physics principles to solve problems, and evaluate the validity of their solutions. 

They must also be able to think creatively and critically to devise new solutions to complex problems.

What is the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam structure?

The AP Physics C: Mechanics exam consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

Here is a breakdown of the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam format:

SectionNo. of questionsTime allocated to each sectionExam weightage
Multiple-choice questions3545 mins50%
Free-response questions345 mins50%
AP Physics C: Mechanics exam format

How are the AP Physics C: Mechanics exams scored?

The scoring system for AP Exams is based on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

The scores are determined by a combination of the student’s performance on the multiple-choice questions and the free-response questions.

The multiple-choice section accounts for 50% of the total score, while the free-response section accounts for the remaining 50%.

  • A score of 5 indicates that the student is extremely well-prepared for college-level physics and has a thorough and firm understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 4 indicates that the student is well-qualified and prepared for college-level physics and has a good understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 3 indicates that the student is adequately prepared for college-level physics and has a basic understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 2 indicates that the student is not adequately prepared for college-level physics and has a limited understanding of the subject matter.
  • A score of 1 indicates that the student has little or no understanding of the subject matter and is not prepared for college-level physics.

AP Physics C: Mechanics Score Distribution:

The AP score distribution is a statistical representation of how students performed on each AP exam. It shows the percentage of students who earned each score (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) in a given year.

AP Physics C: Mechanics score distribution for 2022 is as below:

Exam ScoreNo. of studentsPercentage of students
512,22226.4%
411,89325.7%
39,86721.3%
27,21215.6%
15,10711.0%
AP Physics C: Mechanics Score Distribution 2022

AP Physics C: Mechanics Credit Policy:

Different colleges and universities have different policies regarding AP exam scores and credit. Some may award college credit for an AP Physics C: Mechanics score of 4 or 5, while others may require a higher score or may not award credit at all.

For details refer to our AP Physics C: Mechanics Credit Policy Guide.

AP Physics C: Mechanics Exam Pass Rate and Mean Score Trends (2013-2022)

According to the College Board’s AP exam data, the AP exam pass rate [Students scoring 3 or more] for the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam has been hovering between 73% and 84% over the past 10 years from 2013 to 2022.

For year-on-year data, refer to the AP Physics C: Mechanics Pass Score Trends Graph below:

The passing score for the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam is 3 out of 5. Achieving a passing score indicates that a student has demonstrated a level of understanding and proficiency in college-level physics concepts in mechanics.

Pass Score of AP Physics C: Mechanics

Note that the College Board does not officially classify 3 as a passing score.

As per the College Board data for 2021 and 2022, approximately 73.4% and 73.5% of students who took the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam achieved a score of 3 or higher.

The mean score of the subject was 3.41. and 3.38, respectively for those years. However, it’s essential to note that the pass rate can fluctuate each year, and the exam’s level of difficulty may impact the percentage of students who pass.

The mean score for AP Physics C Mechanics is consistently higher than the mean score for all subjects still AP Physics C Mechanics is ranked among one of the difficult AP Courses.

Refer year on year AP Physics C Mechanics Mean Score Trend Graph below:

Mean Score of AP Physics C- Mechanics
Mean Score of AP Physics C: Mechanics

How to study for the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam?

Preparing for the AP Physics C: Mechanics test requires dedication, discipline, and a structured approach. Here are some tips on how to study effectively for the exam:

  1. Review the course material: Before diving into the exam preparation, make sure to review the course material thoroughly. Review the textbook chapters, lecture notes, and lab reports.
  2. Practice problems: Practice problems are key to mastering the concepts and skills needed for the exam. Use the review materials provided by your teacher or textbook, or seek out additional resources online. View our AP Physics C: Mechanics practice test resource.
  3. Create flashcards: Flashcards can be a great way to memorize key concepts, equations, and terminology. Make a set of flashcards with important information and review them frequently.
  4. Join study groups: Study groups can provide an opportunity to work through challenging material with peers. Meet with other students to review material, discuss concepts, and work on practice problems together.
  5. Take practice exams: Practice exams can help you get familiar with the format and structure of the actual AP Physics C: Mechanics test. Use past AP Physics C: Mechanics Exams or practice tests from online resources.
  6. Seek out additional resources: There are many online resources available to help students prepare for the AP Physics C: Mechanics Exam. Consider using online review materials, video tutorials, and online study groups. Some popular AP Physics C: Mechanics exam prep resources include
  7. Take 1-1 private tuitions: The Wiingy AP Physics C: Mechanics tutoring program adheres completely to the AP Physics C: Mechanics course outline. The platform has expert AP Physics C: Mechanics tutors who can help you with concepts, coursework homework help, and test-prep to help you get a top grade on the exam

Power Tip: Refer to the Wiingy AP Physics C: Mechanics Exam Guide for detailed information on the AP Physics C: Mechanics Exam and strategies to ace the test.

How does AP Physics C: Mechanics compare to other AP Physics courses?

Here’s a comparison of AP Physics C: Mechanics to other AP science courses: 

CourseTopics CoveredDifficulty RateDifficulty Ranking Mathematical Rigor
AP Physics C MechanicsKinematics, Newton’s Law of Motion, Work, Energy and Power, Linear momentum, Rotations, Oscillations, and Gravitation7.43High
AP Physics C Electricity and MagnetismElectrostatics, Conductors, Capacitors, Dielectrics, Electric Circuits, Magnetic Field, Electromagnetism 8.11Very High
AP Physics 1Kinematics, Dynamics, Circular Motion and Gravitation, Energy, Momentum, Simple Harmonic Motion, Torque, and Rotational Motion7.25Medium
AP Physics 2Fluids: Pressure and Forces, Thermodynamics, Electric Force, Field, and Potential, Electric Circuits, Magnetism and Electromagnetic Induction, Geometric and Physical Optics, Quantum, Atomic and Nuclear Physics6.56Medium
Comparison of AP Physics C: Mechanics to other AP Physics courses

In summary

AP Physics C: Mechanics is a challenging course based on the available data. The pass rate for 2022 was 73.5% with mean score of 3.38.

While the pass rates indicate a decent success rate, it’s important to consider the potential yearly fluctuations in pass rates due to varying exam difficulty.

Despite being a relatively small class with 48,803 entries in 2021 and 46,301 entries in 2022, an overwhelming majority of students (97%) who took the class would recommend it to others.

According to a Reddit survey, former students rated AP Physics C: Mechanics with a difficulty rating of 3.7 out of 5, making it the third most challenging AP course.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is AP Physics C Mechanics harder than AP Physics 1? 

Yes, AP Physics C Mechanics is generally considered more difficult than AP Physics 1 with a difficulty rating of 7.4 out of 10. Physics C Mechanics is calculus-based, covers more advanced topics, and requires a deeper understanding of physics principles. AP Physics 1, on the other hand, is algebra-based and covers a broad range of introductory physics concepts.

What is AP Physics C: Mechanics equivalent to?

AP Physics C: Mechanics is equivalent to a first-semester calculus-based college physics course, typically taken by students majoring in engineering, physics, or other STEM fields. The course covers topics such as kinematics, dynamics, energy, and momentum at an advanced level, preparing students for further study in physics or engineering.

What is the hardest unit in AP Physics C: Mechanics? 

The hardest unit in AP Physics C: Mechanics may vary for different students depending on their strengths and weaknesses. However, some of the more challenging topics in the course include rotational motion, which involves understanding concepts such as torque and angular momentum; and oscillations and waves, which cover topics such as harmonic motion and resonance. These topics require a deep understanding of physics principles and strong math skills.

Which AP Physics is the hardest? 

AP Physics C courses are generally harder than the other AP Physics courses. AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism is generally considered the hardest AP Physics course. It covers advanced topics such as electromagnetism, circuits, and Maxwell’s equations, and requires strong math skills, including calculus. The course is often taken by students majoring in physics or engineering and is considered challenging even for those with a strong physics and math background.

What is the pass rate for AP Physics C: Mechanics? 

According to the College Board, the pass rate for AP Physics C: Mechanics varies from year to year. In 2021 and 2022, 73.5% and 73.4% of students who took the exam received a score of 3 or higher, indicating that they passed. It is important to note that the difficulty of the exam can affect the pass rate.

References

  1. https://examstudyexpert.com/is-ap-physics-c-hard-easy/
  2. https://www.bestcolleges.com/test-prep/ap/physics-c-mechanics/
  3. https://www.albert.io/blog/is-ap-physics-c-hard/
  4. https://reports.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/2021-ap-student-score-distributions_1.pdf
  5. https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-score-distributions-by-subject-2022.pdf

Written by by

Apoorvaa Agarwal

Reviewed by by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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