AP Physics C Exam

Part III

Test-Taking Strategies for the AP Physics C Exam

1 How to Approach Multiple-Choice Questions

2 How to Approach Free-Response Questions

PREVIEW ACTIVITY

Review your Test 1 results and then respond to the following questions:

  • How many multiple-choice questions did you miss even though you knew the answer?
  • On how many multiple-choice questions did you guess blindly?
  • How many multiple-choice questions did you miss after eliminating some answers and guessing based on the remaining answers?
  • Did you find any of the free-response questions easier or harder than the others—and, if so, why?

HOW TO USE THE CHAPTERS IN THIS PART

For the following Strategy chapters, think about what you are doing now before you read the chapters. As you read and engage in the directed practice, be sure to appreciate the ways you can change your approach.

Chapter 1

How to Approach Multiple-Choice Questions

MULTIPLE-CHOICE SECTION

Use the Answer Sheet

For the multiple-choice section, you write the answers not in the test booklet but on a separate answer sheet (very similar to the ones we’ve supplied at the very end of this book). Five oval-shaped bubbles follow the question number, one for each possible answer. Don’t forget to fill in all your answers on the answer sheet. Don’t just mark them in the test booklet. Marks in the test booklet will not be graded. Also, make sure that your filled-in answers correspond to the correct question numbers! Check your answer sheet after every five answers to make sure you haven’t skipped any bubbles by mistake.

Should You Guess?

Use Process of Elimination (POE) to rule out answer choices you know are wrong and increase your chances of guessing the right answer. Read all the answer choices carefully. Eliminate the ones that you know are wrong. If you only have one answer choice left, choose it, even if you’re not completely sure why it’s correct. Remember: Questions in the multiple-choice section are graded by a computer, so it doesn’t care how you arrived at the correct answer.

Even if you can’t eliminate answer choices, go ahead and guess. The AP exams no longer include a guessing penalty of a quarter of a point for each incorrect answer. You will be assessed only on the total number of correct answers, so be sure to fill in all the bubbles even if you have no idea what the correct answers are. When you get to questions that are too time-consuming, or you don’t know the answer to (and can’t eliminate any options), don’t just fill in any answer. Use what we call, your letter of the day (LOTD). Selecting the same answer choice each time you guess will increase your odds of getting a few of those skipped questions right.

Use the Two-Pass System

Remember that you have about two and a quarter minutes per question on this section of the exam. Do not waste time by lingering too long over any single question. If you’re having trouble, move on to the next question. After you finish all the questions, you can come back to the ones you skipped.

The best strategy is to go through the multiple-choice section twice. The first time, do all the questions that you can answer fairly quickly—the ones where you feel confident about the correct answer. On this first pass, skip the questions that seem to require more thinking or the ones you need to read two or three times before you understand them. Circle the questions that you’ve skipped in the question booklet so that you can find them easily in the second pass. You must be very careful with the answer sheet by making sure the filled-in answers correspond correctly to the questions.

Once you have gone through all the questions, go back to the ones that you skipped in the first pass. But don’t linger too long on any one question even in the second pass. Spending too much time wrestling over a hard question can cause two things to happen: One, you may run out of time and miss out on answering easier questions in the later part of the exam. Two, your anxiety might start building up, and this could prevent you from thinking clearly, making it even more difficult to answer other questions. If you simply don’t know the answer, or can’t eliminate any of them, just use your LOTD and move on.

General Advice

Answering 35 multiple-choice questions in 45 minutes can be challenging. Make sure to pace yourself accordingly and remember that you do not need to answer every question correctly to do well. Exploit the multiple choice structure of this section. There are four wrong answers and only one correct one, so even if you don’t know exactly which one is the right answer, you can eliminate some that you know for sure are wrong. Then you can make an educated guess from among the answers that are left and greatly increase your odds of getting that question correct.

Problems with graphs and diagrams are usually the fastest to solve and problems with an explanation for each answer usually take the longest to work through. Do not spend too much time on any one problem or you may not get to easier problems further into the test.

These practice exams are written to give you an idea of the format of the test, the difficulty of the questions, and to allow you to practice pacing yourself. Take them in the same circumstances as you will encounter during the real exam: 45 minutes for each of the two multiple-choice sections, and no calculator or equation sheet for this section.

Reflect

Respond to the following questions:

  • How long will you spend on multiple-choice questions?
  • How will you change your approach to multiple-choice questions?
  • What is your multiple-choice guessing strategy?
  • Will you seek further help, outside of this book (such as a teacher, tutor, or AP Central) on how to approach the questions that you will see on the AP Physics C exams?