5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based 2024 - Jacobs Greg 2023

Introduction: The Five-Step Program


You are in AP Physics 2, which means you probably just completed—or survived—AP Physics 1 last year. You already have a good idea of what is involved in getting ready for an AP Physics exam. AP Physics 2 builds upon the material you’ve already learned in AP Physics 1. Be sure to keep your 5 Steps to a 5 AP Physics 1 book handy for reviewing material you learned last year. I’m Chris, and I am going to be your friendly guide throughout the process of getting prepared for your AP exam.

Why This Book?

To have a good understanding of what makes this book special, it would probably be helpful if you knew a little bit about me. I’ve been an aerospace engineer, so I have experience in how physics is used in the real world. I have run workshops for teachers, helping them become successful with their own students. I’ve been teaching all varieties of AP Physics 1, 2, B, and C for more than 25 years, to students just like you in all types of schools—inner-city schools, suburban schools, magnet schools, charter schools—schools big and small. In every one of these schools, there are students, just like you, who learn to love and excel in AP Physics because it makes such beautiful sense.

That’s where I come in—helping you make sense of it all. I’ve got a pretty good idea what is needed for you to do well on the AP exam. Throughout this book you will find:

• Clear, simple-to-understand text

• A thorough explanation of all the topics you will need to know

• Problem-solving tips and solutions

• An introduction to the student-tested Five-Step Program to mastering the AP Physics 2 exam

Organization of the Book: The Five-Step Program

You will be taking a comprehensive AP exam this May. Since this is not your first AP Physics exam, you already understand the structure of the exam and how thoroughly you need to understand the material. When you walk into that exam, you want to feel excited but calm, as if you are looking forward to showing off what you can do, not apprehensive or uncertain. Following the Five-Step Program is the best way to prepare and give yourself the best chance to earn that 5.

Step 1: Set Up Your Study Program

As you already know from having taken AP Physics 1, you cannot memorize your way through physics, and you can’t cram overnight. Success on the AP exam is the result of diligent practice over the course of months, not the result of an all-nighter on the evening before the exam. Step 1 gives you the background structure you need before you even start exam preparation.

Step 2: Determine Your Test Readiness

A problem on the AP exam usually requires conceptual development, considerable problem solving, or critical thinking skills. AP questions do not ask for straightforward facts that you can memorize. The AP Physics exam is designed to test the depth of your understanding of physics concepts and how well you can apply them. But you’re going to have to know those basic physics concepts in order to solve more difficult problems, including the ones you learned in AP Physics 1, so remember to keep last year’s 5 Steps to a 5 book handy!

You can’t learn physics passively; you have to be actively engaged to truly understand the concepts. A good place to start preparing for the test is by quizzing yourself. This way you’ll know your areas of strength and weakness. The 5 Steps fundamentals quiz in Chapter 4 will diagnose your areas of strength and weakness. Once you can answer every question on the fundamentals quiz quickly and accurately, you’re ready for deeper questions that will challenge you on the AP exam.

Step 3: Develop Strategies for Success

Since this isn’t your first AP Physics exam, you already know that an AP Physics test requires a much different approach than just about any other exam you’ve taken. You will be getting a reference table with equations on it for the entire exam, but it is still critical to know your equations and understand what they mean. Memorizing equations is not absolutely necessary, but it is very helpful. Having the equations stored in your “mental toolbox” means you never have to take the time to search around the reference table looking for an equation or wonder what relationship is needed to solve a problem. You will always have the reference table as a backup, but you will be surprised how many equations you know without even trying.

An important tool in your arsenal for succeeding on the AP exam is the ability to predict the behavior of a system based upon a physics equation, such as ranking things from largest to smallest. I’ll discuss some methods to help you become successful with those problems.

Step 4: Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High

This is a comprehensive review of all the topics on the AP exam. Now, you’ve probably been in an AP Physics class all year; you’ve likely read1 your textbook. Our review is meant to be just that—review, in a readable format, and focused exclusively on the AP exam.

These review chapters are appropriate both for quick skimming, to remind yourself of key points, and for in-depth study, with plenty of practice problems for you to work through. I do not go into nearly as much detail as a standard textbook, but the advantage of the lack of detail is that you can focus on only those issues specific to the AP Physics 2 exam.

Step 5: Build Your Test-Taking Confidence

Here are three full-length practice tests. Unlike other practice tests you may take, this one comes with thorough explanations. One of the most important elements in learning physics is making, and then learning from, mistakes. I don’t just tell you what you got wrong; I explain why your answer is wrong, and how to do the problem correctly. It’s okay to make a mistake here, because if you do, you won’t make that same mistake again on the “big day” in May.

The Graphics Used in This Book

To emphasize particular skills and strategies, icons are used throughout this book. An icon in the margin will alert you that you should pay particular attention to the accompanying text. These three icons are used:


1. This icon points out a very important concept or fact that you should not pass over.


2. This icon calls your attention to a problem-solving strategy that you may want to try.


3. This icon indicates a tip that you might find useful.

1Or at least tried to read.