Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your AP Physics Course - Develop Strategies for Success - 5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based 2017 (2016)

5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based 2017 (2016)


Develop Strategies for Success

CHAPTER 6 Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your AP Physics Course

CHAPTER 7 Strategies to Approach the Questions on the Exam

CHAPTER 8 Strategies to Approach the Questions: Free-Response Section

CHAPTER 9 Strategies to Approach the Questions: Multiple-Choice Section


Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your AP Physics Course


Summary: The best way to prepare for the AP Physics 1, Algebra-Based Exam is to make sure you really understand the physics presented in your AP course. This chapter provides strategies you can use to get the most out of your AP Physics 1 class and improve the likelihood that you”ll score a 4 or 5 on the test.

Key Ideas

Focus on increasing your knowledge of physics, not on getting a good grade.

Don”t spend more than 10 minutes at one time without getting somewhere.

Work with other students.

Ask questions when you don”t understand something.

Keep an even temper, and don”t cram.

Seven Simple Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your AP Physics Course

Almost everyone who takes the AP Exam has just completed an AP Physics course. Recognize that your physics course is the place to start your exam preparation! Whether or not you are satisfied with the quality of your course or your teacher, the best way to start preparing for the exam is by doing careful, attentive work in class all year long.

Okay, for many readers, we”re preaching to the choir. You don”t want to hear about your physics class. In fact, maybe you”re reading this chapter only a few weeks before the exam, and it”s too late to do much about your physics class. If that”s the case, go ahead to the next chapter, and get started on strategies for the test, not the class.

But if you are reading this a couple of months or more before the exam, we think that you can get even more out of your physics class than you think you can. Read these pieces of time-tested advice, follow them, and we promise you”ll feel more comfortable about your class and about the AP exam.

  1. Ignore Your Grade

This must be the most ridiculous statement you”ve ever read, right? But it may also be the most important of these suggestions. Never ask yourself or your teacher, “Can I have more points on this assignment?” or “Is this going to be on the test?” You”ll worry so much about giving the teacher what he or she wants that you won”t learn physics in the way that”s best for you. Whether your grade on a class assignment is perfect or near zero, ask, “Did I really understand all aspects of these problems?”

Remember, the AP Exam tests your physics knowledge. If you understand physics thoroughly, you will have no trouble at all on the AP test. But, while you may be able to argue yourself a better grade in your physics class even if your comprehension is poor, the AP readers are not so easily moved.

If you take this advice—if you really, truly ignore your grade and focus on physics—your grade will come out in the wash. You”ll find that you got a very good grade after all, because you understood the subject so well. But you won”t care , because you”re not worried about your grade!

  1. Don”t Bang Your Head Against a Brick Wall

Our meaning here is figurative (although there are literal benefits as well). Never spend more than 10 minutes or so staring at a problem without getting somewhere. If you honestly have no idea what to do at some stage of a problem, stop . Put the problem away. Physics has a way of becoming clearer after you take a break.

On the same note, if you”re stuck on some piddly algebra, don”t spend forever trying to find what you know is a trivial mistake, say a missing negative sign or some such thing. Put the problem away, come back in an hour, and start from scratch. This will save you time in the long run.

And finally, if you”ve put forth a real effort, you”ve come back to the problem many times and you still can”t get it: relax. Ask the teacher for the solution, and allow yourself to be enlightened. You will not get a perfect score on every problem. But you don”t care about your grade, remember?

  1. Work with Other People

When you put a difficult problem aside for a while, it always helps to discuss the problem with others. Form study groups. Have a buddy in class with whom you are consistently comparing solutions.

Although you may be able to do all your work in every other class without help, I have never met a student who is capable of solving every physics problem on his or her own. It is not shameful to ask for help. It is not dishonest to seek assistance—as long as you”re not copying or allowing a friend to carry you through the course. Group study is permitted and encouraged in virtually every physics class around the globe.

  1. Ask Questions When Appropriate

We know your physics teacher may seem mean or unapproachable, but in reality, physics teachers do want to help you understand their subject. If you don”t understand something, don”t be afraid to ask. Chances are that the rest of the class has the same question. If your question is too basic or requires too much class time to answer, the teacher will tell you so.

Sometimes the teacher will not answer you directly but will give you a hint, something to think about so that you might guide yourself to your own answer. Don”t interpret this as a refusal to answer your question. You must learn to think for yourself, and your teacher is helping you develop the analytical skills you need for success in physics.

  1. Keep an Even Temper

A football team should not give up because they allow an early field goal. Similarly, you should not get upset at poor performance on a test or problem set. No one expects you to be perfect. Learn from your mistakes, and move on—it”s too long a school year to let a single physics assignment affect your emotional state.

On the same note, however, a football team should not celebrate victory because it scores a first-quarter touchdown. You might have done well on a test, but there”s the rest of the nine-month course to go. Congratulate yourself, and then concentrate on the next assignment.

  1. Don”t Cram

Yes, we know that you got an “A” on your history final because, after you slept through class all semester, you studied for 15 straight hours the day before the test and learned everything. And, yes, we know you are willing to do the same thing this year for physics. We warn you, both from our and from others” experience: it won”t work . Physics is not about memorization and regurgitation. Sure, there are some equations you need to memorize, but problem-solving skills cannot be learned overnight.

Furthermore, physics is cumulative. The topics you discuss in December rely on the principles you learned in September. If you don”t understand the basic relationships between motion and acceleration, how are you supposed to understand the connection between acceleration and net force, or angular acceleration and net torque?

The answer is to keep up with the course. Spend some time on physics every night, even if that time is only a couple of minutes, even if you have no assignment due the next day. Spread your “cram time” over the entire semester.

Exam Tip from an AP Physics Veteran

We had a rule in our class: no studying the night before the exam. There was no way to learn something new in the few remaining hours. The goal was to be relaxed and confident about what we did know. In fact, the class all got together for a pool party rather than a study session. And every one of us passed, with three-fourths of us getting 5s.

  1. Never Forget, Physics is “Phun”

The purpose of all of these problems, experiments, and exams, is to gain knowledge about physics—a deeper understanding of how the natural world works. Don”t be so caught up in the grind of your coursework that you fail to say “Wow!” occasionally. Some of the things you”re learning are truly amazing. Physics gives insight into some of humankind”s most critical discoveries, our most powerful inventions, and our most fundamental technologies. Enjoy yourself. You have an opportunity to emerge from your physics course with wonderful and useful knowledge, and unparalleled intellectual insight. Do it.