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30 April 2014

Mail Time: Will calculators and equation sheets be available on the new AP Physics 1 and 2 exams?

Ryan Mitchell writes in:

Hi Greg... Question about the new courses: My understanding is students will be allowed to use the equations and constants/conversions sheets on both MC and free response sections of the AP1 and 2 exams…

That is correct.  Calculators, too, will be allowed on both sections.

 No more memorization of equations. Is that correct?

Well, I'd personally go the other way... with so much less material, and so much less emphasis on calculation, I will have a heightened expectation that my students know fundamental relationships cold.  A smart student who hunts and pecks equations can get a 3 on the AP Physics B exam; such a student will definitely, without question earn a 1 on the new exams.  

My own preference would have been for the College Board to eliminate the equation sheet and calculator entirely.  But they (quite reasonably) want calculator access, even if students only need it three times on the whole exam; and once calculators are allowed, they want to provide the equation sheet so students who program their calculators won't have an "advantage."  I don't agree that a programmed calculator is an advantage, though... I think it's a disadvantage, because such a student will tend to rely on formulas and numbers rather than on reasoning, understanding, and verbal communication.  

The new 5 Steps book (available end of June) has an entire chapter devoted to these sorts of issues.  I think that success on the AP Physics 1 exam will be in inverse proportion to the number of times a student grabs his or her calculator.

Good luck...


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