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04 May 2015

My summary list of all topics for AP Physics 1

The College Board used to publish a delightfully simple two-page guide to the AP Physics courses.  It included a list of common topics -- each expressed in a few words -- a check box to indicate whether it was covered on the AP Physics B or C exams, and a percentage guide to how much of each exam involved each unit.  Granted, teachers had to investigate further by reading many historical exams to understand exactly what aspects of each topic was covered.  But the two-page summary was a critically useful starting point and quick reference guide.

When the education professors got their paws into AP Physics 1, the result was a pretty danged excellent exam... as well as impenetrable and poor communication about what the exam covers.  The College Board will argue that the 150 page "curriculum framework" provides excruciatingly exact detail about the topics covered, the depth of coverage, and the tasks students will be asked to perform in conjunction with each topic.  That's true.  It's also true that no one really reads the Bible, a dictionary, or an atlas cover to cover and remembers every detail.  The curriculum framework is a reference work, not a novel.

The College Board never released an official summary guide.  So over the course of the year I've made my own, UNofficial summary guide to topics on the AP Physics 1 exam.  (I swear, it's two pages on my computer in MS word... google docs doesn't upload the two-column formatting.)

I've listed all the topics below.  Some important disclaimers:

(1) This is NOT a College Board Approved list!  It's my own work, based on my own reading of the curriculum framework and the released exam.

(2) It is NOT comprehensive.  That's the point, see?  If you want comprehensive, read the encyclopedia curriculum framework.  Please do not complain to me that my list didn't cover a detail that you left out of your course.  (Those types of complaints are possibly why the CB didn't create a topic summary in the first place.)

(3)  This list reflects my prejudices and topic coverage.  If you find something big and important that I've left out -- and you will -- please comment or email me.  I may add some things.  On the other hand, you might think that something I've included is too detailed to be worthy of inclusion, or is too confusing for an overview.  Please tell me that, too.

Okay, here's my list.  On the last day in class, I spend 30 minutes going through it rapid-fire, explaining what I can and answering questions.  Post a comment telling me how you use it.


Position-time graphs
Velocity-time graphs
Algebraic kinematics
Projectile motion

Forces and Newton’s Laws
Force and Net Force
Solving problems with forces
A free-body diagram includes:
Mass and Weight
Normal force
Friction force
Inclined Planes
Newton’s Third Law
gravitational force
gravitational field
Gravitational and inertial mass
Uniform circular motion
Force of a spring

Impulse, momentum, collisions
Conservation of momentum in collisions
Center of mass

Work-Energy Theorem
Definition of Work
Equations for different forms of energy
Vertical springs
Rotational KE

Simple harmonic motion
Wave definitions
Equations relating frequency, period, wavelength, wave speed
Transverse/longitudinal waves
Doppler Effect
Standing Waves

N2L for Rotation
Relationship between angular and linear motion
Rotational Inertia

Angular momentum
Angular “impulse”

Smallest possible charge
Charge is conserved
Coulomb’s law for force between charges

Non-rigorous definitions of voltage, current, resistance
Rigorous definitions of voltage, current, resistance
Resistors in series
Resistors in parallel
Ammeters and Voltmeters
Power and Brightness
Kirchoff’s loop rule
Kirchoff’s junction rule

Resistivity is a property of the material a resistor is made out of
Equation for the resistance of a length of wire


  1. What a great list! Thanks Greg!!

    It might be a little nitpicky, but shouldn't rotational kinematics be here, too? Rot. kinematics separate from N2L And angular momentum?

    Thanks again!

  2. Angular momentum is there. On my fact sheets I had rotational kinematics under "relationship between angular and linear motion." Maybe I should add a line explicitly about rotational kinematics.

  3. Hi Greg,
    Great AP Physics 1 review book! Thanks for writing it.
    Looks like there might be a typo on the top of page 116...