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How Do I Self-Study AP Physics 1?

4 min readβ€’december 16, 2021

Jed Quiaoit

Jed Quiaoit

AP Physics 1 🎑

257Β resources
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Let’s get right to it: believe it or not, AP Physics 1 is notΒ *that*Β hard to self-study. You don't have to be Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, or Gustav Kirchhoff to make Physics Fiveable. All you need is hard work and dedication to snag that 5!

πŸ“š Self-Studying

Self-studying may seem intimidating. Let's name a couple reasons why:
  • You're on your own.
  • You're not taught in the same way a traditional class does.
  • You have to go all out with seeking the resources you need.
Self-studying has some perks, though:
  • You can find out more above specific topics you're interested in compared to being limited by a class's curriculum.
  • Learning is self-paced.
  • AND most importantly, no homework!
The point is that self-studying isn't as daunting as what it seems to be. Knowing the battle you're about to fight, and preparing accordingly, will help you succeed with AP Physics 1, regardless of whether you self-study or take the class πŸ€“

Don't be THIS person! I repeat, don't set aside work for way later! Image Courtesy of Reddit.

πŸ—’ The CED

Now that you're all hyped up and raring to go, where EXACTLY do you go πŸ€”
College Board has published a Course and Exam Description framework for each of its AP classes, including Physics 1.Β Here, you can see how it divides the AP Physics 1 units, how much of the test they comprise, and an overview of the subtopics you are expected to be familiar with under each unit. We recommend looking at the Course at a Glance section before diving into the specific topics, which is time-consuming.
The AP Physics 2 Course & Exam Description is your best friend when it comes to familiarizing yourself with the curriculum. In fact, you can figure out which units and topics you need to focus on as you prepare.
Use the CED to:
  • Keep track of what units to study first.
  • Identify topics you feel confident or need to work on.
  • Look closely at sample AP exam questions and lab activities typically conducted in a classroom setting. (One of the FRQs is related to Experimental Design so be sure to look at labs!)


Now that you know what you are doing, you need to know how you are going to do it. Notably, you need resources for two equally important things: content and practice. Let’s talk about acquiring content first. You can achieve this in a multitude of ways.


A textbook is your one-stop-shop for all the content you need for this class.πŸ“š Check out our recommended list of textbooks and prep books!

Prep Books

Here are a few that are a great source of information and practice questions: πŸ“–
  • Barron’s
  • Princeton Review
  • 5 Steps to a 5

Videos πŸŽ₯

  • Khan Academy has great videos over Physics 1. It even has a course dedicated to it, and has some practice questions to go over the videos!
  • On YouTube, there is a channel called Flipping Physics that has a playlist of videos going over specific physics concepts.

Online Resources 🌈

Individual AP teachers also post PowerPoints and assignments on their classroom websites.
  • Reddit has awesome communities such as r/APStudents where you can ask questions and get your questions answered.
  • Quizlet has vocabulary decks for each of the 10 Physics 1 Units made by former and current students. Check out our top picks!

⏰ Preparing for the Exam

Set a study plan! πŸ—ΊοΈ

Number one rule? Stay organized! Divide your calendar into the 10 units in AP Physics 1.
For reference, here's the weighting of each of the units:
1. Kinematics: 10-16%
2. Dynamics: 12-18%
3. Circular Motion and Gravitation: 4-6%
4. Energy: 16-24%
5. Momentum – 10-16%
6. Simple Harmonic Motion: 2-4%
7. Torque and Rotational Motion: 10-16%
8. Electric Charge and Electric Force: 4-6%
9. DC Circuits: 6-8%
10. Mechanical Waves and Sound: 12-16%
Just by looking at the numbers, you should spend more time with Units 4, 7, and 10 than Units 3, 6, and 9. Laying out the composition of the exam helps to pinpoint what needs to be studied more in-depth.

Practice the content! ✏️

Physics is inherently a math-based class. You need to practice all aspects of the content. Do as many practice questions as you humanly can. Look over the internet for worksheets from other Physics classes and see if you can solve them.
Besides multiple choice questions or worksheets, be sure to practice FRQs since they constitute 50% of your exam score. Past FRQs with the answer keys are at the bottom at this webpage.
As you practice, be sure to keep track of the questions you miss. Often, you can identify which units you want to work on by looking at problems you either get wrong or take a long time answering.

πŸ’― Summing It Up

With a well-formulated plan and a consistent workflow, you'll be set by the time May comes!
  • If you attend a school but chose to self-study the class, you will be taking the exam at that same school.
  • If you are homeschooled, it is highly recommended for you to take the same on the closest school to where you live. Be sure to reach out to the school ahead of time!
A high AP score is not obtainable with last-minute test prep. It is only possible if you put effort in over the next 9-10 months from the day school starts. It is understandable to lose motivation as the year progresses, but keep in mind that everything will pay off in the finish line. Keep grinding and go get that 5!

Browse Study Guides By Unit
πŸ‘ŸUnit 1 – Kinematics
πŸŒ€Unit 2 – Dynamics
πŸš€Unit 3 – Circular Motion & Gravitation
⚑️Unit 4 – Energy
⛳️Unit 5 – Momentum
🎸Unit 6 – Simple Harmonic Motion
🎑Unit 7 – Torque & Rotational Motion
πŸ’‘Unit 8 – Electric Charges & Electric Force
πŸ”‹Unit 9 – DC Circuits
πŸ”ŠUnit 10 – Mechanical Waves & Sound
πŸ“šStudy Tools
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