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SAT Physics Subject test difficulty compared to F=ma exam?

yearstogoyearstogo 792 replies30 threads Member
DS took AP Physics 1 last year and got an A in the class plus a 5 on the AP Physics exam. He likes Physics but there are no other courses offered at his high school so he decided to prepare for the F=ma exam by taking the AoPS WOOT Physics course. Is the SAT Physics Subject test more or less difficult than the F=ma exam. In other words, if he does well on the F=ma exam would he be able to get a high score on the subject test or there is a lot more to study?
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Replies to: SAT Physics Subject test difficulty compared to F=ma exam?

  • ThaOneDudeThaOneDude 16 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Way more difficult. F=ma generally only covers the motion part of physics, but the AoPS WOOT course includes everything for the USaPHo. Plus it is calculus based. Somebody with a 5 on the AP Physics 1 test would get a 5 out of 25 on the F=MA, unless they had a very deep conceptual understanding from other textbooks. The second level of the physics olympiad is extremely calculus based. The algebra based AP Physics, is not sufficient. However, prepping hard for F=Ma, makes it very easy to do well on the subject test, as long as it done using Halliday and Resnick
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  • yearstogoyearstogo 792 replies30 threads Member
    Thanks. Are you saying that the calculus based subjects will present a problem? He took Calc BC last year and is pretty strong in math so hopefully it will be ok. I am hoping he can do the Subject test this year and score highly on it without a lot of extra efforts other than AOPS WOOT and taking a practice test or two.

    Have you taken the F=ma before?
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  • ThaOneDudeThaOneDude 16 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Yes I have, calculus based subjects shouldn't present a problem if he took Calc BC. I'm in it now and still did well on the f=ma last year. The f=ma doesn't have as much calculus as the USaPhO.
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  • hs2020kidhs2020kid 96 replies19 threads Junior Member
    Comparing F=ma test and SAT-Physics is not straight forward. I feel that SAT is 'easier' than F=ma test in terms of the difficulty of the questions. But its not easy to translate one score into another because of the following (IMHO):

    1. F=ma test covers only algebra based mechanics (similar to AP Physics 1 - solutions don't need use of calculus) - but the questions are 'harder' and need deeper understanding of the subject.
    2. SAT Physics covers algebra based mechanics 40% + more subjects like electricity/magnetism, optics, thermodynamics etc for the remaining 60%. The questions in the mechanics part of the test are not as hard as in F=ma test. Someone coming from AP Physics 1 and with a good F=ma score can breeze thru 'mechanics' part (40%) of the test - "but" they would need additional prep in other topics.

    Note that these tests have some quirks which makes it difficult to compare how one score can translate into another.
    (I took AP Physics 1 and Physics 2 last year - got both 5's; did well enough in F=ma test to qualify for next stage but scored 750 in Physics SAT even though I felt its easier; my friend got 4's in AP's and didn't do well in F=ma test but scored 800 in SAT). In SAT they have some recent physics events type questions which needs separate prep or awareness of the overall test - and this can be hard to gauge from AP scores and F=ma score.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83312 replies741 threads Senior Member
    SAT subject test in physics should not have that hard questions, since it covers regular (not AP) level high school physics. However, AP physics 1 does not cover all of the topics , even though it goes into more depth (need AP physics 2 to cover the rest).
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  • drearyandwearydrearyandweary 15 replies0 threads Junior Member
    F=ma is much harder than ap. Olympiads are never in the same tier as ap exams
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  • asdfasdfasfasasdfasdfasfas 1 replies0 threads New Member
    @yearstogo I was just wondering what you thought of the Physics Woot program on AOPS. Do you recommend?
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  • gammafunctiongammafunction 16 replies3 threads Junior Member
    edited April 12
    There are several things I have to say to this. For starters, comparing the SAT Physics Subject Test and the F=ma is equivalent to comparing the AMCs and the SAT Math II Subject Test. Possibly that analogy may be easier to interpret (if that didn't make sense, yes, the SAT Subject Test is easier because it involves no little to no critical thinking; it is almost solely formula chugging). To answer your question, "if he does well on the F=ma exam would he be able to get a high score on the subject test or there is a lot more to study?": not necessarily, because he wouldn't know concepts outside mechanics, but it would probably mean that he could grasp concepts easily so getting an 800 shouldn't be too difficult (especially considering the super nice curve).

    On another note, I enrolled in the Physics WOOT course this year and it is fantastic. BUT, it is necessary that you keep tabs on all the problems, lessons, and handouts. If you don't use it, then it's not worth it. Make sure that you use all the materials to its fullest extent. It should be enough to carry you to US Physics Camp if you do just that.
    edited April 12
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  • GoodLuck2AllGoodLuck2All 16 replies0 threads Junior Member
    F=ma is 10x easier than the physics subject test... Although, if you've only taken physics 1 then you will definitely struggle on the physics 2 part of the subject test. I would say the test is about 60% physics 1 and 40% physics 2, with a couple random "trivia-like" questions. For the studying part, I believe the f=ma doesn't have any electricity or magnetism so study that.
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