College Credit for AP Physics Exams

My school technically doesn’t offer any AP Physics course, but according to my Chemistry teacher, who has taught physics before, our Physics Honors course teaches enough to take the Physics 1 and 2 exams, and our advanced physics course teaches enough to take the Physics C exams. What credit do these 4 exams give? Is it like Calc AB and BC where the BC credit makes the AB credits useless, or do they give 4 different credits? Do I need to take all 4 of them if I want credit? Or do I only need to take the Physics C exams? The only thing I’ve found from searching online is that the C exams are calculus based, and the 1 and 2 are algebra based, but they don’t say whether the credits given are different.

Whether or not credit is given depends totally on the individual university and your intended major.

This is a school by school decision so no set answer. AP tests with a high enough score can get you nothing, get you credit for a required class, no credit but allow you to start in a higher level, give you a free elective credit that you might have no need for etc. Some school websites will tell you. I would say you could call admissions to ask but this probably isn’t the best time right now.

Definitely check each college website to get a firm answer. Chances are, if you’re a STEM major, you won’t get credit (or get a science class exemption) for Physics 1 & 2, simply because they are algebra-based. They might be acceptable for humanities majors, though. Again, it depends on the college.

@Groundwork2022 Oh, thanks for the part about Physics 1 and 2 probably not worth credit in STEM majors. So would you say I’m better off just taking the Physics C exams? I’ll definitely check the actual school requirements, but right now, I haven’t really started searching for colleges, so it’s really just the top STEM colleges, which is why I wanted to know if there was a somewhat standard policy for credit for these exams.

Some state flagships are considered “top STEM colleges” and state colleges happen to be more likely to give you credit for all AP exams. It’s just that some of those credits, depending on the class and your major, are going to be elective credits at best. If getting college credit for AP classes really matters to you, you’re going to want to consider these state flagships that are STEM powerhouses.

A few colleges won’t give you AP credits for classes in your major. They want to make sure everyone is working from the same starting point, and they can’t be sure the material was adequately covered by each individual’s high school.

It really does depend on your particular pathway and college list. On the whole, though, certain STEM hopefuls can’t go wrong with AP Physics C on his/her transcript (as long as you have a good grade in it), simply because it is considered among the most rigorous classes high schools offer.

@Groundwork2022 Thanks! I guess I’ll do more research on it once I start seriously searching for colleges next year, and probably take the AP Physics C exams.

AP physics 1 and 2 emulate a one year non-calculus-based physics sequence often intended for biology majors and pre-meds. However, medical schools usually want to see actual college courses in pre-med categories like physics, and there is no more advanced substitution for physics-for-biology-majors, so a pre-med likely needs to repeat that AP physics 1 and 2 credit anyway. In addition, some colleges’ physics-for-biology-majors courses require some calculus, so AP physics 1 and 2 are not accepted for subject credit at those colleges.

So getting subject credit for AP physics 1 and 2 could only happen for non-pre-med biology majors (or other majors requiring physics-for-biology-majors) at colleges where physics-for-biology-majors uses no calculus, or if the college accepts them for general education credit for non-science majors.

AP physics C has two parts, mechanics and electricity & magnetism (E&M). Acceptance for subject credit for calculus-based physics for physics and engineering majors may be limited because some colleges cover more than mechanics in the first physics course and more than E&M in the second physics course. In addition, many colleges use more advanced math in their physics courses than AP physics C does (in particular, the physics course with E&M often has a corequisite of multivariable calculus, which is not used in AP physics C E&M).

In terms of getting credit units for any of these, if you do not take the repeating physics courses in college, you could get credit for both AP physics 1 and 2, or credit for both parts of AP physics C. But AP physics C mechanics overlaps with much of AP physics 1, and AP physics C E&M overlaps with much of AP physics 2, so you may not get credit for both courses in each overlapping set.

@ucbalumnus Oh, ok thanks! I guess that means I’m probably better off just taking the Physics C exams, since I’m more likely to get credit for those two, and the credits probably overlap anyway.

In Florida at all state universities and colleges, the Physics 1 and 2 exams will earn you 8 credits for General Physics 1 & 2. The Physics C exams will earn you 8 more credits for Physics with Calculus 1 & 2. I would recommend you look into it at the institutions that you are interested in, but no matter what, the AP Physics exams will show your understanding of the content at the university level and will look good on a transcript!