AP® Physics 1 Multiple-Choice Questions

How to Approach with Examples

The first section of the AP® Physics 1 exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and is worth 50% of your final exam score. This is a large percentage, but if you know how to approach the different types of multiple-choice questions on the exam, you’ll be able to pass this section with flying colors. Each question type is unique, and so, each one requires somewhat of a different approach to get the right answer.

Here are the question types you will encounter on the AP Physics 1 exam:

  1. Text-based questions
  2. Diagram-based questions
  3. Data table-based questions
  4. Graph-based questions
  5. Calculations required questions
  6. Image answer-choice questions
    1. Graph answer-choice questions
    2. Diagram answer-choice questions
  7. Questions in sets
  8. Multi-select questions (Two answer choices are correct)

Each question type is defined below, with tips to help you confidently tackle and select the correct answer. For each question type, we provide an example that you will likely see on the AP Physics 1 exam. Our UWorld question bank has hundreds of these questions, so we are also including examples of how our illustrated explanations walk you through these question types. By getting first-hand practice with AP-level questions and applying the tips mentioned below, you will be well-prepared to achieve the best score possible on your AP Physics 1 exam!

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Picture showing a bowling ball of given mass and velocity striking a bowling pin that has smaller mass and is initially at rest.
Image showing a woodpecker exerting force on a tree to peck on the trunk with its beak.
Illustration showing a tugboat pulling a ship through a canal at constant velocity. The image then shows the tugboat slowing down, and the ship being towed collides with the tugboat in an elastic collision.

Text-Based Questions

This type of question involves text-only information. When you're taking the exam, you will encounter two types of text-based multiple-choice questions: short-form questions and long-form questions.

  1. Short-form text questions are knowledge-based and test your ability to recall important fundamental concepts.
  2. Long-form text questions, in contrast, will include background information that tests your ability to apply that knowledge to a new situation.

You should approach short- and long-form question variations with the same focus, as both types are equal in difficulty. Short-form questions can assess the most difficult concepts, just as a long-form question could contain a lot of text and information while asking a simple question.

Tips for Answering Text-Based Questions:

  • Read the question carefully. Circle or underline critical information
  • Mentally review what you know about the question topic
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • If you are not sure about the answer, select the answer that seems best, but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

Diagram-Based Questions

This type of question provides a diagram in the question accompanied by text either above or below the diagram, or both. This may be a type of diagram you are familiar with (e.g., a free-body diagram) or you may encounter an unfamiliar diagram (e.g., a diagram showing a new experimental setup). By analyzing the diagrams, you will be able to determine the correct answer to the question.

Tips for Answering Diagram-Based Questions:

  • Read the question carefully and circle or underline critical information
  • Carefully examine the diagram and mark any parts of it that seem especially relevant to the question
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • If you are not sure about the answer, select the answer that seems best, but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

You will likely encounter diagrams that you are not familiar with, but don’t let that intimidate you! All the information you need to solve the problem is always provided, and you will learn how to identify important information quickly from various diagrams! Below is an example of this question type.

MCQ 3 Example

A gate in a fence can swing back and forth about a fixed post, as shown in the figure above. A child throws pebbles of approximately the same mass and with the same initial speed from an angle perpendicular to the gate. At which of the labeled positions on the gate should the child throw a pebble to produce the largest angular displacement of the gate?

  1.  Point A
  2.  Point B
  3.  Point C
  4. The angular displacement is the same at all positions.

What You Must Know:

This question requires making connections between the concepts of rotational motion and forces. You will. You need to then apply your knowledge of these concepts to the diagram in the question to choose the best answer.

Data Table-Based Questions

Questions of this type involve a table in the question stem in addition to text. The right answer requires using data from the table provided, along with any other information given in the question’s text. You may need to recall content knowledge to answer this type of question.

Tips for Answering Data Table-Based Questions:

  • Read the question carefully, circle or underline critical information
  • Carefully examine the information in the table, pay attention to the row and column headings and the table’s title (if present)
  • Look for patterns in the data, circle any data that seems especially relevant to the question
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • If you are not sure about the answer, select the answer that seems the best, but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

The data tables vary in size from small to large tables but don’t be afraid of these. You just need to identify the relevant portion(s) for answering the question. You will find an example of this question type below.

MCQ 4 Example

Body Mass
(ME )
Radius
(km)
Gravitational Field
Strength (N/kg)
Jupiter 31.7 71400 25
Saturn 95 60400 10.4
Uranus 14.5 23600 10.4
Neptune 16.7 22300 13.8

The mass, radius, and gravitational field strengths for four planets in our solar system are listed in the table above. Each planet's mass is given as a multiple of the mass of Earth ME. Which of the following correctly ranks the period P of identical pendulums near the surfaces of each planet?

  1.  PJupiter > PSaturn > PUranus > PNeptune
  2.  PSaturn > PJupiter > PNeptune > PUranus
  3.  PJupiter > PNeptune > (PUranus = PSaturn)
  4.  (PSaturn = PUranus) > PNeptune > PJupiter

What You Must Know:

For this question, you need to have a strong understanding of gravitational field strength and the motion of a pendulum. By using this knowledge in -conjunction with the table’s data, you will be able to arrive at the correct answer.

Graph-Based Questions

This type of question will provide you with a graph displaying data and a text description related to that graph. To select the best answer to the question, you will have to use your graphing knowledge and extract important information quickly. Graph-based questions, like table-based questions, can be intimidating at first because they can display a lot of information.

Tips for Answering Graph-Based Questions:

  • Read the question carefully, circle or underline critical information
  • Carefully examine the graph, pay attention to the labels on the axes, the legend (if present), and the information given in the caption below the graph (if present)
  • Mark any parts of the graph that seem especially relevant to the question
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • If you are not sure about the answer, select the answer that seems best but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

After following the tips above, you will be well-prepared and have confidence in tackling this type of question! You can see an example below.

MCQ 5 Example

The figure above shows the graph of angular displacement as a function of time for a disk rotating with constant angular acceleration. The angular velocity and angular acceleration of the disk are both positive values at which of the labeled positions?

  1.  Position B only
  2.  Positions A and D only
  3.  Positions C and D only
  4.  Position D only

What You Must Know:

This question focuses on your understanding of rotational kinematics and requires a quick recall of the relationship between displacement, velocity, and acceleration. By using this knowledge with the graph in the stem, you will be able to select the best choice.

Calculations Required Questions

This type of question involves taking information provided in the question stem and performing a calculation of some kind to get the right answer. You could be asked to draw information from some text, a table, or a graph in order to complete the calculations.

Tips for Answering Calculations Required Questions:

  • Read the question carefully, circle or underline critical information
  • You may use the blank space in your test booklet as scratch paper (make sure not to make any stray marks on the answer sheet)
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • If you are not sure about the answer, select the answer that seems best, but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

Remember that you have an AP Physics 1 equation and formula sheet to refer to on the exam, and you may also use an approved calculator to arrive at the best answer for the question. Below is an example of this question type.

MCQ 6 Example

Two freight trains, A and B, approach each other on the same track from opposite directions. To avoid a collision, both trains begin to slow down at t = 0, when they are separated by 150 m. The velocity of each train as a function of time is shown above. What is the final separation between the trains when they come to rest?

  1.  0m
  2.  20m
  3.  50m
  4.  70m

What You Must Know:

In addition to your graphical skills, you will need to understand how to apply concepts related to one-dimensional motion to this question.

Image Answer-Choice Questions

This type of question is a bit more complex because instead of choosing a sentence or numerical option as the best answer choice, you will have to choose an image, such as a graph or diagram, that best represents the answer. The stem may or may not contain an image as well. Either way, you will have to apply the information given in the stem and sometimes your content knowledge to select the best image choice. This type of question can be a little scary because it is much more common to pick a text-based answer. However, if you follow the tips below, you will be able to answer this type of question with ease!

Questions in Sets

This type of question is a little different from the standalone question types, because all the questions in a set are tied to a particular stem that may also include graphs, tables, or diagrams.

Each question set will typically contain 2-3 questions. Question sets may contain any of the previously introduced question types, and the stem will likely be used. Additionally, you will need to apply your content knowledge to arrive at the best choice.

Tips for Answering Questions in Sets:

  • Read the question set stem and examine any figures like graphs, tables, or diagrams presented. Before you spend too much time organizing the presented information, make sure you have also read the stem of each question and circle or underline critical information
  • In the shared stem, focus on information relevant to the questions
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • If you are not sure about the answer, select the answer that seems best but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

Although a set of questions can seem more complex, you will be very well-prepared for them if you follow our tips for AP Physics 1 multiple choice questions! Keep reading to see an example of this type of question.

The stem associated with the set of questions should be read first, and take a shot at answering the associated question below.

An athlete trains by pushing sleds across a level playing field, as shown in the figure above. Sled A has a mass of M, and sled B has a mass of 2M.

MCQ 9 Example

During a workout, the athlete exerts an average force of 1,000 N on sled A by pushing it 25 m in 20 s. The athlete then exerts an average force of 1,000 N on sled B by pushing it 20 m in 10 s. How does the power the athlete exerts on the two sleds compare, and why?

  1.  The athlete exerts more power on sled A because it is pushed a greater distance over a longer time.
  2.  The athlete exerts more power on sled B because even though less work is done on sled B, it is done in less time than on sled A.
  3.  The athlete exerts the same power on each of the two sleds because the same amount of force is exerted on both.
  4.  The athlete exerts the same power on each of the two sleds because the larger mass of sled B is offset by the greater amount of work done on it.

What You Must Know:

This question requires a knowledge of forces and energy. You will use this knowledge to make connections between the information provided in the stem of the question and the stem of the question set to choose the best answer.

Multi-select Questions

Five of the questions in the multiple-choice portion of the AP Physics 1 exam will be of this type, which requires you to choose two correct answers. These questions may be written in any of the styles listed above but questions of this type will not be found in question sets.

Tips for Answering Multi-select Questions:

  • Read the question carefully, circle or underline critical information
  • Read the answers and cross out any that are obviously incorrect
  • Make sure to select two answers
  • If you are not sure about the answers, select the two answers that seem best, but mark the question so that you can return to it if time permits at the end of the test

Below is an example of this type of question.

MCQ 10 Example

A pelican flies horizontally above the water at a constant speed when a fish falls out of its mouth. As the fish descends to the water, the fish experiences air resistance but does not reach terminal velocity. Which of the following statements are true about the energy of the fish? Select two answers.

  1.  The kinetic energy was constant until it reached the water
  2.  The kinetic energy increases while the fish descends
  3.  The initial mechanical energy of the fish always equals the sum of the kinetic energy of the fish and the gravitational potential energy of the fish-Earth system
  4.  The change in magnitude of the kinetic energy of the fish is less than the change in magnitude of the gravitational potential energy of the fish-Earth system

What You Must Know:

This multi-select question focuses on the topic of conservation of energy. You will need to quickly recall the related concepts and use that knowledge to choose the best two answers.

The key to success on the AP Physics 1 exam is preparation. Now that you understand the various types of multiple-choice questions that will appear on the AP Physics 1 exam, you can be prepared with the specific skills to tackle any question you encounter. Knowing these question types is just one more way you are prepared to do your best on the exam!

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Illustration of a record disk rotating on a turntable at constant angular velocity. The distance from the needle to the center of the record disk is R. To play the last song, the needle is placed halfway to the center at a distance R/2.

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