AP® Physics 1 Score Guide & Score Calculator

The College Board® offers three main AP® Physics courses. The first, foundational course is AP Physics 1, which is aimed at building a strong understanding of elementary principles in physics. This course is equivalent to a first semester introductory physics course in college.

In this article, we'll take a look at how AP Physics 1 exam scores are calculated. We'll also share some statistical information on AP Physics 1 score distributions from previous years so you can assess how students have been performing over time.

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How Is the AP Physics 1 Exam Scored?

As you probably know by now, the AP Physics 1 exam has two main sections. Section I includes multiple-choice questions, while Section II has free-response questions. Each section accounts for 50% of the total points you can score on the exam.

Here's a quick look at the format of the exam and the method of scoring.

Sections Question Type Number of Questions Exam Weight Grading
Section I - A Single-select multiple-choice questions 45 Questions 50% Computer graded
Section I - B Multiple-select multiple-choice questions 5 Questions
Section II Free-response questions 7 50% Graded manually by AP Readers

In section I, you will be given 45 questions that will have only 1 right answer per question. These are the single select multiple-choice questions. You will also be given multiple-select multiple choice questions; these are 5 questions that have 2 correct answers per question on the exam. For the single-select MCQs, you will find questions as sets as well as individual questions. However, the multiple-select MCQs will be discrete questions only.

Section II of the AP Physics 1 exam has two 7-point free-response questions and two 12-point free-response questions. In other words, you can earn a total of 38 points in this section.

Although the AP Physics 1 exam is designed in such a way that each section accounts for 50% of the overall exam score, that may not always be the case. Once you add up the total possible points you can earn from each section, it doesn't always add up to exactly 50% of the total score. This is why your score is translated into a weighted combination. Here's how that works.

  • The total number of points you scored in each section is calculated based on the number of questions you correctly answered.
  • This raw score is then translated into a weighted, combination score based on a predetermined conversion table. Once this is done, your raw score will reflect what percentage of the total 50% (per section) you have scored.
  • This weighted combination score is then correlated to the AP final score scale. You can get a final AP Physics 1 score of 1 to 5.

For example, if the total possible raw score on the AP Physics 1 exam is 120, and a student's weighted combination score was 100 as well, then they will get a final scaled score of 5. However, if a student scores between 80 and 90, they would get a final scaled score of 4 and so on. The College Board does not release the score ranges and their related scaling. So, this is just an approximation to help you understand how AP Physics 1 scoring works.

You will not be able to see your weighted combination score on the score report or even the individual score for each section. You will only be able to see your scaled score, which is a final score between 1 and 5.

AP Physics 1 Scoring Table

As we mentioned, your final AP Physics 1 exam score will be presented on a 5-point scale and will be the translation of your total score on the exam. On the scale, 1 is the lowest score and 5 is the highest score possible. It is based on this final score that the college admissions office will decide your eligibility for free credits and placement.

This 5-point scale, used to identify a student's final score, has been developed after a lot of research and is updated every year by the College Board. The main aim of AP Physics 1 is to teach students college-level foundational physics concepts in high school. Hence, each score on the table equates to a possible grade a student could get on the same course in college.

Let's take a look at the AP Physics 1 final score table and their relative college grade equivalents.

AP Physics 1 Final Score Equivalent College Grade
1 A+ or A
2 A-, B+, or B
3 B-, C+, or C
4
5

As you can see, scores below 3 do not equate to a college grade. Currently, most colleges require students to receive a score of 3 or higher in order to qualify for free credit. However, some colleges only accept a score of 4 or higher, or even 5 and nothing lower. So, be sure to check with the colleges you wish to apply to about their individual requirements before submitting your scores.

To help you understand better, we've put together a table that shows how college admissions boards decide whether a student qualifies for free credit or not based on their final score.

AP Physics 1 Exam Score Qualification
5 Extremely well qualified
4 Very well qualified
3 Qualified
2 Possibly qualified
1 No recommendation

AP Physics 1 Score Distributions

AP Physics 1 is the stepping stone to AP Physics 2 or AP Physics C: Mechanics and it can also earn a student free credits during their first semester at college. In 2021 alone, around 136,238 students took the AP Physics 1 exam. Out of this total, over 57,000 students scored a final score of 3 or above.

Let's take a look at the AP Physics 1 score distribution for the year 2021:

Score No. of Students % of Students
5 9,498 6.9%
4 22,430 16.3%
3 25,889 18.9%
2 36,255 26.4%
1 43,157 31.4%

Unlike the other AP science subjects, where over 50% of students scored 3 and above, AP Physics 1 saw only 42.1% of students scoring 3 and above in 2021. However, don't be discouraged. With the right resources, you can get through the course and the exam exceptionally well. Try some of UWorld's free online AP Physics 1 practice tests to help you review for the exam.

“Only four students got a perfect 5 on the AP Physics 1 exam in 2021. This means that they got every multiple-choice question correct and got perfect scores on each of their free-response questions!”

Students did slightly better in 2020 and in 2019 as compared to students in 2021. There could be many reasons for this. Students took the exam digitally for the first time during 2021, and it could also be that some questions were slightly more difficult.

Here's a comparison of AP Physics 1 score distributions from 2020 and 2019.

Final Score % of Students in 2020 Exam % of Students in 2019 Exam
5 8.8% 6.7%
4 17.9% 18.2%
3 24.8% 20.5%
2 26.5% 28.7%
1 21.9% 25.9%

Since the second section of the exam requires written answers, has varying total points for each question, and is graded by AP Readers, it can be a little more complex to score. So let's take a look at how students did in the free-response section of the exam in 2021.

Question Number Mean Total Possible Points
1 1.59 7
2 6.64 12
3 4.30 12
4 2.67 7
5 3.09 7

AP Physics 1 Minimum Score Requirement for College Credit

As we mentioned earlier, colleges require a minimum score of 3 to qualify for free credit and placement. However, every college is different, and some may even have a higher AP Physics 1 minimum score requirement than others. So, it's always good to check in with the colleges you're applying to to see what their requirements are.

If you're gunning for those free credits, here's a list of some of the top colleges and their minimum AP Physics 1 score requirements.

University AP Physics 1 Score Requirement
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 5
Brown University, Providence, RI 5
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 4
American University, Washington, DC 4
Berkeley City College, Berkeley, CA 3
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 3
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Frequently Asked Questions

The AP Physics 1 exam scores will be released in July every year. You can check your scores online through your College Board account.
Getting a final score of between 3 and 5 is considered a good AP Physics 1 score. Scoring a 5 is the absolute best score.
The average AP Physics 1 score in the year 2021 is 2.41.
AP Physics 1 scores are curved for two main reasons:
  • To maintain scoring consistency across the years.
  • To correlate the final exam score to an equivalent college grade with accuracy and uniformity.
A perfect score or perfect 5 is when a student gets all answers on both sections of the exam correct. In the year 2021, only four students got a perfect score of 5 on the AP Physics 1 exam.
You will need a score of 3 or higher to pass the exam and qualify for free college credit.

Read more about the AP Physics Exam

Want to get a better sense of the AP Physics 1 exam? Here’s a comprehensive article about AP Physics 1 that explains everything about the exam, prerequisites, and more!
Confused about the AP Physics 1 Exam Format? Visit our page for comprehensive AP Physics 1 format information, including exam structure and question types.
Getting into elite schools is not a hard task anymore. See what our experts say about scoring 5 on the AP Physics 1 and all the resources you need to reach your target.
Be test-ready with UWorld! Try this free mock test with AP Physics 1 practice questions and see why our question explanations are the gold standard of exam preparation!
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