AP® Physics 1 Score Guide

The College Board® offers three main AP® Physics courses. AP Physics 1 is designed to help students develop a solid grasp of fundamental physics principles. 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 data on the distribution of AP Physics 1 scores from previous years, which will allow you to gauge students' performance over time.

How Is the AP Physics 1 Exam Scored?

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 exam format and the scoring method.

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

In section I, you will be given 45 questions with only 1 correct answer. These are the single-select multiple-choice questions. You will also encounter multiple-select multiple-choice questions; these are 5 questions that have 2 correct answers per question. The single-select MCQs may appear as sets or individual questions, while the multiple-select MCQs will be discrete questions.

Section II of the AP Physics 1 exam has three 7-point free-response questions and two 12-point free-response questions.

Each AP Physics 1 exam section counts for 50% of the overall exam score. Here's how that works:

  1. The total number of points you scored in each section is calculated based on the number of questions you correctly answered.
  2. This raw score is then translated into a weighted, combined score using a predetermined conversion formula.
  3. This weighted combination score is correlated to the AP final score scale, resulting in an AP Physics 1 score of 1 to 5.

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

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AP Physics 1 Scoring Table

Your AP Physics 1 exam score will range from 1 to 5. A 1 is the lowest you can get, and a 5 is the best. How well you do on the exam determines if you can get college credits or advanced placement.

The College Board, which looks into these things carefully and updates their methods every year, came up with this 5-point scale. The main idea behind the AP Physics 1 course is to give high school students a taste of what college-level physics is like, with each score reflecting a possible college grade.

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

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

Most colleges require students to earn a score of 3 or higher to qualify for free credit or advanced placement. However, some colleges only accept a score of 4 or higher, or even 5. Be sure to check with the colleges you want to apply to about what they require.

For your convenience, the table below outlines how colleges typically determine eligibility for credit based on AP exam scores, according to the College Board's recommendations.

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

Though AP Physics 1 is a stepping stone to AP Physics 2 or AP Physics C: Mechanics, it can earn you free credits for an introductory-level Physics course. In 2023 alone, around 159,582 students took the AP Physics 1 exam. Out of this total, 72,756 students scored a final score of 3 or above.

Let's take a look at the AP Physics 1 score distribution for the year 2023:

AP Physics 1 Score No. of Students % of Students
5 14,012 8.7%
4 29,244 18.3%
3 29,500 18.5%
2 44,620 27.9%
1 42,206 26.4%

While it's true that AP Physics 1 presents a unique challenge—only 45.6% of students scored a 3 or above in 2023, compared to over 50% in other AP science subjects—this shouldn't deter you. In fact, it's an opportunity to shine. With the right support and resources, you have everything you need to excel in this course and on the exam. We recommend exploring UWorld's online AP Physics 1 practice tests. They're a fantastic resource to help you prepare and review for the exam.

Two students got a perfect 5 on the 2023 AP Physics 1 exam. 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 2022 compared to students in 2021, which likely dipped due to the impact of the global pandemic. As we can see, the overall success rate bounced back in 2022 and 2023.

Here's a comparison of AP Physics 1 score distributions from 2022, 2021, and 2020.

Final Score % of Students in 2022 Exam % of Students in 2021 Exam % of Students in 2020 Exam
5 7.9 % 6.9% 8.8%
4 17 % 16.3% 17.9%
3 18.3 % 18.9% 24.8%
2 27.1 % 26.4% 26.5%
1 29.6 % 31.4% 21.9%

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 2023:

Question Number Mean Total Possible Points
1 2.90 7
2 5.00 12
3 5.02 12
4 2.56 7
5 1.57 7

AP Physics 1 Minimum Score Requirement for College Credit

As we mentioned before, colleges require a minimum score of 3 to qualify for free credit and placement. However, each college has its own requirements, and some may request a higher AP Physics 1 score 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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  1. AP Score Reporting Services – AP Students | College Board. (n.d.).
  2. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2020. (2020). reports.collegeboard.org. Retrieved January 2022, from
  3. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2021. (2021). reports.collegeboard.org. Retrieved 2022, from
  4. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2022. (2022). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved 2022, from
  5. Student Score Distributions* AP Exams - May 2023. (2023). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved 2024, from
  6. Chief Reader Report from the 2023 AP Exam Administration. (2023). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from
  7. 2023 AP Exam Administration Scoring Guidelines - AP Physics 1. (2023). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from
  8. AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based Exam – AP Central | College Board. (n.d.).
  9. Scoring Distributions from the 2023 AP Exam Administration. (2023). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from
  10. Scoring Statistics from the 2023 AP Exam Administration : AP Physics 1. (2023). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from
  11. Packer. (2023, June 16). The 2023 AP Physics 1 scores. twitter.com. Retrieved January 23, 2024, from

Frequently Asked Questions

The AP Physics 1 exam scores are released every year in July. 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.

In 2023, the average AP Physics 1 score was 2.55, compared to 2.47 in 2022, suggesting that scoring a 5 on this exam is very difficult.

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.
In the year 2023, two students got a perfect score of 5 on the AP Physics 1 exam. For the 2022 AP exam, only one student scored a perfect 5.
You will need a score of 3 or higher to “pass” the exam and be potentially eligible 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 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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