AP Physics At BHS

BHS -> Mr. Stanbrough -> AP Physics Intro -: this page


Advanced Placement Physics at Batesville High School is a 1-year, 4-cycle course (88 85-minute periods) which follows the AP "C - Mechanics" curriculum. It is a college-level, calculus-based (see below) course in classical mechanics.

(Please visit the Official Advanced Placement Physics Web site for information on the official AP curriculum, the AP test, and policies.)

Philosophy of the Course

I'm pretty sure that if we eliminated all lab time and sat in lecture all period - every period - we could almost (but not quite) "cover" the Physics B Curriculum or squeeze in the Physics C - Electricity & Magnetism material in the time we have available. No student would understand a bit of it, but I, at least, would have fun.

So, instead of a "whirlwind tour or everything of interest in Physics" we will try to understand a limited amount well and in depth. We then have adequate time for labs, projects, and problem-solving-strategy sessions, as well as some review before the AP Test.

The text we use is:

Tipler and Mosca, Physics for Scientists and Engineers - Fifth Edition (Volume 1), published by W. H. Freeman and Company, New York

This is a calculus-based physics text.  Differential and integral calculus concepts and techniques are used throughout the course, because just about every physics concept is defined in terms of calculus, and calculus is a powerful mathematical tool.  If you are concurrently enrolled in AP Calculus, you will find that AP Physics and AP Calculus complement each other in many ways.  (Since I am also your AP Calculus teacher, I can guarantee it!)

For Students Not Also Enrolled in AP Calculus:

If you are not also taking AP Calculus this year, you may be saying “Oh, oh…”.  Well, there is good news.  First, though, the bad news:  you will have to learn some basic calculus concepts and techniques to be successful in AP Physics.  Now for the good news:

So, the moral of the story is that in order to do well in AP Physics, you must have some basic calculus skills, but acquiring those skills is very “do-able” if you are willing to work.  After all, if you aren’t willing to work, you shouldn’t be here in the first place!

Success in AP Physics

Success in the AP Physics course (and on the AP Physics Test) depends on your ability to:

The Advanced Placement Physics Test

The AP Physics C-Mechanics test will be given in the afternoon of Monday, May 11, 2009. The test consists of two sections, each of which is 45 minutes in length. The first section consists of 35 multiple-choice questions. Calculators are not permitted for the multiple-choice section. The second section consists of 3 free response questions, for which calculators are permitted.

The state of Indiana pays the $82 cost of the AP exam for students who successfully complete an AP course.

AP Physics Grades at BHS

At BHS, each student receives 3 grades for each course - an achievement/academic grade, an effort grade, and a conduct grade. Here is how these grades are earned in AP Physics:

Achievement/Academic Grade

The academic grade is the numerical (95-100 = A, 88-94 = B, etc.) grade.

In AP Physics, a student's achievement grade represents a snapshot of that student's performance relative to the course standards at a particular point in time. In other words, the academic grade summarizes the summative assessments in the course.

The student's grade reflects their academic achievement at a particular time in the course. It does not reflect how hard (or how little) they try - that is the task of the effort grade. It does not reflect the fact that they are a wonderful (or horrid) person - that is the task of the conduct grade.

The academic grade has three components:

  1. Assignments and Lab Reports: There will be frequent (daily) written assignments in AP Physics which will be collected and scored on an acceptable (2 points) or unacceptable (1 or 0 points) basis. Lab books will also be collected and evaluated in detail each week.
  2. Quizzes: There will be frequent (approximately three per week) quizzes, counting generally between 5 and 20 points. Quizzes are not generally announced in advance - students should expect a quiz every day. Quizzes differ from tests in that they are partly formative - students have the option to retake a quiz IF AND ONLY IF THEIR ASSIGNMENTS ARE UP TO DATE. The second quiz score replaces the original score.
  3. Test Grades: There will be two tests during each 4 1/2-week cycle - one near the midpoint of the cycle, and the other near the end of the cycle. Each test will mimic the format of the AP Physics test (except for length), with a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. One test during each cycle will be a calculator-active test and one test will be a no-calculator test. Each test will count 100 points. Test dates are announced several days in advance.

Final Exam and Final Grade:

The final grade for each semester will be the average of the two cycle grades. There will be no additional final exam (pending administration approval).

Grading Scale:

Many of the questions that will appear on quizzes and tests will be taken from old AP exams and materials. The rest will attempt to be AP-level questions. AP-level questions are designed to be very challenging for a knowledgeable and talented student, as opposed to "normal" test questions which are generally designed so that a capable student will answer almost all questions successfully. In fact, AP literature states that a 50% score can result in an acceptable (passing = "3") grade on an AP exam, and approximately 70% of the total points will generally qualify a student for the highest possible score (a "5") on the AP test. Therefore, AP Physics test and quiz scores will not adhere to the 95% = A, 88% = B official BHS grading scale. AP Physics test and quiz scores will be "curved" and converted to the BHS scale for posting to the grade book and report card. Up-to-date grade information will be posted in the classroom (by student number) so that students can gauge their progress.

Effort Grade:

If a student's academic performance is good, then the effort that they expend must be considered at least adequate. If a student's academic performance is below standards, then his/her effort in the course needs to be examined - it may or may not be a contributing factor in their lack of academic success.

Near the end of each cycle, the student will have the opportunity to complete a simple self-assessment of his/her effort in the course. If the instructor concurs with the student's assessment, the student's evaluation becomes the effort grade.

If the student and instructor differ in their evaluation, a short conference will be held in order to reach a consensus. If the student and teacher cannot agree on an effort grade, the opinion of an objective third party will be sought.

Conduct Grade:

A conduct grade will be assigned by the instructor based on the student's behavior in class.


Make Up Work:

Students are responsible to make up all work missed due to field trips, illness, etc. within a reasonable time. Please consult your BHS Student handbook.

Extra Credit:

AP Physics grades will be awarded based on the student's demonstrated achievement in physics. Students who want to do well in AP Physics need to keep up with the work, ask questions, and take advantage of the help available. Students are encouraged to work on a project of interest to them, either in addition to or instead of the regular class work. On the other hand (Sorry, I just can't find a nice way to say this ...), students who sit in class like big dead lumps for four weeks and then suddenly become concerned about their grade the day before the end of the cycle will not be able to turn in meaningless "extra credit" whose only purpose is to artificially "pump up" the grade they have earned.

Machine-Scored Answer Sheets:

Rationale: The multiple-choice section of the AP test is scored by machine - no human ever looks at it. So is the SAT, and many other important tests that you have taken and will take in the future. On these tests, any mismarked answers, incomplete erasures, stray marks, etc. are counted wrong - just as wrong as an incorrect answer. Therefore, it would be a good idea to learn to mark machine-scored answer sheets carefully.

Policy: If the ScantronTM machine says an answer is wrong - it's wrong. The only exception is if the machine is clearly out of order (which seldom happens).

Unlike the AP Test or SAT, however, if you "mess up" your answer sheet, you can have another one - just ask.

Classroom Computers:

The classroom computers are to be used for school-related curricular work only. They are not to be used for web surfing, email, or games during classroom hours. At no time are they to be used to visit chat rooms or pornographic sites. Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action.


AP-level work is challenging - even for the most talented students. Students - even very capable students - who will not ask questions or seek help with difficulties should not expect to do well in an AP course.

There will be an AP Physics/Calculus help session every morning (even "off cycle") Monday-Friday 7:40 AM - 8:00 AM in Room F109 (unless I have another meeting - check the class calendar, bulletin board, or ask). Additionally, help is available during "flex" period and after school. I do not mind phone calls at home - before 9:00 P.M.


Please read:

BHS -> Mr. Stanbrough -> AP Physics Intro -: this page

last update September 19, 2008 by JL Stanbrough