Somerset Area Senior High School AP Physics C: Mechanics Syllabus

  • AP® Physics C: Mechanics: Syllabus

    AP® Physics

    The AP Physics C course is a rigorous physics course similar in content to the Dual Enrolled Honors course, but taught in more depth and in terms of calculus.  All enrolled students are required to have previously successfully completed the Honors Physics Course and the honors Calculus course as a Junior.  AP Physics C is a second year Physics course.


    A 3-ring binder is required for this course.



    The course text will be  by Raymond A. Serway and John W. Jewett Jr., Physics for Scientists and Engineers  with Modern Physics, 9th ed., Brooks/Cole



    All classes meet every day, with double periods occurring every other day. A class period is 45 minutes. The class is one semester in duration, with a semester being 90 days. With this calendar, it is necessary to organize the course with a tight schedule that includes assignments during some holiday breaks. I find it useful to lay out a calendar by which to measure progress through the material to ensure completion with time for sufficient review before the AP Physics Exam. The calendar reflects the day-by-day unit assignment schedule outlined below.



    Mechanics Outline

    Mechanics is covered during the fall semester, with each subject covered in the same order as in Serway and other standard texts. Concepts and problem-solving techniques are introduced through a combination of lectures, demonstrations, question-and answer sessions, and teacher-generated worksheets, with the text acting as a back-up resource. Calculus is used where appropriate throughout.




    Chapters in Serway

    Number of Days

    Unit 1

    SI Units, Dimensional Analysis, and Vectors




    Introduction to lab



    Unit 2

    Rectilinear Motion




    Kinematics with time-varying acceleration




    Kinematics with constant acceleration



    Unit 3

    Planar Motion




    General motion where x and y vary with time




    Kinematics of projectiles




    Kinematics of circular motion



    Unit 4

    Introduction to Newton’s Laws




    Newton’s three laws




    Free-body diagrams




    Introduction to weight, normal, and friction forces



    Unit 5

    Applications of Newton’s Laws




    Pulley system




    Uniform circular motion




    Nonuniform circular motion




    Nonconstant friction force



    Unit 6

    Vector Multiplication



    Unit 7

    Work, Energy, and Power




    Work by constant force




    Work by position-varying force




    Work-energy theorem







    Unit 8

    Conservation of Energy




    Energy conservation




    Work by nonconservative forces




    Potential energy functions




    Potential energy vs. position graphs



    Unit 9

    Impulse, Momentum, and Collisions




    Impulse-momentum relationship




    Conservation of linear momentum




    Elastic and inelastic collisions




    Position and velocity of center of mass



    Unit 10

    Rotational Kinematics




    Kinematics with time-varying angular acceleration




    Kinematics with constant angular acceleration




    Introduction to torque and angular momentum



    Unit 11

    Rotational Dynamics




    Moment of inertia




    Newton’s laws for rotation




    Conservation of energy with rotation




    Conservation of angular momentum



    Unit 12

    Translational and Rotational Equilibrium



    Unit 13





    Kepler’s laws




    Newton’s law of gravitation




    Energy and angular momentum



    Unit 14

    Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM)




    Kinetics of SHM




    Dynamics of SHM





    Teaching Strategies

    Lecture and Question-and-Answer Sessions

    Other than lab experiments, class time is taken up with lecture and question-and answer sessions. A lecture consumes 20 to 30 minutes during which a concept presented in the reading is reviewed, stressing important definitions and limitations. The remainder of the period usually involves introducing an assigned problem or set of problems related to the topics of that day. The students are then guided in a discussion (whole class or small group) to develop solutions to the problem(s). During all of these activities, I encourage discussion, questions, hypotheses, and proposals to flow among the students and between the students and me. Demonstrations are chosen to give the students as many …..(continued on next page) different “looks” at the application of a concept as possible, so an appreciation of the universality of physical concepts is developed. Live demonstrations with simple equipment, often done by the students themselves for the rest of the class, are preferred. Computer simulations and video demonstrations have their place when real equipment is not available. Whenever possible, I use the analogies, conceptual discoveries, and problem-solving techniques that helped my understanding when I was a student.


    Solving techniques. When working problems or in question-and-answer sessions, I always stress starting from a general principle and moving toward a specific application. Instead of spending class time on working a problem all the way through to the answer, we work on building a general-to-specific routine in solving problems. This is an important skill to develop for success in future course work in the long term and for success on the AP Exam in the short term, since most problems students encounter will not be of the specific type they have worked before.



    Lab Experiments

    Approximately 20 percent of class time is taken up by lab work.  The experience gained by manipulating equipment , recording and organizing data, and drawing conclusions through data and error analysis should be a vital part of any physics course; most labs extend beyond one class period. Much of the newer technology-based lab equipment does not fit my style because once it is set up, the data is taken and necessary calculations are performed, graphs are produced at the push of a button without much thought by the students. To me, a valuable learning opportunity is lost when students are not required to work with the data and organize it into a form in which a conclusion can be drawn. In my labs, students use simple equipment with a minimum of “black boxes.” Lab experiments are, for the most part, written by me and chosen to provide students with experiences that reinforce concepts being covered in class. Lab reports are required and are kept in a lab notebook.




    Quizzes are given approximately every two units. The quizzes are purposely similar in construction to the AP Exam. Each consists of 8 to 12 multiple-choice questions and a multipart free-response question. A teacher-constructed “anti-memorization” sheet is permitted on all quizzes. While going through the course material, the stress is on developing concepts and problem-solving strategies, not on memorization.


    The multiple-choice questions come from many sources, such as AP Released Exams, New York Regents Exam review books, and questions I have written. The free-response questions have the same format as those on the AP Exam, and most are modified AP Exam questions. All are constructed to test current material and material previously covered. For example, an energy free-response question might require a free-body diagram and have a part involving a trajectory. The day after the quizzes are given, students score one another’s papers using a rubric similar to those used to score the free-response questions on the AP Exam. The solution is projected on a screen, showing where points are to be given. Before students begin scoring papers, each section of the solution is carefully explained. This requires them to go through the solution carefully, perhaps recognizing their own mistakes and perhaps learning a little

    from the mistakes of others.


    The only cumulative examination given before AP Exam review time is the first

    semester final. It consists of the 35-question multiple-choice section from an AP

    Physics C: Mechanics Released Exam. This exam is taken, scored, and reviewed during a two-hour final exam period.



    Homework is assigned through a day-by-day assignment sheet, which students are given at the beginning of each unit. After they have had the chance to ask about a group of assigned problems or a worksheet, two to five problems, a worksheet, or both are handed in at random intervals during the unit. Homework is accepted only when asked for. This encourages students to stay current in their assignments. Because they have had the chance to ask questions, the homework they hand in is expected to be correct.




    Lab reports are worth 20 points. Quizzes are worth 25 to 30 points, with the multiplechoice questions worth one point apiece and the free-response questions worth the remainder of the points. The homework collected in each unit is worth roughly half a quiz grade. The semester final and review exams are worth 35 points each. Extra credit — which can range from helping set up labs, building a car within stated design parameters, and working out amusement park problems — is liberally sprinkled throughout the course. All points are added and the percentage of points possible is determined. Grades are assigned according to the following schedule:

    A = 90–100%; B = 80–89%; C = 60-79%; D = 60-69%; F = below 60%


    AP Exam Review

    Formal review begins two weeks before the beginning of the AP Exam administration. Each student is given an exam review booklet consisting of the multiple-choice sections from two AP Physics C Released Exams and the free-response questions from the last five exams. In the booklet is a listing of the multiple-choice questions sorted by subject (i.e., kinematics, Newton’s laws, and so on). During the early part of the review, several of these subject areas are assigned as homework. The first part of each class period is used to answer questions on the previous day’s assignment. The rest of the period is divided up into 15-minute intervals, and one free-response question is assigned during each interval. Students may work alone or in groups of no more than three. Solution notebooks are available in the classroom for students to check their work. At the end of the first week of review, the mechanics multiple-choice questions from an AP Released Physics C Exam are given for credit. After the end of the second week, the multiple-choice questions from the E&M exam are given.


    Every student in this course has already successfully completed a year of honors physics with me.  They know my expectations and classroom rules. As second year students there will be a culminating project that will be discussed later in the year.  They will have their choice of taking the APC Exams, or completing some defined comprehensive project. 





Last Modified on August 31, 2017