Aditi Bhaskar

AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C: Mechanics are rigorous, fun, and rewarding classes to take

AP Physics gains momentum!

AP Physics C: Mechanics with Mr. Koll, is arguably one of the hardest classes that WHS offers. Not many students take the course since it requires a basic understanding of calculus to master most concepts presented during the AP exam. However, most students who have gone through it say it’s a really exciting class.

Anthea Goh, Senior, is taking AP Physics C: Mechanics this year and says the class often assigns homework. “We have a flipped classroom system… We watch videos at home and then practice in class. We have a couple of videos… every night as well as just labs or assignments that I have to finish.” Anthea spends approximately an hour on Physics C homework every night. 

The flipped classroom style allows students to learn the basics on their own, which leaves class time for collaborative practice and reinforcement of more complex topics and applications.

Paul Liu, Junior, jokes that physics and its homework takes over his life. “Some days could have two or three hours. It depends on your time management as well.”

A lot of the time-consuming homework comes from an online practice set called Webassign. Often, Webassign only takes exact answers with a precise number of significant figures, and gives vague tips for incorrect answers. 

Anthea says, “It’s just very finicky and tedious work. So, we don’t love those.”

“We just usually go in to do some practice problems for AP Physics and just don’t have a life after that,” Paul says jokingly, alluding to the many hours each Webassign tends to take. 

While the Webassigns are tricky, the amount of hours you put into figuring out how to merge the basic equations and solve each problem ingrain the methodology deep into your brain. Physics C Mechanics alumni mention Webassign was a very useful tool.

AP Physics 1 presents similar concepts to AP Physics C: Mechanics. Physics 1 does not necessitate an understanding of calculus, and in place of the calculus, there are more equations to memorize rather than derive. 

Paul took AP Physics 1 last year and says the rotation unit was the trickiest part for him. However, it varies based on the student: “For some people, it could just be finding the right formula and setting up the right solution.”

AP Physics 1 and C: Mechanics classes calculate positions of hoops and launch a projectile through them! (Photo Credit: Yubin Kim)

The class structure in AP Physics requires a lot of thinking. Some labs involve writing your own procedure. Anthea says that’s her favorite part, especially when compared to biology and chemistry classes. “We’re just kind of figuring it out as we go. We don’t really know exactly what we’re doing when we start off or what we’re trying to investigate.” This method seems to leave students remembering what they learned much longer.

Although the class is tough, all students in the 2021-2022 class for AP Physics C Mechanics loved it, and about 25% of the students got 5’s on the exam thanks to the rigorous preparation. Whether or not physics is your passion, taking AP Physics can teach you how to set up and solve real world problems. 

If you really love Physics, and want to improve your understanding of the inner workings of the world, you can continue to AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. This year there are three students taking E&M. In the class, students deliberate the virtuous qualities of Webassign, and one student comments that j-hat has quite a “big ego” if it demands being stuck at the end of each vector.