College Board Changes AP Physics Curriculum

By Abir Hossain’15 and Richard Wu’15
The AP Physics B course is about to take a complete 180 as the College Board decided to revamp the program beginning from the 2014-2015 school year.
The College Board has made the decision to redesign the AP Physics B course after a study by the National Research Council concluded that the course was too broad to be covered in one year. The decision was made to separate the course into two years, therefore allowing the students to get a better understanding of the topics. Conversely, the AP Physics C course was remained untouched.
“The AP Physics B course just crammed too much material into one year,” said Deborah Davis, a communications director at the College Board. “This new system allows students to have more time to learn while also giving teachers a better chance to teach on the topics.”
Starting fall 2014, the AP Physics B course will be split into AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2, meaning students that are currently in AP Physics B will be the last ones to take that version of the exam in May 2014. AP Physics 1 will be equivalent the first semester of Physics in college, covering the topics of Newtonian mechanics, work, mechanical waves, and sound. Similarly, AP Physics 2 will be equivalent to the second semester of college and will cover fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, and atomic and nuclear physics. This new setup is similar to how the AP Physics B is separated between the two terms. There will also be two AP exams, one at the end of each course. In addition to this, the new AP exams in May will now have 50 multiple choice questions as opposed to 70 and the difficulty of those questions will be raised slightly.
Students that are currently taking the AP Physics B were asked of their opinion of the old and new setups and which they would prefer if they were given the choice.
“I
think they should have left Physics B alone,” said Timothy Wong’14. “The old system allows you to finish the course in one year and it’s already proven that it works.”
Similarly, Aarin Chase’15 said that he likes this system better because the new system would take too long and that this gives people less of a chance to take AP Physics C in high school.
Former AP Physics B student Jing Wei Hu›15, agreed that Physics B should have remained the same.
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“Having taken the Physics B exam, I disagree with the notion that that the Physics B course is too broad,” said Hu. “If the teacher is capable of teaching the course adequately, the students should be able to learn enough to at least pass the AP exam, especially because only those who are serious about school even take the course.”
Many people have argued that the new system is disadvantageous to students because it forces them to take an extra year of physics before being able to take AP Physics C. It also means having to pay for two AP exams instead of one.
“If the College Board had decided to change the program last year, I would have been really unhappy,” said Farhan Chowdhury’14. “Not only would I not be able to get the college credits for physics, but I would have to waste a second year learning things that I could in a span of five months.”
The separation of AP Physics B into two years is especially challenging for students in New York State as the AP Physics B course is accompanied by the regents in June. There have been some discussions in making students take the regents after take AP Physics 1, but many argue that students would not be prepared enough if that were the case, and making them take the regents after AP Physics 2 would make it just as hard because they would have to remember information that they learned two years before they took the test. As of yet, the decision of where to place the regents is undecided.

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