AP Physics 1 and 2 Combination

Chat times for 2017-2018
12:30pm-2pm ET/9:30am-11am PT

Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

Frequently Asked Questions about this course

The following FAQs address questions about the Core Physics Course planned for 2018-2019.

Please scroll down for questions about the 2018-2019 AP Option.

1. What should a student know before taking this course?

You should have completed a junior high school level course in physical science that covers definitions of velocity, acceleration, force, heat, electricity and electrical fields, magnetism, light (wave theory), geometric optics, relativity, and atomic and nuclear structure. We cover all of these topics in detail, and students have an easier time if they have been exposed to the basic concepts before starting this intensive Physics course. If you have taken the Scholars Online Natural Science course, the summer Physics Lite course, or a full year Physical Science component of the standard junior high school science curriculum, you should be prepared to handle these physics concepts.

2. What level of mathematics is required?

You should have completed a first year algebra course and a geometry course or their equivalents, a second year algebra course that includes linear graphing and analysis, and be starting pre-calculus with trigonometry. The early part of the course depends on understanding simple trigonometry functions for vector analysis.

Our textbook has appendices which cover the basic ideas required for problem-solving in this course, and when you get your copy, you need to read through this carefully, identify the areas where the material is new (or where you feel your command is weak), and do some serious review. But it is helpful if you can do the following, or are learning how to apply these techniques:

  • You should be able to factor algebraic expressions and be able to solve the quadratic equation. For example, you should be able to rearrange the equation ax2 + bx + c = 0 for x in terms of a, b, and c [where the solution, if you can't get it any other way, is x = (-b ± √(b2 - 4ac))/2a ]
  • You should be able to work with exponents; it is an advantage to already understand how logarithms work, but we will cover those in class anyway.
  • You should know how to work general area and volume equations like
    • circumference of a circle = π * 2 * radius = diameter * π
    • area = π * r2
    • volume of sphere = (4 * π * r3)/3

      [π is "pi", a value approxiately equal to 3.14159....]

  • Basic trigonometric relationships are fundamental to vector analysis, which we do early in the course. If you are taking a second year algebra course, you may want to review :
    • the definitions of sines, cosines, and tangents, such as sin α = h/r, where r is the hypoteneuse of the right-angle triangle, and h is the side opposite angle α; similarly cos α, tan α and their inverses csc α, sec α, and cot α.
    • the basic trigonmentric identities, such as sin2 α + cos2 α = 1 (there are about a dozen of these that an introductory trigonometry course will cover).
  • Helpful, but not required at the outset:
    • Some idea of binomial expansions: ( 1 + x)n = 1 + nx + n(n-1)x2/2! + n(n-1)(n-2)x3/3! + ..
    • Natural logs: ex= 1 + x + x2/2! + x3/3! + ....

3. How much preparation time is necessary?

This is hard to answer without knowing how fast you read technical subject matter and can work through examples in the text. For each chat session, you will need to

  • read 10-20 pages of text, many of which will include examples of problem solving involving math that you will need to study carefully
  • complete 5-8 homework exercises
  • prepare a homework exercise with explanations and post it to the course conference center
  • review and rework missed problems

My experience is that this will take you 3-4 hours to finish properly. In addition, for each chapter (usually one chapter every two weeks, but with some short chapters, we will do one per week), you will need to finish

  • a 20-30 question on-line quiz at the website (15-20 minutes)

Lab work will involve another 1-2 hours per week of your time, depending on what equipment you need to build or collect, in order to complete 12 required labs for the Core Corse. You will need to prepare a lab proposal, then carry out your lab, analyze your data, discuss any issues, repeat your labwork if needed, and write up your report.

So each week, you should plan to spend 3 hours in class, 5 hours in preparation, 1 hour in review and testing, and 1 hours in lab execution or reporting, or about 10 hours a week. A normal high school course requires a minimum of 4 hours of class time and 4 hours of homework.

4. What is a passing score?

My examinations tend to be very thorough, since I am interested in assessing what you have actually learned and understand. The tests are written as though you were a college student (because that is the level of the material we cover), and so are more challenging that a high school physics test would be. Because of this, I will "normalize" your grade so that it maps to high-school level course expectations for a science taken by someone at your current grade level. Normalized scores follow standard interpretations: above 90% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, 60-69% D (passing). Scores in the past have ranged from just below 50% to above 95%. However, if you aim to take either the SAT II physics exam or the Advanced Placement exam, you should aim to get at least 85% regularly on the online quizzes and at least 80% on the semester exams. The best preparation for achieving this is disciplined completion of the homework problems, so that during an examination, you can complete most of the problems in the alloted time.

5. What kind of grade will I get?

I send email evaluations at the end of each semester that describe your performance on quizzes, homework, class participation, and the term examination. A short summary of this report is included in your formal transcript "comments" section.

Your overall grade is generally a composite. The exact percentages vary from year to year depending but in general:

  • Exams are averaged and weighted to contribute 60% to your grade.
  • Homework is weighted as 20% of your grade.
  • Quiz averages are 10% of your grade.
  • Class participation is 10% of your grade.

In other words, you could still do well in the course even with low examination scores if your weekly work shows that you are mastering the material at a steady pace. Failing to complete homework or take the quizzes seriously, however, will also knock your grade down a significant amount.

Lab work is graded separately and determines whether you get Honors or AP credit for the course.

Because some government agencies, accrediting institutions, and scholarship committees require more standardized grades, I also issue a numerical score for your work, which is normalized so that it fits the grading scale used by most high schools in evaluating passing, above average, and exceptional work at the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior levels. Your transcript will include instructions on translating a numerical grade to a letter grade. Many Scholars Online students have been accepted to nationally-recognized, competative colleges and universities, and have received scholarships based on these evaluations.

However, the best way to establish your competence in physics for college admission or placement is to take the SAT II Physics exam, the ACT science exam.

6. How have other students done on the SATs or ACT exams?

Most students in my fairly small Scholars Online physics course have been juniors or seniors, and the seniors do not tend to take AP or SATs at the end of their year. Since homeschooled students receive their scores directly from the testing agency, I do not know all the results for all of my students, or even which students have taken the examinations. Students in the last two Physics offerings have reported SAT scores from 650-800.

7. Do I have to attend all both Core Course sessions each week?

Yes. Because of the material we need to cover, the class must meet twice times a week. All students must attend all discussions or make alternate arrangements to submit homework assigned.

If you have a conflict with the scheduled sessions, you will need to review your priorities and decide whether or not you can commit to the class. If your outside conflict is short term, I will work with you through the period, but you must plan to attend most of the year's sessions.

8. Will you be able to write me a letter of recommendation for my college (or secondary school) application?

    Yes, I do write letters of recommendation for students. However, I cannot write such a letter on the basis of a few months' work. I require that you finish a complete year of instruction with me first, so that I have a basis for making an evaluation that reflects your true strengths and weaknesses. If this is your first Scholars Online class with me, I will not be able to write a letter during the fall semester. For more details, see my Letters of Recommendation FAQ.

AP Option Expectations

AP1. How much additional work is required for the AP option?

Students taking the AP Option will have an additional chat session (90 minutes), additional homework and quizzes to cover material not emphasized in the Core Course, and additional lab work, for a total of 4-6 hours a week.

AP2. How do labs differ from the Core Course labs?

The twelve Core Course labs are designed to be done with minimal equipment. The eighteen required AP labs are designed to meet AP standards for college-level labs and require much more thought, as well as more investment in equipment and time.

AP3. How does AP credit differ from regular high school credit?

AP credit can be granted only when a course meets AP review board standards which require the material be taught at a first-year college level. The Scholars Online Physics Course (Core + Combined Physics 1&2 AP Option) taken together has been formally reviewed by the College Board and meets all the syllabus requirements, so Scholars Online is authorized to grant AP credit for students who successfully complete the combined course. This is especially important in science courses, where simply scoring well on the AP examination is often not considered sufficient evidence of college-level laboratory skills. Students are more likely to receive college credit and be allowed to take advanced science courses as freshman if they have both scored well on the AP exam and successfuly completed an AP course with its college level lab component.

AP4. What happens if I attempt the AP option but don't complete all the required lab work and activities for AP credit?

If you complete more than half the work required for the AP option at a satisfactory level, but do not complete the minimum work required for AP credit, you will receive honors credit for the combined course in recognition of your work beyond the high school level.