AP Physics: Mechanics – Syllabus

AP® Physics C: Mechanics

Course Description

This course is equivalent to a first-year college physics class and is designed to prepare students for the AP® Physics C: Mechanics Exam given in May. This course follows the syllabus for that examination, and students passing the exam may receive college credit. The course requires and employs a basic understanding of calculus (differentiation and integration), and also requires a prior course, Physics. The prerequisite calculus course may be taken concurrently. The emphasis is on understanding of the concepts and skills and using the concepts and formulae to solve problems. Laboratory work is an integral part of this course and will comprise a minimum of 20 percent of the course.


University Physics by Young and Freedman or

Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Serway and Jewett or

Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday and Resnick


Barron’s AP® Physics C or

The Princeton Review’s Cracking the AP Physics C Exam

Teaching Strategies

The class will meet four times per week, including three (3) 51 minute class and one (1) 94 minute classes.  Students will have access to books, the Internet, lab equipment, computer simulations, etc. The teacher will act as a facilitator assisting and guiding students, at all times encouraging carefully articulated responses based on principles of physics. Practice problem sets, labs, and assessments will be assigned and evaluated by the instructor.

On a regular basis, students will also work in small groups on whiteboard problems. Each group will be given a problem and will be expected to work out and present their solution to the class. Throughout the course, examples of “real life” applications of interest to students will be used to challenge them to apply what they have learned; these examples will be used in the weekly questions, in the whiteboard problems, in demos, etc.

Mechanics Labs


There is a two-hour lab every other week. The lab report will be graded on the student’s participation in the actual experiment and the written report. Students must save all the graded lab reports, as they may be required to present the lab reports as a proof of having done these labs when seeking credit for this course in college.  

At least 12 of the following lab experiments will be performed.

  1. Areas, volumes, and densities of given solids and liquids – error analysis
  2. Prediction and reproduction of kinematics graphs with motion detector
  3. Determination of acceleration due to gravity
  4. Falling coffee filters
  5. Projectile Motion – Relationship between and Range
  6. Projectile challenge – Shoot the given target suspended from ceiling
  7. Hooke’s Law: Springs in series and parallel
  8. Elastic force in rubber bands – Nonlinear springs
  9. Atwood’s machine
  10. Relationships between Fc and r for uniform circular motion
  11. Rotational dynamics – Relationships among rotational variables
  12. Conservation of mechanical energy spring-mass system
  13. Conservation  of linear momentum – The three kinds of collisions
  14. Simple pendulum and spring-mass system
  15. Physical pendulum – Relationship between T and d
  16. Center of mass of flat discs of various shapes


Each lab will require:

  • The formation of a hypothesis or hypotheses, based on pre-lab discussion of the presented problem or focus of each experiment
  • Design of experiments, also based pre-lab discussion, to test the hypothesis or hypotheses
  • Collection of data and observations
  • Calculations using the collected data
  • Conclusions about how well the hypothesis or hypotheses held up based on the experiment
  • Class discussion of variance and error analysis
  • Written report

Outline of Course

 Introduction and Kinematics

  • Units and Measurements
  • Scalars and Vectors
  • Kinematics
  • Motion in 1-D
  • Motion in 2-D
  • Projectiles
  • Uniform Circular Motion
  • Relative Motion

Newton’s Laws of Motion and Classical Mechanics

  • Force and Mass
  • Tension and Normal Reaction
  • Uniform Circular Motion
  • Friction
  • Drag Force


Linear Momentum

  • Impulse and Linear Momentum
  • Law of Conservation of Linear Momentum
  • Two-Body Collisions in 1-D and 2-D
  • Systems of Particles


Rotational Kinematics

  • Constant Angular Speed
  • Constant Angular Acceleration
  • Relationships between Linear and Angular Variables


Rotational Dynamics

  • Rigid Bodies
  • Moment of Inertia and Torque
  • Rotational Variables and Newton’s Second Law
  • Angular Momentum
  • Conservation of Angular Momentum
  • Rotational Equilibrium
  • Mechanical Equilibrium
  • Rolling Motion


Work, Energy, and Power

  • Work
  • Energy
  • Conservation of Energy
  • Work done by Conservative and Non-conservative Forces
  • Work Due by Variable Forces
  • Kinetic and Potential Energies
  • Conservation of Mechanical Energy
  • Translational Motion
  • Rotational Motion
  • Rolling Motion
  • Power


  • Newton’s Law of Gravitation
  • Gravitational Potential Energy
  • Motion of Planets and Satellites
  • Kepler’s Laws
  • Critical and Escape Velocities



  • Simple Harmonic Oscillations
    • Kinematics
    • Dynamics
  • Simple Pendulum
  • Spring Mass System
  • Physical Pendulum