Best AP Physics C Books – May 2020 Exam

The AP Physics C is a branch of the AP physics course that is considered the most arduous of all three AP physics exams: AP Physics 1, 2, and C. This branch of the AP physics features different electrical and magnetism based topics which includes magnetic fields, electromagnetism, electric circuits and more. It is mostly taken by students that intend to major in either engineering or in physical sciences fields. 

While the general perception is that AP physics C is the most burdensome of the trio, studies have shown that it has the highest pass rate, with 32% of the examinees scoring a 5 and 68% of 27,000 candidates scoring a 3 and above; this is likely because students who take it know it's a hard course and are ready to work hard. Which is why you're here, right? 😉

The road to success, however, can get a tad topsy-turvy and the process of choosing the right study materials gets a little nerve-racking in the light of the numerous options available. Luckily for you, we have done most of the groundwork and we found quite a few trustworthy resources that are guaranteed to land you that perfect score you deserve. 

The Ultimate AP Physics C Prep List

When picking out a study material or book there are quite a few distracting features that most candidates get lost in.

Thus, it is important to stick to a checklist of necessary features the most important of which is detailed coverage of all the d syllable topics.

In this light, a great AP Physics C textbook should be one that:

  • Explores all the five units of the course framework including electrostatics, conductors, electric circuits, magnetic fields and electromagnetism
  • Develops students' ability to analyze physical situations and quantitative data, determine scientific methods, questions and effects on a quantity, create visual representations or models and solve problems relating to physical situations.
  • Features practice questions with well detailed and explained answers
  • Develops students ability to explore scientific argument
  • Contains well defined AP physics formulas and places each is applicable
  • Is both comprehensible and up-to-date

And in choosing our recommended texts, we were sure to make sure they checked all the above boxes -- and more:

If you are a student in search of an AP Physics book that explores all curriculum-based topics in extensive and thorough modules then this one is perfect for you.

It uses of diagrams for ease of assimilation, provides an appendix for equations in AP physics, features extensive tips on approaches to exams question, a self-assessment test to evaluate progress and ability and a host of other remarkable features. It also has numerous practice test questions with well-described answers to each question for maximum understanding.

Although there are some overlooked steps in the explanation of a few electrical and magnetism topics, it still explores all the relevant topics ranging from one and two dimensional kinematics and Newton's laws to inductors, capacitors and simple harmonic motion.

Ultimately, Barron's AP Physic C is designed to guarantee success. 

Pros

  • Detailed coverage of curriculum-based topics
  • Provided unabbreviated practice tests
  • Appendix for equations in AP Physics

Cons

  • May contain irrelevant/out-dated themes
  • Limited explanation of some topics

By many standards, this book is different. Not only is it one of the very few review materials solely dedicated to Mechanics, it explains concepts in an easy-to-understand manner that significantly eases the study process for students at various phases of learning. 

Authored by a Physics teacher, Dan Fullerton, the AP Physics companion is essentially a paper-back buddy for intending examinees. It features bite-size modules that provide proper coverage of the syllabus, and it breaks down complex theories and definitions without compromising on quality. The book features more than 350 problems and questions which help to sharpen practical skills and knowledge, all of which are accompanied by worked-out solutions to help your understanding of getting the proper answers.

We especially love the interactive, playful layout of this book. Nothing will keep you reined in as easily as a book with an engaging layout. And for its price? You would be certainly getting more than adequate value for your money. 

Pros

  • Compact in nature
  • Comprehensible read
  • Clear explanation to answers
  • Relatively cheap price

Cons

  • We wouldn't mind a few more practice questions.
  • Can only be used as an accompanying text. 

Like editions in other topics, this book incorporates a 5 step study plan which is aimed at strengthening students' understanding of the course as well as some test-taking strategies that squeeze out all the points out of the test. 

So, not only does this book provides comprehensive coverage of all syllabus related topics, it goes a little further to explain the examiners expectations and exam scoring in detail. 

It addresses all the learning objectives of the course in the depth required for the exam and features full-length tests to ensure that students are properly familiarized with exam conditions. We especially love that its focus is not on the curriculum exclusively, but on mental preparation. Along with practice questions detailed answers are provided as well as access to online study materials and practice tests.

The 5 step study plans ensure that candidates are well versed in test-taking by providing effective remedies to problem-solving. It also allows students access to a customizable study plan for proper scheduling and progress tracking. 

Pros

  • Includes an AP-style diagnostic test
  • Online resources are available
  • Effective problem-solving applications

Cons

  • It is a little less ‘focused’ than some students might prefer

Another book from the Princeton review arsenal, the 2020 edition of this book features updates to ‘Cracking the AP Physics C exam, 2018 edition’ including online access to study plans and other materials.

In this new edition, the use of charts has been adapted to improve conveyance of important information and conceptualization in addition to tips to answer application for maximizing points earning.

It comes with 2 full-length tests for practice, exercises after every chapter with well-explained answers provided for each question and strategies for beating the AP exams.

Pros

  • 2 full-length tests
  • Coverage of curriculum-based topics

Cons

  • Inadequate explanation and clarification on a few concepts
  • Features some irrelevant test questions

AP Physics C Books To Avoid

Kaplan: AP Physics B&C

While this might be considered somewhat obsolete, it is still quite popular in the review market and was published by a household name in review book making -- Kaplan.

This particular publication has been decried by students as being a colossal disappointment despite stemming from the combined effort of 3 different authors. The problem most associated with the book was on its all-round lack of quality and the absence of proper re-examination of the book, as some students found some pages missing and replaced with pages from other books. Rather baffling, isn't it?

Additional issues such as incorrect answers given to questions on objective, theory, and solutions didn’t help the fate of this book, and this was topped off by the fact that the blend of B and C materials are quite muddled up. Our expert advice? Steer clear of this entry.

Test Structure

The AP Physics C: electricity and magnetism exam will consist of two sections, the first being objective (multiple-choice) questions which features a total of 35 questions which should be solved within a time frame of 45 minutes and carries an exam weighting of 50%, while the second section will be theory (free- response)  featuring a total of 3 questions each of which carry 15 points for each question, and in total has an exam weighting of 50% and a time limit of 45 minutes.

The exam curriculum-based topic weighing distribution for the objective section is as follows, for electrostatics it’s at 26% - 38%, for Conductors, Capacitors and Dielectrics is at 14% – 17%, for Electric Circuits it’s at 17% – 23%, for Magnetic Fields it’s at 17% – 23%  and for Electromagnetism it’s at 14% – 20%.

Last Time The AP Physics C Exam Was Changed

While there hasn't been any notable changes to AP Physics C: electricity and magnetism 2020
exam, a considerable amount of change has been made to the course with respect to featured
topics in magnetic fields, dielectrics, electrostatics, conductors, electric circuits, electromagnetism as well as a deeper look into science practices.

Additional Tips & Resources For Studying

Begin With a Diagnostic Test:

There is nothing that helps to streamline your attention and highlight specific problem areas like a diagnostic test. If these are not featured on your study material, consider taking the post-chapter quiz or any of the related practice tests. The results will offer a formative assessment of your skills and will be especially useful for determining progress after studying the module. 

Choose the Right Book and Cover curriculum-based topics

We cannot overemphasize how important it is to choose the right materials. However, not sticking to the topics provided by the curriculum can equally prove to be a huge time waster. That said, the perfect book will not magically provide you with your desired score, substantial effort must be made to cover the entire book and all it entails this includes exercises and practice tests.  

Practice Tests May Save You

From multiple choice mock questions to free-response questions, practice tests are designed to expose you to expected exam formats and environment and evaluate your skills. So, if you are confident that you have thoroughly studied the required material, or  a specific module you can quite easily test your knowledge by taking a practice exam, and then rate your performance based on the scoring charts and guidelines if available on your material. Subsequently, you can turn your attention to sharpening your weak areas based on the result. 

Don’t Forget Your Class Notes

Students tend to neglect their school notes when preparing for exams that is not put together by their school body. You have probably done so as well. Well, resist the urge to ditch your school work and notes. While a textbook or review material might be an excellent tool for broadening your knowledge, textbooks may sometimes wound up being too complicated without any reference to real-life teaching. So, if you have any notes you can refer to, do not think twice about doing just that. 

Conclusion

It is important to know what exactly works for you in order to properly engage in the process of textbook selection. Your learning pace should a key determinant of your choice of textbook, study routine/style, style methods and so on. By knowing what works best for you, and sticking to our expertly recommended list of review materials, you can properly utilize every second of your time before the set exam date and ultimately ace the exams. 

Good luck!