AP Physics Course Policies


Overview and Course Objectives

The Advanced Placement Physics C course at Polytechnic is a demanding curriculum designed specifically to introduce students to a more advanced study of physics, and to prepare them for taking the College Board's AP Physics C exam. Physics is truly the most fundamental of all sciences and one of the most enjoyable (and challenging!) to study. In here, you will receive a strong college-level foundation in physics: we will emphasize solving a variety of high-level problems, some requiring calculus. As an instructor of this course, it is my great pleasure and honor to assist you along this path you have chosen. It won't always be easy, but it is my sincere hope that you will find the journey rewarding.

Course Objectives

This course is designed to provide the student with a college-level, calculus-based, introduction to the study of physics. At the completion of the course, all AP Physics C students will be well-prepared to take the College Board's Advanced Placement Physics C examinations in both Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism.

Course Requirements

The time you spend on this course will consist of participating in classroom lectures/discussions, participating in demonstrations, doing homework problems, performing weekly labs and activities, and taking tests, all of which are designed to both teach you physics and prepare you for the AP exam. It is understood that you will bring to class a well-organized notebook, pencils, pens, and a "scientific" calculator, i.e., one that performs sin, cos, tan, exponential notation, exponents, and log functions. You are expected to know how to operate your calculator correctly, including interpreting answers in degrees or radians, using scientific notation, and interpreting the correct number of significant figures.


Your grade will be based on a weighted percentage, according to the following Polytechnic School scale:

A93% and above
Fless than 60%

Assignments used to determine each student's grade will include tests (~65% of the total grade), labs (~20%), and homework, quizzes, and miscellaneous other activities as assigned (~15%). The tests in this course are necessarily difficult, so there will also be an optional extra credit assignment offered each semester to help you review material and earn additional points towards improving your grade.

A summary of each student's grade will usually be available online. This is not an official record of students' progress, but may be used as a rough guide of one's status in the course as well as a reminder of possible missing assignments.


You will have assigned homework in this class most nights, usually consisting of 30-40 minutes spent solving 3-5 homework problems of varying difficulty. The noted physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman cautioned that "You do not know anything until you have practiced," and we take his warning to heart: Do Your Homework. There's no better way to gauge your progress in the class. Correctly solving a problem is not nearly as important as honestly trying to solve the problem. You are expected to engage your mind in the mental gymnastics associated with problem solving, as opposed to simply watching the instructor solve problems in class.

You should also understand the difference between an "answer" (the numerical result at the end of a problem) and a "solution" (the procedure by which one arrives at an answer). In physics, answers count for very little—solutions are everything. Your answer to a problem will be identified by a value and a unit with a box drawn around it, but the solution leading up to that answer is where you will demonstrate your understanding and earn your points.

Homework assignments will be collected most days in class, with a small number of points awarded for completing—or at least attempting to complete—the work. For most of the homework problems assigned, online solutions are available from the course website. These are meant to be used as a means of checking work you've done, or looking for hints on problem-solving strategies. They shouldn't be blindly copied and turned in as your own work.

Missing a homework assignment once every few weeks or turning an assignment in a day late isn't typically a cause for concern. Habitually missing assignments or falling behind in doing homework will be disastrous in terms of your ability to keep up with the demands of the course. There are systems in place to remind you of your responsibilities here.

For more important information about homework, please see Homework in the AP Physics C Course.


Labs are an important part of the course curriculum. They will give you practical, hands-on experience collecting and analyzing data, and reinforce the learning that goes on in the classroom. For more detailed information, please see The Lab Experience.


There are many reasons that a teacher may have for testing students. In this Advanced Placement class, each test will:

  • give the instructor a means of assessing your progress in the class,
  • give the instructor a basis for assigning you a grade in the class,
  • give the student feedback on how well you are acquiring the material, and
  • prepare the student for the actual AP Physics test.

Chapter tests will be administered approximately every 1-3 weeks, covering 1-3 chapters' worth of material. Most tests will be worth 100 points and consist of two parts: 3-6 Multiple-Choice (MC) questions and 2-4 longer Free-Response (FR) questions. Questions will consist mostly of questions based on the current unit of study, but necessarily include topics from previous units. Both MC and FR questions may include selections taken from actual AP tests.

Preparation for taking a chapter test should include:

  • going over the chapter in the book,
  • reviewing labs and activities,
  • reviewing class notes,
  • reviewing the teachers presentation slides, available online,
  • solving as many practice problems (in book, or homework, or from LearnAPphysics.com) as possible
  • meeting with the instructor to go over topics that are still unclear (as needed),
  • working through the unit practice test several days in advance of the actual test.

In order to focus on the pertinent material, you should take advantage of the review materials available to you, in the textbook and occasionally on this website. Review materials are not to be turned in; they are simply to assist you in your test preparation. Successful completion of the review problems, while commendable, is obviously not a guarantee of a successful test performance.

Students attending school on a test day are expected to take the test that day. In the event that you miss a test due to an excused absence, you may make up the test the first day you return to class. If your circumstance requires other arrangements, contact the instructor.

Late Work

Assignments are due on the assigned date—late work is typically not accepted. (Some assignments may be accepted late with reduced credit, although this is not something you want to make a habit of.) If you have an excused absence on the day an assignment is due, the work is due on the day you return to class, including test makeups, lab reports, and projects. For unexcused absences and tardies, you may not make up missed work. While many students are accustomed to turning in late work, your ongoing progress in the course requires that assignments be turned in on time. Please do whatever is necessary to ensure that your work is turned in on the day it is due.

The AP Test

The Advanced Placement Test in Physics will be given on Monday, May 14, 2018, and actually consists of two separate hour-and-a-half sections, one on Mechanics, and one on Electricity & Magnetism (EM). Each of these sections in turn consists of two parts, a multiple-choice (MC) and a free response (FR) section. The multiple-choice section of each AP Physics C exam consists of 35 questions which must be answered in 45 minutes. The free-response section of both AP Physics C exams consists of three "free response" questions, each worth 15 points. For both sections of each test, you may use a calculator and the formula sheet provided with the test. All students enrolled in AP Physics C at Polytechnic School are required to take both AP Physics C exams.

The AP Physics C examinations offered by the College Board are solid and well-managed exams that do a good job of measuring your understanding of physics. We will spend a considerable amount of time in class practicing the content and skills covered on these tests. Based on the results of your AP examination, your university may grant credit and/or advanced placement in your college program. All students, whether they receive university credit or not, will find themselves better prepared for serious academic work at the university level as a result of taking this class.

The Website

This class website, at www.crashwhite.com/apphysics, will be a valuable source of info throughout the school year. Here, you'll be able to:

  • view the course calendar
  • download lab assignments
  • check your grade
  • view classroom lectures
  • contact the teacher...

I won't emphasize how important the website is to what happens in the course—that fact will become self-evident in the first few days of school.

Academic Integrity

In addition to assisting students with learning material, teachers are often responsible for assessing their progress. In order to do this, students may be given a number of different types of assignments: homework, quizzes, tests, in-class activities, laboratory experiments to conduct, research papers, individual and group projects, presentations, etc.

It is understood that for some of these assignments, students may collaborate with one another.

  • Lab partners may perform an experiment as a group and share data.
  • A student team may design and present a project together.
  • Students might consult each other to find out how to solve a homework problem.

In these cases, collaboration—consultation and discussion with other students—is accepted and encouraged.

However, in other cases, the teacher desires an individual assessment of the student, ie. an answer to the question: "How much progress has the student made in mastering the material?" These assessments, usually in the form of quizzes and tests, are to be performed without assistance from any other sources or students.

There are many ways that a student may cheat, but they all fall into one of three categories:

  1. giving or receiving unauthorized information on tests, examinations, or other work (including labs)
  2. copying another student's work, either word-for-word or by rephrasing
  3. using any unauthorized aids on tests, examinations, or other work (including labs), or
  4. submitting someone else's work, in whole or in part, for your own.

Thus, looking at someone else's test paper to copy the answer to a problem, discussing a test problem or sharing its solution with another student, copying test problems or answers and sharing them with another student, stealing a test, stealing the answers to a test, and using notes during a test that have not been expressly allowed by the teacher are all prohibited.

The penalties for cheating vary, depending on the institution, the department, the teacher, and the nature of the infraction. Commonly, a student caught cheating will receive a failing grade on the assignment and be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and a letter being placed in the student's file. A friend of mine who is a professor states that at her university, there are a total of ten disciplinary actions possible in response to cheating, including: "expulsion, suspension (withdrawal from the University for a given period of time), mark reduction on the assignment or exam, reduction in the final course grade, a grade of F in the course, conduct probation, written reprimand, suspension of any degree already awarded, rescinding any degree already awarded."

An extended discussion of the ethics of cheating is beyond the scope of this note. What IS important to understand is that any form of academic dishonesty, at any level, is taken very seriously by ALL academic institutions. Cheating places your grade at risk and jeopardizes your academic career. And it's just plain wrong.

Don't do it.



  1. In a testing situation, you will write your own answers, without using any notes, preprogrammed calculators or the like, unless you have been given express permission from the instructor to use such resources. Specifically:
    • You will not look at another student's paper during a test, quiz, or other individual assessment.
    • You will not allow another student to look at your paper during such an assessment.
    • You will not discuss the test, quiz, or assessment with any student who has not yet taken it.
    • You will not help any student study for a test, quiz, or assessment which you have taken but they have not.
    • You will not ask other students for information about a test, quiz, or assessment that you have not yet taken.
  2. If you collaborate with another student on a lab exercise, you are permitted to share data, observations, and results with your partner. However, you each do your own analysis and write your own report--including calculations, graphs, analyses, conclusions, etc.—in your own words.

How to Collaborate on a Laboratory Assignment

You and a partner are working together on a lab assignment. You set up the experiment, you record data (by hand and on the computer), and now it's time to analyze and write up your results in a formal report.


  • Make your own copies of hand-collected data.
  • Make multiple copies of computer-collected data so that all partners have a copy.
  • Discuss everything about the lab with your lab partner.
  • Compare your calculated results with those of your lab partner to double-check your work.
  • Discuss possible sources of uncertainty with your lab partner.
  • Compare the general look/feel of your lab report with that of your partner to make sure that you haven't missed anything.


  • Photocopy your partner's diagrams or other lab work
  • Photocopy your partner's hand-written data
  • Copy any of your partner's written work from a lab write-up
  • Read your lab partner's report while writing your own.

If you're unsure about whether or not it's okay to do something, simply check with the instructor.


If you fail to meet these expectations there will be consequences for you, depending on the severity of your failure. These consequences will almost certainly include a zero on the assignment and notification of the incident to parents, deans, and the Upper School Director.


Learning to solve physics problems can be difficult and frustrating, and you are encouraged to find study partners, share phone numbers, and exchange Instant Message names and e-mail addresses early on in the course. Although we will be proceeding at a fairly rapid pace through the material, I will attempt to schedule as much time as possible in class for us to work together on solving problems. In addition, I usually schedule review sessions a day or two before each test. This is an opportunity to meet with other students in the class to study, do review problems, and go over any difficulties you are having with the material.

For additional ideas on how to get help in the course, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.

Contact Info

Due to the intensive nature of this course, most students have difficulties at some point. At such times, you are strongly encouraged to contact me as soon as possible so that we can discuss your situation and figure out a way to deal with it. Likewise, parents or guardians who wish to discuss the course or who have concerns regarding their student's progress are encouraged to contact me, by e-mail (rwhite@polytechnic.org) or by phone, at 626-396-6688.

For other info on how to reach me, please see the Frequently Asked Questions.