Memorizing Equations in the Shower for AP Physics B & C
Memorizing equations for the AP physics exam is important. Here are some strategies on how to memorize those necessary and essential equations for the exam.
Can You Ace This Quiz?
Instructions: We'll give you a prompt, you tell us the equation. Once you've finished, check your answers with the key at the end of this lesson.
- Coefficient of friction in terms of Ff
- An equation for impulse
- Another equation for impulse
- An equation for mechanical power
- Another equation for mechanical power
- Lensmaker's equation
- Ohm's law
- An equation for work
- Another equation for work
- Snell's law
- Power in a circuit
- Period of a mass on a spring
- Three kinematics equations
- rms speed
- Centripetal acceleration
- Kinetic energy
- Gravitational force
- Magnetic field around a long, straight, current-carrying wire
So, How Did You Do?
Grade yourself according to this scale.
You may think we're joking about our grading system, but we're completely serious. Knowing your equations is absolutely imperative. Even if you missed one question on the quiz, you need to study your equations. Right now! A student who is ready to take the AP exam is one who can ace an "equations quiz" without even thinking about it. How ready are you?
Equations Are Crucial
It's easy to make an argument against memorizing equations. For starters, you're given all the equations you need when taking the free-response portion of the AP exam. And besides, you can miss a whole bunch of questions on the test and still get a 5.
But equations are the nuts and bolts of physics. They're the fundamentals. They should be the foundation on which your understanding of physics is built. Not knowing an equation—even one—shows that your knowledge of physics is incomplete. And every question on the AP exam assumes complete knowledge of physics.
Remember, also, that you don't get an equation sheet for the multiple-choice portion of the test. Put simply, you won't score well on the multiple-choice questions if you haven't memorized all of the equations.
What About the Free-Response Section?
The free-response questions test your ability to solve complex, multistep problems. They also test your understanding of equations. You need to figure out which equations to use when and how. The makers of the test are being nice by giving you the equation sheet—they're reminding you of all the equations you already know in case you cannot think of that certain equation that you know would be just perfect to solve a certain problem. But the sheet is intended to be nothing more than a reminder. It will not tell you when to use an equation or which equation would be best in solving a particular problem. You have to know that. And you will know that only if you have intimate knowledge of every equation.
We mentioned in Step 2 that some questions on the AP exam are designed solely to test your knowledge of equations. If you know your equations, you will get the question right. Here's an example.
The answer is (C). The equation for a pendulum's period is
so if L increases by 2, the period must increase by .
Of course, the multiple-choice section will not be the only part of the exam that tests your knowledge of equations. Often, a part of a free-response question will also test your ability to use an equation. For example, check out this problem.
Yes, later in the problem you find one of those PV diagrams you hate so much. However, you can still score some easy points here if you simply remember that old standby, PV = nRT.
Memorizing equations will earn you points. It's that simple.
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