Physics Subject Test Class
Instructor: Jeffrey Goldader, PhD
Location: Bryn Mawr office only
Time and Schedule: TBD
Your seat in the course is reserved once the course fee is paid in full.
**Students are required to complete a diagnostic test (Physics Subject Test 1) before the course begins. If you didn’t receive a copy of this test upon registration, be sure to ask the front desk to provide it.
The SAT Physics subject test is a comprehensive test covering all the major areas of physics that could be taught in a high school setting. Unlike the regular SAT test, which was taken by almost 1.7 million students in 2015, only 59,000 took the SAT Physics exam (fewer than the roughly 73,000 that took the Chemistry or one of the Biology subject tests)1. Because students self-‐select for the subject tests, competition is strong. The mean score on the Physics test tends to be about 650.
The SAT Physics test is only one of five physics tests offered by the College Board. The tests are
SAT Physics (non-‐calculus, comprehensive curriculum)
AP Physics 1 (non-‐calculus, primarily mechanics)
AP Physics 2 (non-‐calculus, primarily electricity and magnetism, light/waves/optics, and thermodynamics)
AP Physics C Mechanics (calculus-‐based)
AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism (calculus-‐based)
The College Board recommends each of the AP Physics 1 and 2 courses be taught spread over a single year, that both should not be taught in a single year. That said, many schools give the courses just one semester each. It is also strongly recommended that Physics C be taught as a second year course,and each course can be taught in a single semester each, if 90 minutes per day is allotted.
You can see no two of these tests cover exactly the same content, and so preparation must be different for each. In addition, many schools offer AP physics courses tailored to one of the AP tests, but there is no SAT Physics course; there is only general physics, which may not cover the entire list of topics on the SAT Physics test. AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2, taken together, cover almost all the SAT Physics test topics. And even if both AP Physics C courses are taken, there will be significant gaps that need to be filled to adequately prepare for the SAT Physics test.
What do real schools do? Consider Lower Merion High School. LMHS offers “Physics H,” a general physics course that appears to meet the requirements for the SAT Physics test. The school also offers AP Physics 1 and both AP Physics C courses, but not AP Physics 2.
We have prepared a guide comparing, in detail, the materials covered by each of the SAT Physics and AP Physics tests.
At MJ Test Prep, our SAT Physics Course covers the topics not addressed in the AP Physics C Mechanics or AP Physics 1 exams. We cover electricity and magnetism; light, waves, and optics; heat and thermodynamics; and modern physics. If your student took AP Physics C Mechanics or an AP Physics 1 course, our SAT Physics Course will fill in the missing material needed for success on the SAT Physics test. If your student would benefit from reviewing some of the material we don’t cover in the course, one-on-one tutoring is available.
How much work should I expect to do?
The class is 8 weeks long. Students should expect to spend 3-6 hours of homework per week. Each week, students…
attend a two-hour class session
complete a focused assignment set (approximately 2 – 4 hours per week based on the student’s background)
complete a 1-hour practice test (outside of class time) each week.
Background on the SAT Physics subject test
There used to be a class called AP Physics B; it had its own AP test, but importantly, its content aligned almost 1:1 with the physics subject test. As a result, students who did well in that class were well prepared for the subject test.
However, teachers found it increasingly impossible to cover the very broad and deep syllabus. After several years of deliberation, College Board ended the AP Physics B course and test in the 2014-2015 school year, replacing them with two classes and two tests: AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.
Unfortunately, College Board made no changes to the physics subject test. As a result, in schools that teach AP Physics classes, students need to take two courses, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 to have almost the full knowledge needed to earn top scores on the subject test.
For parents who are looking at needing the physics subject test, the best way to prepare their student is to have the student take AP Physics 1 AND AP Physics 2, as only a little extra work is needed. Students who take AP Physics C Mechanics AND AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism will still have a significant amount of material they’ll have to learn (thermodynamics, waves/sound/light/optics, and modern physics) to approach the highest scores on the physics subject test.
If we do not have enough students signed up for any given class than we can not run the class and we will advise on another step.
We do not offer make-up classes for missed days. If a student misses a class, we will set aside a packet of notes and homework, which will be available for pick-up at the front desk after the missed class. After the last class, we offer an optional open classroom the week before the test, where students can address their questions from the missed class.