An Inside Look at the AP® Physics 1 and Physics 2 Standard Setting
An Inside Look at the AP® Physics 1 and Physics 2 Standard SettingNathan Boltseridge, Senior Director, AP Higher Ed Outreach
The redesigned exams for AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 (the algebra-based Physics exams) were administered for the first time in 2015, and this was also the year that the College Board convened Standard Setting panels for these two exams.
Scoring for all redesigned AP exams is established through a multi-part process that begins with the standard setting. The AP Physics 1 and Physics 2 Standard Settings were held June 9-11, 2015. Each session was conducted by a panel of 14 college professors and AP teachers from a range of institutions. Each panelist began the process by taking the full AP Physics 1 or 2 Exam themselves to better understand the exam from the student perspective.
What we heard:
- College professors on both panels indicated that these new AP Physics Exams are at least as challenging as their own final exams.
- Many panelists indicated that the new exam questions are models for colleges, as they assess both content competency as well as a student’s ability to explain what they know about the discipline in more narrative formats.
- Similarly, many professors and teachers at the AP Physics Exam Reading, where free-response questions from the exams are scored, expressed admiration for the way the new Physics 1 and 2 exams move beyond the scope of the previous Physics B exam and encourage teachers and students to focus on depth of understanding.
After completing their respective AP Exam, the panelists worked individually and then in groups to evaluate every multiple-choice and free-response question against a set of criteria for college grades of A, B, C, and D. The Physics 1 and 2 panels each followed an established standard setting methodology to determine which questions on their respective exam a student should be able to answer correctly in order to qualify for specific AP scores of 5, 4, 3, and 2.
Following several rounds of this evaluative work, the panelists provided the following final recommendations for the exams. As has been the case with previous redesigned courses, the score distribution has changed, as outlined in the chart below:
2014 PHYSICS B
2015 PHYSICS 1
2015 PHYSICS 2
This year, fewer students earned the top score of 5 while proportionally more earned scores of 3. These changes indicate the extent to which the exam style is changed from previous years – relying on more extensive narrative and explanatory components.
Stay tuned for more information about scores and standard setting in the 2015 College Board Program Results, to be released later this fall.