The AP Program used to offer three physics classes: AP Physics B, AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism.
However, last year, the AP program replaced AP Physics B, a one-year course, with two one-year courses: AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2. These are both algebra-based physics courses, which mean they don’t require a math background beyond Algebra II.
The AP program still offers AP Physics C, which is broken into two courses and exams: Physics C: Mechanics and Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. Many schools teach these as the same class, or just teach one topic. Both of these courses are calculus-based.
AP Physics 1
AP Physics 1 is algebra based, college level physics course. It covers Newtonian mechanics, work, energy, power, mechanical waves and sound, and circuits. AP Physics 1 is designed in such a manner that it can be taken without any prior Physics experience. This is the main point of difference between the old AP Physics B Course.
AP Physics 2
AP Physics 2 is also an algebra-based, college-level physics course. However, it explores more advanced topics than Physics 1. Physics 2 explores fluid statics and dynamics, thermodynamics with kinetic theory, PV diagrams and probability, electrostatics, electrical circuits with capacitors, magnetic fields, electromagnetism, physical and geometric optics, and quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics. Much of its subject matter is similar to the old AP Physics B course.
AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
Both AP Physics C courses are calculus-based courses, which is the key factor that makes Physics C more challenging than Physics 1 and Physics 2. Mechanics covers kinematics, Newton’s laws, work, energy, power, linear momentum, circular motion and rotation, oscillations and gravitation. Most of these topics have been covered in Physics 1, however, this course goes into more depth than Physics 1. Electricity and Magnetism covers electrostatics, conductors, capacitors, dielectrics, electric circuits, magnetic fields, and electromagnetism. Here also, the subject matter is more or less alike, but more complex, since calculus is incorporated.