Expert TA Blog

Studying for the AP Physics Exam: A New Approach for Students

You probably already know that the AP Physics exam recently underwent dramatic and fundamental changes. And students still studying for the old style of exam suffered. In fact, the College Board reported that more than 60 percent of those taking the Physics I exam in May 2015 did not receive a score high enough to earn college credit—up from 40 percent in 2014.

OpenStax and Expert TA are working together to help correct this.

OpenStax is a not-for-profit based out of Rice University, funded by organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and on a mission to make high-quality STEM educational materials affordable to all. Expert TA has a long track record of working with high school and college physics teachers to provide an online homework solution that not only helps students on exam day, but supports them in truly understanding the material.

The College Board has identified “symbolic” problem solving as a critical aspect of succeeding on the exam. While there is an abundance of study booklets that provide practice multiple choice questions, resources have not been historically available that allow students to work independently on symbolic problems and provide guidance when mistakes are made. The Expert TA system has been designed to do just this, putting much more emphasis on the judicious application of symbolic expressions rather than the final numeric value. Our approach of providing meaningful feedback from “data mined” results has proven (through a sizeable case study) to be highly effective.

OpenStax worked alongside the AP College Board to release a physics textbook that is aligned with the AP curriculum and includes AP test-prep questions, including appropriate questions from previous exams. In order to develop the first online, dynamic study resource for use in preparing for the AP Physics Exam, Expert TA worked with AP instructors and consulted with members of the AP Physics I Development committee.

The Expert TA Physics I Online Study Guide integrates every test-prep problem from the OpenStax textbook and also allows students to study for the exam with all of the Expert TA capabilities of providing meaningful hints and feedback as they practice more than 250 multi-step, symbolic problems.

We are grateful to OpenStax for providing such a valuable resource to physics education, and we are honored to do our part in providing students the best tools possible to prepare for and succeed on exam day.




Formed from the belief that a homework system should help instructors teach and students learn, Expert TA harnesses the power of technology to encourage practice during homework, while also giving meaningful feedback to both instructors and students. The Expert TA blog was created to serve as a hub of information to help educators track and discuss trends in education, software and student performance.

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  • I like the idea of guiding students, giving them a little more information each time they ask for help. I also think they should get the right answer. I am big about partial credit. If they got a number wrong, they got a number wrong. But I also believe in giving them a lot of credit if they have the right steps. With Expert TA’s true partial credit grading system, instructors can do both.

    Ellen Siem, PhD., Senior Instructor, Department of Physics, Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR
  • With my students, I found that Expert TA was a way for them to help themselves, rather than seeing it as something that is just being assigned so they can get a grade. Initially, I set it up so they lose very little for clicking hints. I also gave them up to 10 different times to submit an answer. They are able to work through a problem on their own rather than being worried that asking for hints would get them a zero.

    Matt Evans, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire