Physics Competition

"F=ma" Exam and USA Physics Olympiad

The "F=ma" Exam and USA Physics Olympiad serve the equivalent purpose as the USA Math Olympiad where students advance by taking AMC 10 and AMC 12 exams and qualifying for AIME and then for USAJMO or USAMO.

"F=ma" exam serves as the preliminary round for students to qualify for the semifinal. There are 25 multiple choice questions to be finished in 75 minutes, one score point for each question. The questions are based on AP Physics C level mechanics only and requires no calculus techniques. The typical cutoff score for advancing to the semifinal round is around 16 out of 25. Each year around 400 students are then invited to take the semifinal.

The semifinal, usually referred as USAPho contest, is a free response, calculus based exam. It covers everything in general physics: mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, fluid, wave and optics, special relativity, and nuclear and atomic physics. It consists of two parts, 90 minutes each, for solving 6 problems. Generally 2 problems are related to mechanics, 2 to electromagnetism, and 2 to others. The top 10-12% scorers will receive gold medals, the next 14-16% receive silver medals, the next 19-21% receive bronze medals and the next 24%-26% will receive honorable mentions.

The top 20 students of the semifinal become the finalists and are invited to a 10-day training camp. 5 students are then selected to represent United States to participate in the International Physics Olympiad.

Typical Path for Participating in Physics Competition

If starting from your eighth grade, the path would look like this:

Eighth Grade First Semester: AP Physics 1

Eighth Grade Second Semester: AP Physics 2

Eighth Grade Summer: Calculus for Physics

Ninth Grade First Semester: F=ma Mechanics, and first try on USA Physics Olympia F=ma exam in January

Ninth Grade Second Semester: AP Physics C-Electromagnetism, if qualified for the USA Physics Olympia Semifinal, taking the USAPho contest in April

Ninth Grade Summer: Advanced Physics on topics of thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, Optics and Special Relativity

Tenth Grade First Semester: F=ma Mechanics, and take the F=ma exam in January and advance to the semifinal

Tenth Grade Second Semester: USAPho Prep, and take USAPho contest in April and win award

Course Offered

F=ma Training: AP Physics C level mechanics focused on the development of solid conceptual understanding of mechanics and some calculus based problem solving skills oriented towards students who plan to take the "F=ma" exam. Prerequisite: AP Physics 1.

USAPho Prep: Training session for developing and solidifying problem solving skills prior to taking the USAPho contest. Prerequisite: AP Physics C Mechanics and Electromagnetism


Special Summer Courses:

Those courses are developed for students who want to have more in-depth study on the subject of mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, special relativity and others on the level to take on the USAPho contest.

Advanced Mechanics: AP Physics C level and beyond, calculus based mechanics that is appropriate for students planning to take the USAPho contest.

Advanced Electromagnetism: AP Physics C level and beyond, calculus based electromagnetism that is appropriate for students planning to take the USAPho contest.

Advanced General Physics: A course on advanced topics in thermodynamics, fluid, wave and optics, special relativity, quantum mechanics, and nuclear and atomic physics required for USAPho contest.