Physics Olympiad

Physics Program

Leon Lederman, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Physics, calls this approach “pedagogically dumb” and advocates teaching physics before chemistry and biology because physics is so fundamental to every other science. (As well as most major technological innovations of the past century) For mathematically talented students who have already developed abstract thinking and mastered advanced math skills, learning physics early makes even more sense.

Why Study Physics at Ardent?

The Ardent Physics Program is designed to yield the following benefits:

  • Learn Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills: Physicists use mathematics to understand the world around them. Through hands-on experimentation and mathematical modeling, we help our students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that are useful in any career path.
  • Achieve Academic Success: We train students to think in ways that will help them excel on their AP exams and in class. By getting students to think like scientists, we prepare them to do well not only in physics, but also in biology and chemistry.
  • Impress College Admissions Officers: Colleges prefer students who have taken challenging courses over those who participated in an easier curriculum. Physics is perceived as one of the most difficult high school subjects, so a good score on your transcript will make you stand out.
  • Showcase Talent in USA Physics Olympiad: We have uniquely integrated an AP Physics curriculum with preparation for elite physics competitions to achieve synergy while learning. Top students have the opportunity to compete and excel in the USA Physics Olympiad competition.

The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion - these are the most valuable coin of the thinker at work, whatever his line of work. Can schoolchildren be led to master this gift? The schoolboy learning physics is a physicist, and it is easier for him to learn physics behaving like a physicist than doing something else.

Jerome Bruner, Cognitive Psychologist and a pioneer in development of Cognitive Learning Theory.

SAT II Physics and AP Physics Exam

Taking the SAT II Physics Exam and AP Physics Exam and scoring well will give you an advantage when applying to elite colleges or prestigious summer programs. This experience will also be beneficial when taking difficult college classes or conducting research in any scientific field. Taking Honors Physics and AP Physics classes will help you do well on these exams, but we recommend taking advantage of additional learning opportunities to ensure success. Here at Ardent, we provide many such courses that can help you do well on the challenging SAT II and AP tests.

United States National Physics Olympiad Competitions

Physics Olympiad

The USAPhO competition selection process consists of 3 main stages. The first exam consists of 25 multiple-choice questions and is known as the ‘F=ma’ contest. Lasting 75 minutes, this test focuses on non-calculus based questions only. The top 300 – 400 students to pass this exam will advance to the free response Semifinal Exam. Material on this two-part test is calculus based and requires an understanding of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics, thermodynamics, fluids, relativity, and nuclear and atomic physics. This Semifinal Exam consists of just 6 questions split into two sections.

The top 20 scorers in the Semifinal Exam attend training camp at the University of Maryland. While in Maryland, they will take a series of difficult exams and get experience with hands-on training and theoretical material. The top five students are then selected to participate in the International Physics Olympiad.


 Experimental Physics

Grades: 7 - 8. Required math skills include completion of Pre-Algebra, Common Core 7, or M206 or Above

Length: Ten 3-hour lessons covered over two weeks during the summer session.

Description: Experimental Physics promotes curiosity and ingenuity and will provide a foundational understanding of basic physics principles, laboratory techniques, computer simulations, and scientific writing. This experience will foster an understanding of the methods of scientific investigation and further develop scientific minds. Through this course, students will gain hands-on experience with some of the experimental basis of classical Newtonian mechanics, and through the process, will deepen their understanding of the relations between experiment and theory.

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 Honors Physics with Labs

Grades: 7 - 8. Required math skills include proportion and ratio, system of equations, quadratic equations, and graphing of functions.

Length: This is a 30-week program starts in the fall session.

Description: At the root of all engineering fields lay Physics, which seeks to describe and predict natural events by studying the relationships between motion, force, energy, and time. This course will discuss the basics in various fields of physics such as kinematics, dynamics, electricity, optics, and nuclear physics. For students, the first priority is to learn how to think critically and in a scientific manner about the physical environment. Students will ultimately strengthen their understanding of physics by behaving like physicists in this course. Designed to combine the best of high school Conceptual Physics and Honors Physics, this course assumes that students will have basic knowledge of algebra including concepts such as ratio, percentage, linear equations, and occasionally quadratic equations. Knowledge of geometry is not required.

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 AP Physics 1 & 2 with SAT II Physics

Grades: 8 - 10

Length: This is a 40-week program starts in the summer session.

Description: This course focuses on classical mechanics and simple electrical circuits using an algebraic approach. It assumes no prior knowledge of physics and emphasizes on building qualitative and quantitative reasoning in physical thinking. Students will learn critical skills in scientific inquiry, investigation, modeling, diagramming, unit analysis, laboratory techniques, and data analysis.Students will learn AP Physics 2 topics such as electromagnetism, thermal physics, waves, optics, and modern physics while also reviewing SAT II related topics covered in AP Physics 1. In the Spring, students will prepare for both AP Physics 2 and SAT II Physics subject exam. 

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 AP Physics C (Mechanics and E&M)

Grades: 10 - 12

Length: This is a 30-week program starts in the fall session.

Description: The class focuses on classical mechanics and electromagnetism with trigonometry and some basic calculus. Successful completion of this class will also enable students to take the AP Physics C Mechanics and E&M exam.

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 Physics Olympiad F=ma & AP Physics C: Mechanics

Grades: 10 - 12

Length: This is a 30-week program starts in the fall session.

Description: The purpose of the course is to prepare students to take the USA Physics Olympiad Preliminary Exam in January. The exam is a 25-question, 75-minute multiple choice exam. Approximately 400 of the top students advance to the semifinal round.

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