Students enrolled in 8 summer intensive physics courses for academically gifted students participated in a pilot study to assess the effectiveness of such courses compared to ordinary year-long high school physics courses. The students in each class completed the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), and the average normalized gains for each class were compared with previously published data from both year-long high school courses and semester-long college courses. The average gains achieved by students in the intensive courses were comparable to those achieved by students in the ordinary-length courses. Recent work in physics education research has made such direct comparisons of standard-length and intensive physics courses possible and also suggests ways to improve student learning in both types of courses. Some further questions for research concerning intensive physics courses for gifted students are discussed.