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Alternatives to taking Physics in High School

  1. Nov 23, 2006 #1
    I am in the eight grade, and I am wondering whether I should take Physics in High School (HS) next year, or study over the summer and take the AP exam to get out of it.

    Please note that my grades in my science class (Integrated Physics and Chemistry or just I.P.C) over the last 2 grading periods were 100 and 99 (I messed up badly on a homework assignment).

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2006 #2
    am I right in assuming that your in an american middle school?

    if so I'm amazed that they offer physics to freshman, usually it takes until junior year to aquire the math for algebra based physics.

    but I would say tha you should definatly take physics in a regular classroom, as for most people they need a real physics class in order to get the material. And in order to take the AP physics C test you need to know calculus, (AP C is the only one that matters) do you know calculus?

    also why would you want to skip it?
  4. Nov 23, 2006 #3


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  5. Nov 24, 2006 #4
    There are a couple of things to consider:

    1. There are 3 AP physics exams: AP Physics B, AP Physics C: Mechanics, and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism.

    2. If you plan to be a science (physics or chem) or engineering major in college, AP Physics B might not help very much. The B exam is algebra based physics and stuff you're basically expected to know already to some extent going into those majors, whereas the physics C exams will help prepare you for or possibly get out of the intro classes.

    3. If you plan on taking the AP Physics C exams, realize that those are some of the toughest AP exams offered (content wise) and it would be quite hard to study over the summer. To give you perspective, I had to self-study over the period of a whole school year to take the physics C exams (and I'm a physics major). Plus, you need to have some level of calculus as a prerequisite - which perhaps you don't have already.

    So - realize that the AP physics C exams cover the content of a whole year of college coursework, whereas most AP exams only cover a semester.
  6. Nov 24, 2006 #5
    i've had some friends take AP physics courses in highschool, took the exam and didn't get a high enough grade to pass it but did awesome in college because they said the college course was easier than the highschool ap course.

    Not saying you want the "easy" way out but it may be easier to just take the course in college.
  7. Nov 24, 2006 #6


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    Some questions, however...
    could it be that the college course was
    better than the high school course? [better instructor, facilities, student support?]
    easier because they already had taken [however unsuccessful] a course in the subject?
    easier because they were more mature [mathematically, analytically]?
  8. Nov 24, 2006 #7
    eh depending on the person ap courses can be very beneficial.

    for instance I self-studied the ap physics c course material and got a 5 on the mechanics and a 4 on the E&M just prior to me leaving highschool. I had a friendwho took the C test instead of the B test that he had taken the course in and he scored similarly.

    however this was in my junior year of highschool and I had alot more math than I would have had freshman year. And I loved every minute of my algebra based physics class because my physics teacher had me supervising the labs.

    take your time with this, it doesn't matter how far ahead you are in school, it matters how well you understand everythin (and highschool's where you get your social skills)
  9. Nov 24, 2006 #8
    that is true I shouldn't have made that generalization, i just saw myself studying 10x more than them to get the same grade but again its the background. My school didn't even offer any AP course so im' not sure how they are.
  10. Nov 24, 2006 #9


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    :surprised Why would you want to get out of it. I wasn't aware that one could take an AP exam and get out of high school class.

    I'm with CPL.Luke on this.

    If one passes the AP, does that really mean one has mastered physics - or at least introductory physics? No.

    If anything, push the school for a more challenging physics class, and if possible, take Physics concurrently with Calculus.
  11. Nov 24, 2006 #10
    Thanks guys for your comments, but I also forgot to say one more thing.

    I know a bit of calculus up to limits, and a bit of differentiation, but I don't know how much is needed for the A, B, and C AP exams.

    If the above is not possible, should I take courses at a local college with a good physics program?

    Thanks, and by the way, this is my current school: http://www.gcisd-k12.org/schools/hms/

    And this is most likely going to be my new high school: http://www.gcisd-k12.org/schools/chhs/hschool1.html

    To answer CPL.Luke's question

    I want to get the "easy" credits done quickly, so that I can work more on the tougher subjects in High School, such as Spanish and English, since those are my hardest subjects.

    I have also talked with my counselor and my math teacher about skipping to Calculus in High School, and they both said that I could, but I'm afraid that since many colleges such as MIT (my first choice) look at your grades from High School, and the possibility of getting a low GPA for Calculus would hurt my chances of an admission.

    I am sort of with Mr. Astronuc, but I am actually aiming towards the Physics Olympiad, which is why I want to get most of my basic Physics stuff done sooner, so that I can go on to GR (General Relativity) and QM (Quantum Mechanics), and if I get it done over the summer, I can most likely get the "easy" credits done, which I mentioned above.

    Thanks guys for all of your much appreciated help and suggestions. :smile:
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2006
  12. Nov 24, 2006 #11
    Holy cow. I had a dream once where I was at a school thats identical to your future highschool even though I've never seen it before. What state are you in?

    Good luck going to MIT. personally, I want to go to CIT =P. I'm a freshman, anfd my highschool doesn't let you take physics until you're in 11th. If i were at your school, i would study it over the summer but take the class anyways just for the learning experience. does your futures school offer anything beyond basic physics if you complete the AP?
  13. Nov 24, 2006 #12
    If you're aiming to learn GR, actually learning a lot more math will help. You don't really need a whole lot more than intro calc-based physics to get the gist of most of GR (maybe some more advanced classical mechanics, lagrangians and such) - but you do need a crapload of advanced math, specifically, you need to grok multivariable calculus really well.

    @Ki man - if you really do want to go to caltech you should apply pressure to your HS over physics and calc. It will really, really help you if you have physics and calc AP's done by at latest junior year. It's ridiculous that your HS places that requirement, you should really try to get them to let you do that.
  14. Nov 24, 2006 #13
    I would hav taken physics this year, but my school doesn't offer us that choice, and i could have been a year ahead in math but they school didnt give anyone in my class the chance to get ahead, so instead of taking trigonometry and high school physics this year together, i will have pre-calc and physics as a junior. until then, I'm going to try to learn ahead on my own ;]
  15. Nov 24, 2006 #14

    for the AP C test you need to know all of calc one and two cold.

    also the physics B test only covers material from algebra based physics without any real calculus.

    Also schools like MIT look for people with some flare for the sciences, they don't care to to much about how your english worked out, they care about your technical talent, while you want to have a decent gpa, say 3.5 you also want to have deomnstrated that you are good at what you want to do. (physics and math)

    so if you can skip ahead to calculus I would say go for it, but don't do it while sacrificing the basics of trigonometry (theres alot of trig work that you should know in order to do calculus)

    and keep in mind that stuff like quantum mechanics and such will take several years of study to get too, and its far more important to develop yourself and your personality in highschool than it is too learn quantum mechanics.
  16. Nov 25, 2006 #15
    Ki Man- I live in good 'ol Texas.

    For all- Thanks for all of your help and suggestions, I will use them well. :biggrin:
  17. Nov 27, 2006 #16
    First there are only two exams: B and C (which I know is weird). Second the C Exam has two seperate tests, an E&M section and a Mechanics Section. Don't rush into the AP Physics with Calc. sequence right away.

    As it was stated eariler you need to know Calculus 1-2 cold, but I would go on a little more and say you should probably know series and sequences (at least Taylor) and some rudimentary vector calc; which normally is not something that is possible at a high school.

    If your schooling is anything like my high school schooling with mathematics, I ended up just teaching myself all of calculus 1-4 and some linear algebra. Not the easiest thing to teach yourself, not impossible, but when you want to double check something and your math teacher hasn't done calc. 4 problems for about 15 years and he has a hard time with it, it can get annoying.

    With that in mind, take a non-calc based physics course first, hopefully AP Physics B, as it is a good survey course and it will help you wrap your head around the concepts in physics. No, it isn't necessarlly too challenging, but it will put you in a good postion to either teach yourself AP Physics C and it will give you a better appreachation of why you use calculus for many problems in physics.

    (I know I am rambling but just one more thing): Ask about starting in trig/pre-calc instead of starting in calculus. Having a good foundation in Trig is necessary for understanding many physics problems at the introduction level, and even beyond. And while your working at that start your foreign language...if you have the oppertunity to learn latin, jump on it instead of spanish, as latin will give you a better understanding and control of the English language, which will come in handy when you have to take a couple writing courses in college.

    Just my 5-cents
  18. Nov 27, 2006 #17
    My 2-cents (I don't claim to have even 5! -- :biggrin: to JasonRox)

    Can you take physics at a local college/university for credit?
    When I was a wee-one (over ten years ago) you could go to Ohio State and take Calculus or Physics or Chemistry for both high school and college credit.
  19. Nov 27, 2006 #18
    I just wanted to come one in here. When I was in high school my career/college resources center out right told us to avoid college courses as a high school student until we have taken all of the advanced placement courses that our school had to offer. The reason, when an admissions board looks at the your transcript they want to see AP and Honors courses, and often will rank these above community college courses (if you can get into a local university on the other hand...well that looks excellent). It is really weird and backwards, but that has always been what I have been told.

    So I would hold back on those college level courses until all of the courses that you can squeeze out of the High School. Besides, rushing into college level courses before you are well prepaired may lead to either burnout or a hit to your GPA which doesn't look all that great for undergraduate school applications.

    But, then again a head start on some of the prerequistes for upper division courses when you arrive at university is quite useful.
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