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AP Chem vs. AP Comp Sci A

  1. Aug 3, 2008 #1
    I'm going to be a senior in hs this fall and am still fretting over my schedule. It's either IB Chem or AP Comp Sci A.

    I can't take ap chem because i dont have space for the dbl pd class but ib covers most of it and with a little self-study (i have had friends who successfully done this, although it does suck a little) i can take the ap chem exam without too much issue

    I want to major in electrical/computer science at Cal or, more generally computer hardware engineering/ electronics engineering. From what i've looked up, chem doesn't seem essential for these areas, but I wanted to get other opinions from more informed people.

    I would prefer to take comp sci, as it offers a bit of a break from traditional science/math (i'm signed up for mv calc and ib physics 2 next year as well) but if chemistry will help me get into the programs I want, I don't want to cop out..


    In addition, I did take Pre-IB Chemistry (about equivalent to an honors course) sophomore year
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2008 #2
    Is it SL or HL?
  4. Aug 3, 2008 #3
    i wouldnt take the ib though, ive got science covered with physics
  5. Aug 3, 2008 #4
    Having taken chem SL and seen the AP Chemistry syllabus, I can tell you that it will be A LOT of work for you to self-study the AP material. But if you're up to it, great!

    I guess it comes down to which you are more interested in: chemistry or computer science.
  6. Aug 3, 2008 #5
    I've taken AP Chem and AP Compsci AB. The material in AP Chem isn't very hard but it's a lot of work, especially for self-study. AP Compsci AB wasn't difficult and it's all just logic. From what I've heard, AP Compsci A is a joke.

    Since it seems like you're more interested in compsci (according to your prospective major), why not self-study compsci A and take chem? It's a lot like solving puzzles on your free time and the material is probably easier to handle than IB Chem. But it's up to you.
  7. Aug 3, 2008 #6
    how do you self study that, though.. i guess I should probably look into that.

    im afraid that if i try to do that ill flake out on it; if you had to recommend just one, what would you recommend?
  8. Aug 3, 2008 #7
    maybe i will try to self-study it.. ill get a book and then i can go in and ask the teacher, i took cp1 the year before last so I know the teacher.
  9. Aug 3, 2008 #8
    Hmm well usually I would say stick with what you're interested in (and by all means do so if you like compsci). But if you really can't decide, I would go with IB Chem. For one, the Collegeboard is eliminating the AP Compsci AB test due to the lack of students taking the AB around the nation I think. With AP Compsci A as the standard, it probably won't look impressive, much less prepare you very well for an intro compsci course in college. The intro compsci course at our high school (a semester) pretty much teaches all of the compsci A material (it's not much at all really, just the basics of object-oriented programming).

    But then again, it's very hard to say if you'll get any credits for an IB course. Don't worry too much about which course is essential to what in college. Just decide if you like logic/solving puzzles or well, chemistry.
  10. Aug 3, 2008 #9
    haha thats not hard to decide, id definitely go for computer programming. the ab exam will still be offered this year, though, so i could take it after self-studying if i felt like id be prepared. fact is, chem sounds like a lot of work and i dont want to overdo it senior year because come may i may not be as ready as i'd like.

    basically i dont know what to put in the empty slot in my schedule. i thought about ap psych for a while because it sounds like fun, but i think comp science sounds better. BUT if i take compsci in school, the class is for the A exam which sounds like a joke. so maybe if im going with that self-study is the best option anyway.

    so now its down to psych or chem. oh man this is a question of will-power..
  11. Aug 3, 2008 #10
    AP compsci A is a joke.

    If you want to do computer science, take Chem. That will get you out of having to waste time taking it in college, whereas a good CS department is going to want you to take their classes anyway (where I went, the CS AP test [both A and AB] counted for taking 3 credit hours off of your minimum credit requirement, but it didn't get you out of any classes.)
  12. Aug 5, 2008 #11
    thanks for responding, it was one of those things where it was getting blown out of proportion in my head.. the importance of the decision. but i emailed my counselor asking to take chem. =]
    also i talked to some graduates from my high school that said that mv and physics 2 were pretty easy, so taking all three wont be suicide.
  13. Aug 5, 2008 #12
    Having previous experience in programming will be a huge benefit in college.
    If you want to find work in a research group as a young lad then just tell ask around w/ professors and let them know you can program one of will probably just say ok sign here whereas if you just told them you've taken chemistry they would say yeah thats great talk to you later

    I took both the AP Chem test and the AP Compsci AB (after it changed to all Java, I'm not sure how many above posters took the tests in Java or C/C++)
    I found the AB test realllly hard, and not at all just logic. I think tests in programming are silly w/o a computer. I have a terrible time writing code by hand w/ pen and paper.

    That said, I would encourage you to take the computer science exam. I think you will find it more beneficial.
  14. Aug 5, 2008 #13
    It actually won't help that much, and if you want to get involved in research your first semester of college, you're better off learning discrete math, combinatorics, algorithm analysis, etc. which is all math. Any monkey can program and a professor won't be all that impressed (after all "CS has as much to do with computers as Astronomy has to do with telescopes")

    Most students who don't have a background in theoretical computer science don't get involved in research their first semester though, and a first semester where you take CS 1, and some sort of discrete math class without having to bother with a chemistry requirement will leave you better prepared than the AP test (after which you might end up having to take those same classes and chemistry).
  15. Aug 5, 2008 #14
    I guess I wasn't really thinking from a CS perspective.
    My experience comes from a physics major.
    The AP chem got me out of taking Chem 101 and 102, which was very nice.
    AP computers got me 2 jobs..

    First day of physics class freshmen year they asked if anyone was good w/ computers. I was the only one who raised my hand, and it got me a job essentially just being a handy man for the dept. concerning their computers, ie. hooking up new ones, taking apart old ones.. and what have you.
    End of freshmen year I was contacted by a professor about a research project. he said he figured I was interested in electronics because I worked w/ the computers, and he asked if I had done any programming. I told he I sure had. I then began working with him on a cosmic ray detection research project. I program in C using Root to analyze data and make pretty plots.

    So I guess it just depends. Both AP classes have their pluses. I am not trying to say they are equivalent or necessarily rightfully replace college classes, however, for me they helped a bunch as far as freeing up my schedule and being useful skills

    I did not mean to suggest a freshmen will be seriously involved in research but some professor just need students to do work for them, whether its just data logging with Excel or writing tedious code for them. If you have a skill they could use, they will be more interested.

    As far as Any Monkey can program? That may be, but not all of them do. All I am saying is that if you can prgram its a good skill and gives you a benefit over those who don't (not can't but don't)
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