Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

AP guide

  1. Aug 30, 2007 #1
    I just entered my senior year in high school. I wanted to take AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. But the school requires that there should be at least 3 students for an AP; only then will they give classes.
    Unfortunately, I am the only one for these classes.
    So like last year I'm going to prepare for these AP's on my own and give the exam on my own.
    Last year I took AP Biology on my own and got a 5, so I'm not hesitant to take these out of school. I'll be taking some tuition for Calculus outside school, and maybe for Physics too.

    So I wanted to ask if anyone knows any good textbooks and studyguides I can use for these AP's.

    Thanks a lot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2007 #2
    why would you want to take phys b and phys c at the same time?

    if you know calculus (or are learning it), i'd recommend just starting off with phys c. can't go wrong with the halliday and resnick textbooks.
  4. Aug 30, 2007 #3
    yeah, if you're going to be learning calculus, then you should take the physics mechanics exam but not the physics E&M.

    The princeton review, barrons, etc will be good in preparing you for the AP exams, though theyre not the best source for actually learning the material, especially if you plan on majorin in physics or math. To actualy learn the material, I would recommend Halliday/Resnick for physics and Stewart for calculus
  5. Aug 30, 2007 #4
    Have you already had AB Calculus?

    My school didn't offer a BC class but I studied the extra material on my own that year to take the BC test. If you've already had AB, it will be a piece of cake. I'll admit that I never used Stewart until calc 3 and it did get on my nerves every once in a while, but there's no denying that his writing is very clear, so it's probably a good choice.

    As far as physics goes, if you've already had AB Calc, you should take C physics and use Halliday and Resnick. If you've never had a calculus class before, this is probably not the best route and you might want to consider taking B Physics instead.

    You know, I was really in a similar situation when I was in highschool. I had a great AB Calc teacher (he was the one who encouraged me to take the BC exam instead) but beyond that there wasn't much support for my interests at my school. I have two pieces of advice for you. The first is to go out and FIND support and opportunities if they aren't available at your school. People aren't always going to be there to present them to you, but they're there if you're willing to look and you want to learn. The second is that if you are serious about this, then the skills you learn by self-studying will take you very far. Again, I went from being a highschool junior who had mediocre grades in previous math classes enrolled in AB Calculus but planning to take the BC exam to a college freshman who's self-studied some General Relativity and Differential Geometry. If you develop that skill of self studying your overall rate of learning in areas that interest you will increase greatly.
  6. Sep 1, 2007 #5

    i didn't take the phys c exams myself, but i would think that halliday and resnick would prepare one to take the EM exam.
  7. Sep 6, 2007 #6
    I don't want to take the Physics B exam. I want to take Physics C EM + Mechanics.
    And I want to take Calculus BC but I haven't had AB calculus before.
    And I'll have to be studying on my own.
    So will these books help me start from scratch?
    I do have a background.
    But if my background is weak, then what? Do these books jump straight to the actual material or will I get some step by step help?

    Thanks a lot.
  8. Sep 6, 2007 #7
    I'm going to be honest, to really learn E&M the right way, you NEED multivariate calculus (AB is calc 1, BC is calc 2, multivariate is calc 3) under your belt, so there's really not a whole lot of benefit to taking the C E+M exam.

    Any my university for instance, they don't even give AP credit for physics. If you want, you can try to test out of it, and people who did really well on physics C can usually test of out the mechanics course, but I've not seen anyone test out of E&M based on prior AP experience alone. The bottom line is this: you're going to be taking intro E&M in college anyway, so don't overextend yourself now.

    Again, I was able to self-study BC calculus but I did this at the same time as I was taking AB calculus in school. You're not going to even be able to get started on a lot of the physics topics until you've got a decent amount of the calculus under your belt anyway.

    In fact, if you plan on being a physics major in college and insist on self studying both AP math AND science this year, I would self study Calculus and Chemistry, because at most schools, as a physics major, you can place out of Chem with AP credit but you will still end up taking the intro physics sequence (or at least the second half of it) even if you do well on the AP exam (which is already a longshot if you're self-studying it at the same time as you self study calculus). I can't tell you how many times I've wished that I took AP Chem in highschool. You may be eager to jump into physics, but doing chem now will actually get you further ahead in the long run. AP Chemistry has both benefits of physics B and C: it doesn't require calculus (which again is a huge plus if you're taking calculus concurrently) and it will be useful to you as a physics major in college (more useful than physics C, believe it or not). Also, if you're really interested in modern physics (who isn't?) you'll find that more modern physics ideas are covered in Chem than in Mechanics/E&M.

    Just something to consider.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2007
  9. Sep 6, 2007 #8
    I'm taking AP Calculus AB this year, but just started, so unfortunately I can't give you a good idea of others. You're fortunate to have the ability to take AP Physics courses: my school only offers AP Chemistry and AP Biology for College Board science classes. Good luck, getting a 5 on your own is awesome!
  10. Sep 6, 2007 #9
    AP Calculus BC covers material traditionally taught in calculus 1 and calculus 2 at the college level. you can certainly take BC without AB. there's only a bit more material.

    i have also heard that most students have difficulty with the physics C EM exam. as far as i know, everything is presented in integral form, and the problems are such that the integrals reduce to familiar forms, so i really don't see why a sufficiently motivated student couldn't handle the course. i found introductory EM problems to be a bit harder (and more interesting!) than introductory mechanics problems (especially since at first, you learn how to do things avoiding integrals over two or more dimensions). perhaps that is why people do not fare as well on that exam.
  11. Sep 7, 2007 #10
    OK, here's the thing. I'm way behind where a normal senior in high school is supposed to be. And it's really not my fault.
    Go to this link, I've made a new thread explaining my problem in math:


    As for AP physics, i've done physics in grade 11, but we couldn't even reach the magnetism/electricity/nuclear part. Our class was so slow. Still I scored a 100 in both the semester exams and A's in the quarters.

    i don't have a clue about calculus, if you click on the link and read what I wrote, you'll see what state I'm in. So i think in my case, it will probably be impossible to take C EM.

    Really sad, it was a passion. Anyway, I guess i'll consider wbclark's suggestion. But the thing is I hate chemistry so much, I don't think I'll be able to prepare well.
    I did chem in grade 11, but again we couldn't finish the whole syllabus.

    do we have to take chemistry in university? If i take the ap chemistry exam and score a 5 on it, then will I have to take chemistry later in univsersity?

    This is all getting really confusing.
    Plus i'm giving my sat in november
    and sat 2 in math 1, 2 , and physics in december.

    Please guide.
    Thank you.
  12. Sep 7, 2007 #11
    most universities require 1 or 2 semesters of gen chem. Ironically, UC berkeley doenst even require it for its physics majors, I think.
    I'm not sure it most schools accept AP chem as credit for the gen chem courses. They certainly will count it for the pre-Gen chem courses.

    as for the math, all I can say is that you should try to take them at a communtiy college since your high school doesnt offer math beyond algebra 2.
  13. Sep 7, 2007 #12
    At most universities, chem is required of physics majors and can be placed out of (either 1 or 2 semesters, depending on your score) with AP credit.

    However, this is not the case with many physics classes... here, there are two physics sequences offered. Non-majors have the option of taking the trig/algebra based sequence. You can receive placement or credit for these based on AP physics scores. Physics majors are required to take the other intro sequence. This sequence has calculus as a prerequisite (and makes liberal use of it throughout the courses) and no AP credit is given.

    So compare two different students coming in to my university. Both want to major in physics but one took AP physics in highschool and the other took AP chem. The one who had chem in highschool begins the physics sequence his freshman year. The student who had physics, on the other hand, has to take two semesters of chemistry AND physics. He can either put off starting the physics sequence for a year or he can try to do both at the same time. Neither is fun.
  14. Sep 7, 2007 #13
    The APC exams test your knowledge of physics, not calculus. If youre motivated, youll be able to do well on the mechanics exam with little calc background.

    BTW theres no need to take math 1 and 2 SATIIs. Its typically one or the other. Math 2 usually has a fair amount of trig. When colleges say the want 3 subject tests, they only mean one math. Youd be better off with a math, a bio, and physics
  15. Sep 7, 2007 #14
    no one's doubting that.

    we're simply saying that he has a number of very unfortunate and out of his control factors working against him here; self studying (no teacher) BC calculus without a decent trig background and C physics without a decent calc background will not be easy at all. It's better that he get a SOLID foundation in preparation for his real education in college now then overextend himself now and get set up for a disappointment. Again, this isn't a question of ability but a question of environment.

    The real truth here is that there isn't a rush to get these things out of the way. Yes, going into college with calculus under your belt would be very nice if possible. If he's really confident in his abilities, he should be able to do this. But physics C is by no means essential.
  16. Sep 8, 2007 #15
    It's not that I don't have a decent background in Calculus, It's just that I don't have a background in Calculus at ALL!!! Neither in Pre-cal neither in trig.

    I like your idea. I think Physics C would be too tough for me, because of my weak math background. I was having problem in normal highschool physics just because of this.

    So let's say i forget AP Physics, and I focus on AP Chem and my math problem.
    (I really hate chem btw)

    Now problem #2 is the school isn't going to offer AP Chem either. So I'll have to study on my own and give the exam through the school as if I the school taught me AP Chem, that's what I did with AP bio.

    I already took SAT II Bio but I didn't score well I got a 690. So i'm giving math 1 2 and physics...

    I'm applying by dec, so my half-year transcript has to have these AP's written on it. So i'll have to ask the coodinator if he would give me credit for it, and write it on my transcripts.

    I'll still be taking ap calculus bc though. Maybe i should get a private tutor, first learn trig, and then start with calculus. can't i do it by may? the private tutor will go according to my speed. and once i'm done with trig, i'm pretty sure i'll be able to go straight to calculus.

    what do you say?
  17. Sep 8, 2007 #16
    Apples, out of curiosity here, where do you live?

    What universities are nearby? Hell, even community colleges?
  18. Sep 8, 2007 #17
    Very very long story. I've been living in Fresno, CA all my life but recently (a little before my high school started) my dad made us move to pakistan. it's part of his job. he travels a lot back and forth. But I'm coming back next year for university.
    I study in one out of the only three American High Schools here. the other high school is worse, and the second is too expensive. mine is expensive too, but we have limited resources. a normal high school in US has better resources. The majority of the schools here either have a local system, the rest follow the British Ordinary/Advanced Level systems.
  19. Sep 9, 2007 #18
    Honestly, if you had trouble with non-AP high schools Physics, don't take the AP Physics. Anything is possible with real determination, but it will be very, very difficult. At my school we are required to take 2 science APs; I chose not to take either of the AP Physics because I'm mediocre at Honors Physics, and some of the questions on the AP Physics C scare the living crap out of me.

    Do you have a strong chem background? If you do, AP Chem shouldn't be to bad. It's pretty easy for me, but then again I like chemistry, so maybe your situation will be different. I would advise AP Chem over AP Physics C, though, unless you really, really detest chemistry.

    I'm taking AP Calculus BC as well, and knowing that you haven't had calculus before makes me scared for you. Again, if you're willing to put in the time and determination, it's possible, but don't understatement the amount of work it will entail. I'm not sure you could do it by May, honestly. Consider Calculus AB; you will still get some calculus under your belt, but it's about half of what BC is.

    Good luck to you. What's most important is doing what you want; just be careful. Accept your limitations and don't overexert yourself, or you won't do well.
  20. Sep 9, 2007 #19
    If I'll have to do AP Chem in college, I'd rather do it now.

    So AP Cal BC and AP Chem it is.
    Now since I'm going to study privately, can somone recommend good books to learn from?

    Thanks a lot.
  21. Sep 9, 2007 #20
    "If I'll have to do AP Chem in college, I'd rather do it now.

    So AP Cal BC and AP Chem it is.
    Now since I'm going to study privately, can somone recommend good books to learn from?

    Thanks a lot."

    check my post #3
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook