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AP Physics C or B?

  1. Nov 7, 2005 #1
    I'm a highschool sophmore. I have an A in AP Calculus AB and a B in AP Chemistry. Next year, I want to do an Independent Study on AP Physics C since my school does not offer AP Physics C. I will also take AP Calculus BC(my school offers this)next year. I have had no previous highschool level Physics courses. Do you think I should take AP Physics C or AP Physics B(My school offers this)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2005 #2
    You're in AP calc as a sophmore? Nice! I'm currently taking the class as a senior.

    Well, if the classes you are choosing between are like the ones offered at my school — unless you feel pretty confident with calculus, I would go with B. C is pretty calculus intensive, and I believe it deals with electromagnetism. I am in B, and I find it pretty interesting.

    I also, never took physics prior to the AP course.
  4. Nov 7, 2005 #3


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    I'm actually kinda confused on what the Physics C test is on. I remember Physics B being a bunch of mechanics.
  5. Nov 7, 2005 #4
    Seriously, if you think that you're going to go into anything that's science-related in college, take one (or both) of the C's. B is essentially worthless, because there's an extremely good chance that your college will make you re-learn it with the calculus added anyway. Plus, you can't get very far in physics without calculus. Finally, it's not as if the calculus contained in the C's is very in-depth: if you can integrate and differentiate simple functions (such as polynomials, exponentials, and trigonometrics), you'll do fine.
  6. Nov 7, 2005 #5


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    The AP Physics C test is actually two tests. There is a mechanics and a Electricty and magnetism test, you can take one or the other, or both.

    I took Physics C, the class, last year in school. Even only focusing on the mechanics side, we were still rushing to get done with all the material by the end of April (test was in early May), forget about E&M. I took both tests, i figured it couldnt hurt, you pay the same price.
    The mechanics test was just that, a lot of mechanics problems, pretty much as expected. The E&M test, which I just took for fun basically, was a whole lot of "what is the potential at this point?", and "describe the net force acting on the object if a current is running through a wire....". I cant remember much detail about it, other than all the E&M I learned from Physics I was not enough to cut it.

    I know some other people who's AP Physics class covered both sections of the test (1 per semester), who were flying through the material to cover everything. In the end, they took and passed both Physics C tests. So alot of it depends on the instructor.

    Physics B on the other hand covers slightly different subjects. it has mechanics in it of course, but also heat, E&M, waves, and nuclear physics. But it is algebra based where as Physics C is calculus based.
  7. Nov 7, 2005 #6
    as i always tell my friends
    enroll phy B, self-study C test and take as much as you are able to take.
    Since you are senior, you should be accepted by university by the time the scores of APs are being released. It will make your transcript no different.
    And there is no way you can fail a B test while you are able to pass C test.
    My advise is that you should get as many credits as you can.

    Not using them is better than not having them.
  8. Nov 9, 2005 #7
    It depends on what you want to do in college. If you'd like to take physics as a major, then I say enroll yourself in Physics C and take the test, but still take the intro physics classes as a freshman in college. It may be me, but I like to have the fundamentals very well covered so more advanced topics make more sense.
  9. Nov 11, 2005 #8
    Take physics b. I think it's a lot better of an intro physics course than the standard mechanics/em course, like physics c. If you learn a bit of the material from physics c and take ap calc, you shouldn't have a problem passing the placement test or whatever to get into the advanced track for freshman physics.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2005
  10. Nov 13, 2005 #9
    I'm currently enrolled in AP Physics B and have AP Physics C next semester.
    But, in my opinion, I think you should take AP Physics C... (If you're going into an engineering/physics/math field)
    I see AP Physics B as being a very general "I just want to know what general physics is" kind-of course whilst AP Physics C is more "So..... mechanics and electromagnetism, huh?" and it really goes in depth with the topics and explains things in a very mathematical way. (AP Physics B seems more qualitative than quantitative from what I've seen)
    Also, I don't think it's a good idea to dive directly into an AP Physics class without doing a regular physics class, unless your school offers a whole-year-course. (With us, the teacher covered most of the mechanics/electricity stuff in our regular college-preparatory physics and pretty much skimmed through them and is currently introducing what he didn't teach us; this makes more effective use of our half-year/one-semester course)

    But if you're more of a qualitative "I don't like calculus too much" kind-of-guy, go for AP Physics B.

    Just be warned, fluid mechanics is very annoying. :D
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