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APs = BS

  1. Aug 5, 2006 #1
    I'll try not to rant too much--but I am sure most of you have heard of "Advanced Placement" courses and exams? Yes...

    Well ever since I first took physics as a 9th grade student, I became enthralled and realized I might want to major in it someday...well I thought I might take the AP course offering (AP Physics B) at our high school. Well I went for a long time (I am now a senior) thinking I'd be able to take it. Well I got behind 1 year in math. So now I cannot take the class at school. I've talked to several teachers at different schools and they all tell me different things... "For physics B, you need precalc" or "no, no, for physics B you don't need precalc at all! You only need Algebra II." Or "Just trig." Some even say "You need all the way up to calc." Well which is it? I'm really confused. My very uber-smart friend agreed to teach me the class enough to take the AP Exam in private though...I got quite lucky.

    I just wanted to take the class to have a better understanding of what advanced physics is like so that I might be able to figure out if I really want to pursue it in college...even if AP is like taking physics 101.
    I hate it when students take 3 or more APs in highschool just because they want it 'on their transcript.' I loathe the history APs for the reason that the class is the same length as any regular H.S. class but they're doing twice as much material so it's all going at a breakneck speed!

    I took AP Chem last year (11th grade) and I did alright in the course but I only got a 2 on the exam. (But I am also a terrible test taker.)

    Anyway I didn't mean for this to be all about me but if there are any high school students here, post your hate toward (or love for :confused: ) APs here.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2006 #2
    Realistically you only really need a solid grounding in algebra and the basics of trigonometry, there were people in my AP Physics class who were taking precalc at the same time when they didn't even learn the trig we used in physics until the second semester of precalc.

    At my highschool all of the history AP classes are a year long except maybe AP government which is really two different classes during the two different semesters which makes it a lot more work than the others which are all mostly one AP class over a whole school year of time.
  4. Aug 5, 2006 #3
    My experiences are exactly the opposite - I got a low C in high school calculus, and ended up with a '5' on the AP. I can't really judge the AP in general, I only took the one.
  5. Aug 5, 2006 #4
    I think that it really depends on the teacher you have for the class, because in my experience it seems that if the teacher is obviously only teaching to prepare for the test then the outcome probably won't be very good and there will be a lot of low scores, while if the teacher really loves the subject and teaches it very passionately without as much focus on the AP test then as long as all of the material is still covered there will probably be more higher scores on the AP test, this was the case with my AP physics teacher adn it is typically the case that the majority of students in his class recieve 4s or 5s on the AP test.
  6. Aug 5, 2006 #5

    Chi Meson

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    Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Here is where I can claim true authoritah!

    I teach AP Physics B. You do not need calculus, but you need to be very familiar with all things that lead to calculus. Some schools call this "pre-calc" some call it Algebra II, some call it Algebra III. It depends on the school what they call the "class before calculus." You need to be swift in the basic algebra "tricks" as well as basic trig and basic geometry. You don't need to know the fancier stuff that is taught in most "Pre-calc" classes, but it is in solving all the harder algebra stuff that you gain the necessary confidence in the basic stuff. Usually the hardest things on the AP exams involve simultaneous equations, and three-way combinations of general formulas, but most of the test involves simple algebra (such as, take PV=nRT and solve for an unknown "n").

    It is the Physics C exam that involves Calculus.
  7. Aug 5, 2006 #6


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    I took Physics C, not B, so I do not know for sure, but I would think you would only need a firm grasp of Algebra II and trig to do well on the test...pre cal might be nice, but is not required (I did just fine in Physics C while taking pre. cal. concurrently).

    But there is nothing to prevent you from taking any AP test without taking the corresponding course. You can still sign up, pay, and take the test with everyone else even though you were not technically in the class all year.
  8. Aug 5, 2006 #7
    I have to ask how you managed that since Physics C as opposed to Physics B is calculus based, so I think it would be a bit difficult to do well in this class without some knowledge of calculus.
  9. Aug 5, 2006 #8
    Hey mrjeffy,

    How do you know so much about chemistry, because you know a lot about chemistry :approve:

    Not bad for your age, not bad atall. :wink:

    Me dumb. :smile:
  10. Aug 5, 2006 #9


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    Well, technically, no one knows calculus when going into the AP Physics C class, since not even those students in calculus (which meant everyone but me) have had much experience at the start of the year. In my class, the teacher devoted the first couple of weeks or so to review and a major portion of that went into teaching us the basics of calculus (differentiation, integration) then he assumed we would pick up anything else we needed along the way in the real calculus class.

    But as for Physics B, I believe it is just a more in-depth version of an intro to physics class, same basic topics, but you just get harder problems, unlike Physics C which (depending on which Physics C you take, focuses just on mechanics or E&M but does it with calc.)
    If you can do the intro to physics stuff very well and have a couple more math classes under your belt, I bet you could still manage to pull it off even though you technically don’t meet all the requirements the school has set.

    Lots of home experimentation and practice (thank goodness I never have to take another chemistry class again, so boring).
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2006
  11. Aug 5, 2006 #10
    Ok that makes sense, and I can see that working pretty well with just an intro and then pick up a lot of the rest through working problems, and you do make a very good point about noone really knowing calculus going in, since the calculus classes spend more time on learning the concepts and such than applications and even then don't study very much into the applications of what is taught in calculus.
  12. Aug 5, 2006 #11


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    Gee, times have changed. When I was in high school, even the junior year physics class required calculus (even though to take it, they only required trig as a co-requisite). I learned very little, because I didn't know the calculus, and didn't even know it WAS calculus...I thought it was just the teacher's confusing short-hand for stuff (and thought he was saying "interval" rather than "integral.") :rolleyes: Nobody took the AP Physics class if they didn't already take Calculus AB, and were taking Calculus BC with it. Has the test changed over the years, or did my high school just go out of their way to torture us? (We had two physics teachers in the school, and I did get the psycho one, so it's entirely possible he was just out of touch with what the course pre-requisites were, or just didn't care...he was ex-military and it felt like he ran the class like a boot camp...when he wasn't busy taking pictures out the window of the kids smoking to turn them in to the principal. :rolleyes:)

    I was actually disappointed when I got to college and took the physics course offered for the bio and chem majors (easier than the one for physics majors, harder than the one for all the other non-science majors). It taught LESS than my high school class, and didn't require any calculus, though having been nearly drowned by it in high school, it sure made it a lot easier come test time to know how to derive the formulae I needed rather than relying on the "cheat sheet" we got to take to the exam.
  13. Aug 5, 2006 #12
    I took AP Physics B a year ago online. That is... no teacher. It was all my own work. So I can let you know exactly what you need.

    The first semester will probably be composed of mainly kinematics and statics and the such. For this, you will need to know your trig (specifically, tan cos... the inverses, and know how to use the radian measure). Other than that, all you should need to know is how to, first, find the problem in the problem, and second, find the solution (usually solving for a variable). The first semester of AP Physics B I remember as being very fun (and easy).

    The second semester is pretty much the same, except it will deal with electricity and magnitism and modern physics. However, you will need to know a little bit of the theory behind calculus (such as limits). You need to know how to use limits in solving equations. However, if you were to have a teacher, this would be cleared up very quickly and not be a problem.

    To answer you question, algebra II with basic knowledge in trig is needed for AP Physics B.

    Paden Roder
  14. Aug 5, 2006 #13


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    Keep in mind Solar Flare, that usually AP are not counted as college credits. In my experience only community colleges of the same area as your high school take them. The schools push for them so much because
    1) They get money out of it if more kids do AP
    2) The only kids that would think about AP are ones that can do it
  15. Aug 6, 2006 #14


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    Many colleges do count them toward your coursework requirements. However, I would highly advise AGAINST using AP credit to skip a course required for your major. Even if you score well on the exam, there is a lot of variation in how high school courses are taught across the country, and what's covered in the introductory college courses, so it's best to take all the courses for your major so you're not lost in your second year courses. The better use of AP credits is to get some of your general education/core curriculum/elective courses out of the way. By all means take the course in high school, because it'll make it that much easier to learn the material in college, but I'd suggest only taking the AP test on the subjects that are not related to your major, because you wouldn't want to skip the intro courses in your major.
  16. Aug 6, 2006 #15
    Why all the hate towards AP's?
    How did you get "behind in math"? I'd imagine a student "enthralled" with physics wouldn't have any trouble with HS math at all.
    AP Physics B requires just Algebra II and some trigonometry. However, both AP Physics C exams require Calculus II. If your teachers won't let you take the course at your school, you can always self-study the material and then take the exam. (Just of out curiousity, what is your current level of mathematics?)
    I'd suggest you study the Physics C curriculum (or, more generally, a calculus-based physics curriculum) for a better idea of introductory level college physics (although, interestingly enough, colleges/universities sometimes have non-calculus-based "math/physics for humantities/social science majors").
    Why the "hate"?
    If you dislike this policy, talk to the colleges/universities about their AP policies, not your schoolmates.
    Regarding transcripts, public colleges/universities confer more credit unto AP/honors courses, allowing students to earn GPA's above 4.00. Furthermore, satisfactory AP exam scores allow students to satisfy certain public college/university GE requirements, allowing prospective public college/university students more flexibility in pursuing their intended majors.
    Solar Flare, what exactly is wrong with students desiring AP courses on their transcripts?
    What is wrong with a more rigorous and/or faster-paced HS curriculum? (From my experience, public HS needs more of that :biggrin:)
    Personally, I find nothing wrong with the AP courses/exams. Simply put, they are optional exams that test students on selected course material. They may not be subject-comprehensive, but so what? :smile:
    This wasn't, by any chance, due to a lack of "effort" or "homework completed" in that high school class? :redface:
    Yes, bomba923 decided to delete a certain post...:devil:
    Not true at all. But it does depend greatly on "which" college/university is looking at the AP exams (yes, exams. Not courses. Thank goodness). For the most part, 3's,4', & 5's on certain AP exams translates towards GE (general education) credits.

    For example, a five (5) on AP Biology/Chemistry/Physics exams means that humanities majors might not have to take a "GE introduction to sciences" course; but, biology/chemistry/physics majors would likely have to take Biology/Chemistry/Physics 101 ("for science majors") or something like that. A five (5) on AP Art History/English might eliminate some "GE - Ethnic/English/etc Literature" requirement, but art/English majors would likely have to take Art/English 101. ("/" = or) Well, you get the point.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2006
  17. Aug 6, 2006 #16

    Chi Meson

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    Actually, most colleges will take a 4 or 5 on the Pysics B exam for credit, but not for an Engineering or PHysics-as-major Phyiscs credit. This is the case at high-level collleges (but perhaps not the highest: MIT doesn't of course). There are polenty of people who enter college "as a sophmore" because they have 18 or so AP credits already.
  18. Aug 12, 2006 #17
    You only need Algebra to be able to do well in AP Physics B, plus a bit of info on the trig ratios, but you're given those on the formula sheet so if you've got algebra, you'll be good to go.

    Does it cover everything in enough detail to leave you having a better understanding of physics? Maybe, but it isn't THAT beneficial. Depending on your teacher, you'll either get the understand you want or you'll get tons of standardized test prep questions on your tests and rushed explanations of topics; I had the latter.

    Tell me about it; I was in a class where mostly everyone took the class just because they needed it for university, yet they weren't really interested in physics.

    Well, I guess I kind of loved it, yet I kind of hated it. It was alright, but I didn't benefit too much from my physics classes; the only reason I took them was because I enjoy math, but I wasn't allowed to take calculus, so I took both Physics B and Physics C. Physics C was very fun (Although we had the ****tiest textbook ever-- Tipler) and pretty challenging, but to be honest, apart from the Mechanics and E&M in Physics B, Physics B was very boring.
    No clue how I did though; my results arrive at my school in a week or two.
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