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Claim AP cred. for first year physics?

  1. Jul 3, 2011 #1
    I'm going to start college in the fall for EE and I made a 5 on my mechanics AP test and a 4 on my E&M AP test. I've been told that these are two weeder classes at my university and while I am confident I could make an A in both with hard work, I'm starting to think it might be smart to save myself from the wrath of these courses again and instead just claim the credit. (I've talked to some students from my college who say take it and run but most of them are only first year so I don't know whether to trust this advice or not.)

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I figure that the physics you learn in a first year uni class isn't really what you use in engineering. The thing that worries me if that I have to take a "Modern physics for engineers" and I don't want to screw myself over by not repeating the courses if this modern phys. class is closely related and difficult to jump into again after just claiming AP cred.

    If I don't take these classes, I will be able to squeeze in another liberal arts cred or two that I need for my degree plan (a humanities or history of some sort) and go from 13 to possibly 15 hours.

    So my questions are:

    - Is mechanics/E&M really all that fundamental in other engineering courses such that I will get screwed over if I don't retake it?

    - What exactly does a "modern physics for engineers" entail?

    - Is there anything else I should consider as far as my options go?
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2011 #2
    Well, it depends on exactly what you want to do in engineering and why you are pursuing the degree. But in general, these fundamental topics will come up time and time again, and the more comfortable you are with them, the better off you will be. If you're worried that the classes might be difficult despite your AP credits, then that is a good sign that you are not comfortable enough with the material to skip it.

    Also, one important question is this: does the E&M class require multivariable calculus? AP E&M does not, but my university (engineering) E&M did require it. Basically if you didn't do any multivariable, you didn't really do E&M.
  4. Jul 4, 2011 #3
    Here's the problem I keep running into: first year profs suck and make things unnecessarily difficult. I asked a [now] sophomore at my uni. what he thought and he said:

    "I would claim as much AP credit as you can. I also thought retaking the Physics classes would be a good idea, but they suck at [my univ]. Just extra stress. Although, you may want to take PHYS 208 (E&M) again because that is directly related to your major."

    He's he got lazy at the end of his HS year and didn't test out so he's taking the class at a comm college during the summer to avoid it [although I'm sure he would have been perfectly capable to have done well].

    I guess the main decision is whether or not I should take mech again. I have a whole semester to decide if I want to do E&M or not.

    I have no intentions on switching to any other engr. Although it is possible, I've made up my mind and I want to stick with it on EE. I'm not a fan of mech anyway. Will the stuff I learn in my mechanics class really be applicable in EE?
  5. Jul 4, 2011 #4
    And as far as multivariable goes, I'm assuming since I don't know what it is I didn't do it. lol Is this something that comes into play during the second semester of uni calc? Because that is what I'll be taking if I do end up taking E&M.
  6. Jul 4, 2011 #5
    Third, usually.
  7. Jul 4, 2011 #6
    I doubt then that that would be apart of the curriculum until sometime later if that's true. The only other physics course I am required to take is a modern physics for engineers during fourth semester with a differential equations class.
  8. Jul 4, 2011 #7
    If your modern physics class has a lot to do with waves, then don't take the credit as the AP curriculum doesn't cover waves. If your modern physics class has little to do with waves, then take the credit.
  9. Jul 4, 2011 #8


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    Exactly what kind of physics do you think engineers use then? Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to use the more advanced stuff, but in the vast majority of problems, at some point you have to come back to the basics. Although I can't comment on the particulars of electical engineering, as you advance, you'll find that anything you skim over, or 'just learn for the exam' will come back to haunt you.

    I don't know about 'screwed over.' But I'm always a little leary about these "AP" high school courses giving one university credit. If the course wasn't a part of my major (ie, if you were asking this about an AP history class) then I would consider taking the credit.

    I found the university experience to be a completely different animal from high school though. The professors spoke a slightly different language, they did't explain all their notation they way my high school teachers did, they challenged us with problems that not everyone in the class could solve - even if they put a huge effort into it, they went off on tangents explaining how the basics related to more advanced stuff, or to current problems in research, etc. On top of that, you're in a different world with different responsibilities and freedoms and opportunities. So a little review here and there can be helpful.

    Go check out the syllabus and the recommended textbook, and maybe the previous year's exam.

    A lot can also depend on the quality of your teacher and high school program, too. Some teachers are far better than university professors. Others never took university-level physics and are forced into teaching a class through union rules.

    So the question back to you is: are you so confident that you feel doing this course would be a waste of your time? If you're sure it would be, then go ahead and skip it. If you're unsure, you may not want to.

    What kind of an attitude is that? First year profs suck? Are you sure that wasn't a 12 year old you were speaking to? You may want to seek advice from people who are at least a little more articulate.

    You may also want to ask yourself if you think its realistic that the teaching quality will increase as you advance. I can pretty much guarantee that if all first year profs suck second, third and fourth year profs won't be too much different.
  10. Jul 4, 2011 #9
    Well maybe I should rephrase my initial question to ask if I'm going into EE, would retaking the mechanics course really be that beneficial to me as far as being prepared down the road for more difficult EE related courses.

    As for this last bit, I think he was referring more to the general atmosphere of weeder classes that are made ridiculously difficult in order to cut down the number of students in the program with such a large freshman class. It's not impossible to make an A, but if that time can be spent devoted to the engineering and calculus courses which I didn't take in HS, it seems to make more sense just to take credit.
  11. Jul 5, 2011 #10
    First: Students seem to complain about the calc-based intro to EM at every university I know. But it's part of every accredited electrical Engineering program I know. It doesn't appear that you talked to any EE students in your comments. Your comments make it seem like you asked the students who give tours or are hired for "orientation week" (not likely side jobs for any EE students I know). I have had EE students some back and thank me for the rigor of my course (which I don't try to make a weeder course... but rather match the standards of such a course as seen at other institutions with accredited degree programs in engineering).

    Second: Can you use real parameters to find out the level of the course(s) and see if things match what you've taken? I.e.... Can you find out what text is being used and look through it? Find some old exams? See if you can meet with a professor who teaches the course and seek his/her opinion? This is the most logical way to look into the matter... not talking to people who have not yet gotten to upper-level coursework.

    Third: Depending on where your career heads, the EM class may or may not be really "useful"... but it might be too early to know. For example: the typical EM class section on circuits is a lot easier than the circuit class, so if you're planning to do circuit design maybe it's not so important (you'll get the good stuff in a later "weeder" class).... but if you want to do electro-optical engineering (or maybe branch out into materials design and characterization) the field theory sections (i.e. the Maxwell's equations content) can be extremely important (Note: I've taken graduate work in electrical engineering where this would be the case). Do you really know as an incoming freshman what you'll find most interesting (or even if you'll stick with this major)?
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