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Did bad in undergrad EM. retake or directly go to grad EM?

  1. Dec 8, 2012 #1
    I did pretty bad in undergrad EM and remember nothing. However, my advisor says that since I'm doing well in my mathematical physics class, and if I get an A, I should directly take the grad EM course to not waste time. However, he acknowledges that I had difficulties with EM in the past, so wouldn't be opposed to me retaking undergrad EM. He also advised me that if I was to take the grad EM course it'll be best for me to work problems over the break to go over my weak points and get ready for the big boys league.

    We're not using Jackson for the grad EM course; if we were I'm definitely going to retake undergrad EM. Instead we are using "Classical Electromagnetism" by Franklin. I looked at the book and it doesn't seem as brutal as Jackson, so I'm kind of thinking, should I risk it?
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  3. Dec 8, 2012 #2


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    I think it's a bit hard for us to give you a good tip.
    Look, at my university the system was really bad; we passed from Resnick-Halliday EM to Jackson (first half of the book, up to Magnetostatic) in 1 semester. No wonder that after 2 weeks there were only around 15 people remaining in the lectures out of 40 and eventually a few would do well up to the end. The mathematical methods course would be the semester that follows which is completely ridiculous.
    Personally, if I were you, I would take the grad EM course if I felt confortable solving PDE's such as Laplace and the wave equation in spherical, cylindrical and Cartesian coordinates. Also knowing how to use Green functions to solve a problem in EM is probably important (I haven't checked out the book of Franklin). You should also know well Gauss's theorem and review several calculus vector identities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_calculus_identities).
    But you know yourself more than us and if you are able to quickly absorb a lot of new stuff then I'd go for it if I were you.
  4. Dec 8, 2012 #3

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    What are your options for backing out of the grad class if you are in over your head?
  5. Dec 8, 2012 #4


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    What country are you in? What university are you attending? Are you in a PhD program? Master's? How bad is "pretty bad?" What grade did you get? At what school? What does it mean that you "remember nothing?" Nothing beyond what you learned in a freshman survey?
  6. Dec 8, 2012 #5
    When my graduate E&M class got to complex contour integrals and residues, I had to quit, and I did very well in undergraduate E&M. So, unless you're just trying to take the grad class "early," and there's no penalty for backing out and trying again, I'd say be careful.
  7. Dec 9, 2012 #6
    Also important: what mathematics do you still know/remember?
  8. Dec 9, 2012 #7
    will be completing a grad level mathematical physics class; it covered complex analysis, non-Cartesian coordinate systems, vector and tensor analysis, and Green functions. Extremely struggling, but have a 80% average which is above class average.

    no penalty if I don't take it yet, just need to within 2 years. if I can't handle it the advisor said just drop within 2 weeks and go to the undergrad class. I'd just lose the 50 dollars for the textbook.
  9. Dec 9, 2012 #8
    did bad: below a B, even with a huge curve. remember nothing: all I know is plugging in formulas for electrostatics and knowing how to prove vector identities and using different gauges to make the Maxwell equations look like wave equations (this one was homework in the math class). anything that requires non-trivial physical setting up without nice symmetries or being told explicitly what to do is too hard. I plan to work alot of problems in Griffith chapters 3-10 to catch up.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  10. Dec 9, 2012 #9
    What you just described is probably fine for a foothold on Jackson, which was the standard ED text in final-year undergrad. Green function approaches, spherical vector harmonic expansions of plane waves, tensor analysis especially for the QFT groundwork... These are about as tough as it gets in courses using Jackson AFAIK. Sounds like you're fine.
  11. Dec 10, 2012 #10
    You know, if I was having difficulty learning to swim in 3 feet of water, I'm not sure that moving up to 8 feet of water would really help matters.

    That said, your advisor probably knows both you and the course better than random people on the internet.
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