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Does a C in physics 1 Mechanics look bad for an engineering major?

  1. Dec 5, 2012 #1
    I am debating on whether I should retake this course to not only get a better grade but to also make sure I have a better understanding of it before I go into physics 2 electromagnetism.

    two questions:
    Will a C in physics hurt me?
    Should I make sure I have physics 1 mechanics down before attempting physics 2 electromagnetism?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 5, 2012 #2
    Whether it looks bad is the least of your problems. Your major problem now is that you probably don't know the material all that well. At least, that is what a C indicates.

    Physics I is quite important. Other courses may depend on it a lot. If you don't know the material well, then you will struggle in those other courses. So the first concern you should have now is that you got to know the material for the future.

    Maybe you do know the material well enough to go to other courses, but only you can decide that. You have to find out what you did wrong and make the necessary adjustments.
  4. Dec 5, 2012 #3
    Thanks for replying and I am going to retake the class. I read the chapters but the exams were still tough. Nobody did really well on them in my class but I put in a lot of hard work. There might have been a chance that I could have gotten a B only because so many people did poorly on the last exam but I know that that B would not have been legit. I want an A though.
  5. Dec 5, 2012 #4
    I understand that nobody really did well, but somehow some people did manage to get an A or a B, right? Getting a C means that you don't know the material as well as the people who got an A or a B. It could also mean other things of course, like that you had a bad day on the day of the final exam, etc.

    You have to ask yourself how well you know the material. In particular: do you know the material well enough to get through the other classes. Even with a C, it may turn out that you do know the material well (or even with an A, it may turn out that you don't). Your grade is only one indication. But eventually, it is a question that you have to answer yourself. Maybe you can try to solve some hard questions in physics or from other exams and see how well you do??

    Anyway, if you think that you know the material well enough, then I wouldn't bother retaking the class. If you did poorly in Mechanics I, but if you got excellent scores on your other classes, then people will see that the Mechanics score was just a small bump in the road and nothing serious. A freshman is usually allowed to make these kind of mistakes. If you're a senior however, then this might have been much more serious.

    However, if you doubt that you know your stuff well, then I would certainly retake the class. You can only benefit from it.
  6. Dec 5, 2012 #5


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    The answer to your question depends on whether "Physics 1" refers to, e.g., a course at a community college, or honors physics at MIT. If it's the former, your C is actually an F. If it's the latter, then congratulations for passing.

    What school allows you to retake a course after getting a C??
  7. Dec 5, 2012 #6
    The semester has not finished yet but I am at a C. This is a course at a community college. I just do not feel good on getting a C in that class. I would have to do poorly on purpose to get lower than a C in that class because we can't bargain for our grade.
  8. Dec 6, 2012 #7
    This is not good at all. Getting a C in a community college physics course is bad and is kind of equivalent to failing the course. In this case, I think it is fair to say that you indeed do not understand the material as well as you should understand it. So I highly suggest to retake the course.
  9. Dec 6, 2012 #8
    " I read the chapters but the exams were still tough."

    Is this all you did? Did you read the examples until you understood them? How many questions did you practice before you did the exam?
  10. Dec 6, 2012 #9
    After I read a section I would try to do the example on my own. I defnitely did read the exampls and the problems I practiced were on the books study guide which only gave 8 or 9 practice problems per chapter. I also did the homework the teacher gave out which were about another 10 problems. I am assuming that this was the problem. I was working hard and doing my reading but maybe I was not studying the "right way". What would you recommend on how I should study? Did I practice enough problems?
  11. Dec 6, 2012 #10
    Were you able to solve the problems without help?
    After solving the problems, did you feel like you understood the material?
    Did you actively look for very hard problems to solve?

    What were the typical mistakes you made in your tests??
    Can you explain why you got a C?
    Did you talk to your teacher about your performance?
  12. Dec 6, 2012 #11


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    Yep. I teach physics at a community college, and this is exactly right. A C is really an F. You could take the course again at another community college, or you could consider changing your major.

    Often when students practice problems, what they get out of doing the problems is not what they should be getting. You can try to do them by applying cookie-cutter problem solving procedures, or you can do them by understanding fundamental principles and applying the principles.

    Since you're at a community college, you should have good access to your prof in office hours. If you end up retaking the course, get some face time with your prof, working on problems. Show up having tackled the problems and knowing exactly where you're stuck and need help.
  13. Dec 6, 2012 #12
    How does retaking the class at a different community college work out? I thought that once you got a C you can't retake it anymore. Also should I have practiced all of the physics problems in the book?
  14. Dec 6, 2012 #13
    The problems that I practiced were never as hard as the ones from the exams. My mistake was not being able to apply what I learned to a whole new problem that I have never seen before. I guess that would mean the critical thinking part.
  15. Dec 6, 2012 #14


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    I don't think one community college knows or cares what you've taken at another community college, unless it's a prerequisite issue, in which case they make you bring them a transcript. (This is how I think it works here in California.)

    What state are you in?
  16. Dec 6, 2012 #15
    I am in California too. I most likely will be getting a D though :(. Then retake this class in the spring.
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