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Electrical Circuit Analysis vs General Physics w/ Calculus

  1. Oct 2, 2013 #1
    Hi. So, currently I'm a senior in high school taking classes at the community college (my high school is paying for them) and I am having trouble deciding between these two courses.

    I learned that General Physics w/ Calculus doesn't actually have that much calculus, and I already learned a lot of it from taking AP Physics, so I'm deciding whether or not I would rather do Electrical Circuit Analysis, which is also calculus based.

    Both classes last throughout the whole year, so I can't take both. When I get out of high school I'm thinking of going into applied physics or electrical engineering, I'm not entirely sure though.

    I have to make my decision before Friday of this week. I really enjoy circuits, but I also enjoy physics. I also really enjoy math lol.

    Basically, what I'm trying to ask, is which class would I get 'more' out of?

    Please respond asap, thanks.

    Here are course descriptions of the 3 terms of Electrical Circuit Analysis:
    Fall Term:
    "Designed to give the student a thorough understanding of basic electrical circuit theory, this course covers voltage and current relationships and fundamental methods of circuit analysis. Electrical circuit parameters such as resistance, inductance, and capacitance will be examined through theory and laboratory experiments."
    Winter Term:
    "This course expands upon the techniques of circuit analysis begun in Electrical Circuit Analysis I through theory and laboratory experiments. The course covers the time response of first- and second-order circuits, the steady-state circuit behavior of circuits driven by sinusoidal sources, and the use of Laplace transforms to analyze the transient and steady-state behavior for a number of signal types."
    Spring Term:
    "This is the final course in the electrical circuits sequence. The main emphases of the course are frequency response of circuits, the design and analysis of filters, A/C steady state circuits with Laplace transform analysis, three-phase power, and two-port networks. The laboratory portion of the course will consist of one project involving significant design and analysis."

    Here are course descriptions of the 3 terms of General Physics With Calculus:
    Fall Term:
    "A lab course covering vectors, motion, kinematics, forces and Newton's laws, gravity, the conservation laws for momentum and energy, rotational motion, and oscillations."
    Winter Term:
    "A lab course covering electricity, magnetism, DC and AC circuits, and electromagnetic radiation. "
    Spring Term:
    "A lab course covering thermodynamics, fluids, waves, geometrical optics, wave optics, and modern physics."
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2013 #2
    I already know a bunch about the functioning of electrical circuits (I took two classes on it), but I haven't gotten into the Calculus part of it yet though.
  4. Oct 2, 2013 #3
    Can be done pretty easily without calculus, it'll probably cover some circuit analysis, nothing you cant do without calculus.

    Without taking differential equations you'll have trouble in this class because just in the description they talk about first/second order circuits, Laplace transforms, etc. which means you need to know calculus for this class. The 2nd class would be even more difficult.

    Easily done without calculus, but it does help. I took this class once in highschool (AP) and once in college. In highschool I didn't completely understand it, but in college (after taking calculus) it made it much easier and I understood everything.

    This class will have a lot of calculus because magnets and electricity have a lot to do with them.

    This class could have some calculus you maybe able to do without it, but it's better to have it done.

    Hope that helps.
  5. Oct 3, 2013 #4
    I agree that the circuit analysis class would be best taken after you've had differential equations. In most ODE classes you'll get introduced to laplace transforms and the forced harmonic oscillator; both will be useful for that class. You could probably still get away with taking it but you may not get as much out of it.
  6. Oct 3, 2013 #5
    Currently I'm taking vector calculus and I'm taking a differential equations class next term.
  7. Oct 3, 2013 #6
    What have you covered in your physics classes so far? Have you done the intro E&M/circuit stuff? Are you planning on skipping the intro calc based physics sequence? If not then I would suggest getting it out of the way now and really getting the basics down. Then later, move on to the circuit analysis class. I have learned that knowing the math and knowing the physics behind the math are two very different things.
  8. Oct 3, 2013 #7


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    I would choose the circuits course. You have expressed an interested in electrical engineering and you've said you like math, and you will get to use and apply math in the circuits course. I think it'll be very interesting. And learning about vectors and all that again is going to be boring as heck. I wouldn't wait for the ODE class, circuits will give you a reason to be interested in ODE's, which will probably help.
  9. Oct 3, 2013 #8


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    I have never been impressed by the quality of knowledge bestowed by high school AP calculus classes. Since a good understanding of calculus is critical to so many areas a second time through is of great benefit. Redo calculus at the college level.
  10. Oct 4, 2013 #9
    Yeah - I did this. What a waste of money. OP, if you feel you master single variable calculus at the high school level, then don't take it at the college level. All it does is slow you down from getting the the classes employers care about (e.g. engineering classes.) I took calc 1 and calc 2 first year at college when i tested out of both of them with the BC calc in high school. I definitely understood taylor series better in college, but It's used everywhere; I would have learned it whenever it showed up in later classes just fine. But it delayed me an entire year. I should have been taking diff eq., calc 3, and linear algebra freshman year instead... and then I could have taken actual engineering courses a year earlier.

    Not to mention - taking calc when you are also taking 4 or 5 other college classes leave a lot less time to learn calc. compare that to high school when everything else is super easy and the work load is relatively light. If you don't learn it well enough in highschool, how would you learn it better in college?
  11. Oct 4, 2013 #10
    Just wow... I don't even know where to begin with this.
  12. Oct 4, 2013 #11
    OK so there are reasons it could be useful to go through calc 1 again, but you can't expect this nice transition overlap ...and getting to retake courses just cause "it'd be nice to retake that course.." for the tough courses you'll face in every semester of an applied physics or ee degree. Many courses in your major in the future will both have calc in them and be harder than a calc course.

    There are reasons that you may learn it better in college. Maybe the professor at the math department at your school will be better than your teacher in high school. maybe you have an attitude change in college and simply know "this time will be different." I'm not saying it's impossible. But if you think you worked a reasonable amount in high school calc and still find it's *necessary* to take Calc 1 in college...then how are you going to finish an applied physics major or an EE major?

    Calc 2 you can make a more reasonable case for... but when you're paying for classes...i would advise to either go to a school that doesn't charge extra for doing over the "normally allowed" credit hours/semester, just requires special permissions and double major OR try to graduate in 3 years and skip the bread and butter courses (or courses that ease that transition into college).

    Although just be wary that I view colleges as unnecessarily expensive... So I'm just trying to get my bang for my buck.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  13. Oct 5, 2013 #12


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    I think integration is worth a second look, you'll know it so much better and later math courses will use it and expect you to know it.
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