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High School Physics Placement Advice

  1. Nov 14, 2015 #1
    I'm currently a Sophomore in High School taking Academic Chemistry and a Straight A student (except for a B+ in Spanish 3, atm), and since I want to pursue Physics as a career path, I really want to take AP Physics. I am only in Geometry right now, but I'm planning to take Algebra 2 over the summer to put me into Pre-Calc. next year. I have heard that you should really be doing Calc. for AP Physics, but I am willing to take that challenge. I have also been spending quite a lot of time doing independent studies into Physics to build up background knowledge.

    On the other hand, my state college does have a nice Physics department (rated in the 20's for top-physics programs), so if I don't take AP, I assume I still have a good chance to at least get into my state college for a BS, and then continue on to get further education at a more science-eccentric Grad school. I also can take AP senior year, but I feel like I wouldn't enjoy academic Physics, since I am getting rapidly more passionate for it. Any Advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2015 #2
    If your school offers it, you could take AP Physics B, which is non-calculus based (Algebra 2 and Pre-calc will more than suffice for this class). AP Physics B will not fulfill any of the physics requirements in college if you major in physics, but at least it will give you an idea if this is a subject that truly interests you.

    If not, I'd say it's not a bad idea to take Calculus and AP Physics C (calculus-based version of physics) concurrently; of course, you'll need to plan out your class schedule accordingly, since I'm not sure what other subjects you may plan to take in your senior year. AP Physics C will fulfill some of the introductory physics requirements if you do decide to major in physics.

    Good on you for getting ahead in math by taking courses during the summer. To be honest, the calculus involved in AP Physics C is not so incredibly difficult (integrals, derivatives, a bit about power series) that you could not study these concepts on your own ahead of time without taking calculus (assuming you were strong in pre-calc). Of course, you shouldn't neglect to have as strong a background in mathematics as possible if you want to be a physicist, so I would still recommending doing both Calculus AB and BC while still in high school.
  4. Nov 14, 2015 #3
    Thanks for the advice! I'll be meeting with my counselor in the spring for scheduling, so i'll defiantly be asking about the AP courses offered. Since there is no way to get into Calc. next year, B may be my safest choice, and the I can always take C in Senior year (since I don't care too much for Environmental Science and isn't an requirement for graduating). As for Calc AB and AC, I will have to see if the summer courses will offer those, and if so, I can take one next summer and then the other in Senior year. Once again, thanks!
  5. Nov 15, 2015 #4
    Taking Physics A and B at the same time as pre-calculus and trig is perfectly ok as long as you know how to utilize the basic trig functions properly (which you should learn in geometry). They only really demand you take Calculus with it if you're taking Physics C. You should take both AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism your senior year to properly prepare for the Honors Physics classes at your university that any reputable uni will recommend you take to get a feel for what Physics truly like.
  6. Nov 15, 2015 #5
    Thanks, i'll see if I can take both AP classes in senior year (may have to drop math for it, but if I do Calc in the summer then i'll be fine).
  7. Nov 15, 2015 #6


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    I'm sure you mean Science-centric, but I still have no idea what that means.

    I'm confused about this, so you want to be a physics major, but feel like you wouldn't enjoy academic physics?

    How long are your summer sessions, is this a year round school?
  8. Nov 15, 2015 #7
    1.) Yeah, I meant centric. Sorry, must of been a typo.
    2.) It means schools built around science, so like how MIT it built around technology studies rather then being something general like a state college that can cover multiple degrees(such as sciences to psychology to sports). I haven't gone university searching yet so I don't even know if there is many science-centric schools out there.
    3.)Academic, when compared to Honors and AP, is a slower paced course. For someone that indulges himself into Physics as a free-time thing, I would find myself bored taking the academic course, and feel as if it is dumbed down when comparing to my skill-level (not trying to oversell myself here). I'm kicking myself in the butt for not taking up honors chem., and know that i'll feel worse if I did the same for Physics. So maybe "enjoy" wasn't the best choice of wording ^^;
    4.)Summer sessions is just the three months of summer, but do act as an actual course that you were to take during the 10 month span of regular school.
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