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Need help deciding to use AP Physics B/C credit

  1. Oct 24, 2009 #1
    I'm currently a senior in HS, and I've gotten a 5 on the Physics B AP exam and hope to get a 5 on the Physics C AP exam (mech and electro).

    I asked my teacher what I should do (I'm going to University of Texas at Austin; ME major) about the credits.

    Some posters here at this forum have told me that I should never use the credit because I'll be dealing with physics so much in college. Plus, I didn't get a proper education and understanding of post-mechanics physics in my Physics B course.

    On the other hand, my teacher advised me to go ahead and take the credits so I could skip those intro courses. She said the reason for this was that intro Physics classes were designed to weed out students and were ridiculously difficult. As a bonus, I'll be saving quite a few hundred dollars and quite a bit of time.

    I believe I'm as adequately prepared in algebraic mechanics as a high school student can be. I'm not so sure about Physics C's calculus-based physics though, however there's still quite a bit of time till the exam.

    So my question:
    Should I go ahead and skip the courses that Physics B/C would exempt me from? Or not take the credit and struggle through the weed-out classes?

    Thanks a lot in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2009 #2
    Two suggestions:

    Talk to faculty at UT (in your major) and see what they recommend you do. Be prepared to discuss what text you used, what your laboratory experience was like, etc. Hopefully they'll know enough about the courses in physics at UT to see if your experience is comparable. Also: If they've seen students take the credits and succeed, they'll let you know... and if they've seen students take the credits and not succeed in upper level courses, they'll let you know.

    You could also perhaps talk to the physics dept. at UT and ask for syllabi of the courses for which you would receive credit, and compare it on your own (in terms of text used, and chapters covered, etc.) to your experience. Sometimes you can even find these syllabi online through the departments site, or by "googling" the course number and name.

    And: congrats on the 5!
  4. Oct 24, 2009 #3
    I would take the intro classes at the university. If they are difficult, isn't that more of a reason to take them?
  5. Oct 24, 2009 #4


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    Take the credit and run. Freshman physics is cruel and unusual punishment. If you are really worried about your physics knowledge you can round it out with some extra study and/or electives. The physics B won't give you any usefull credit though.
  6. Oct 24, 2009 #5


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    You should probably see if you can get a hold of some problem sets or exams from previous semesters of the pertinent courses. This way you can determine the difficulty level of the class and whether or not it really is worth retaking. As far as freshman physics being cruel and unusual, I don't know about that, having never taken one of the "weeding out" courses. However, it is useful to develop familiarity and comfort with using some more advanced techniques like taylor expansions that you probably don't use in high school physics. In my opinion, this kind of physical maturity is very important when going on in upper level classes.
  7. Oct 24, 2009 #6
    i agree with this^^ youve proved yourself enough by succeeding in ap physics in highschool, i think youll be fine man.

    i have a question though. couldnt the op accept the credits, and if his other physics class turns out to hard, couldnt he take the intro for a pass or fail grade? i mean just because youve passed a class, doesnt mean you cant retake it. i know kids who have gotten C's in classes, and have retaken them for the A. although i think that's a waste of money , so i try hard to get A's the first times./
  8. Oct 24, 2009 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    I think physics_girl_phd is absolutely right on the money.

    Look at it this way: if the department recommends that you do one thing, do you really want to do something else?
  9. Oct 24, 2009 #8


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    College or university is different from high school, including the way classes are taught and what is expected of you in them. This is true even if your high-school courses were AP courses which are nominally equivalent to college-level courses.

    Many freshmen go through a "shock and awe" period during which they have to adjust to the new climate. Would you rather go through that while learning brand-new material in upper-division courses that normally sophomores and above take, or while refreshing your memory of stuff that you did in high school?
  10. Oct 25, 2009 #9


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    What a terible idea students have that you need to take a class twice to understand it. If the second class is not better than the first is a third recomended? I question the wisdom of spending 400 hours and 4-5k$ learning that things fall when dropped and rolling things down an incline plane in a class of 500 people with a profesor who could not pick any of her students out of a line up. Doing so when one already knows the material is even less valuable. Taylor expansions are an advanced method now? I will provide right here coverage better than the average freshman course as presented by the typical TA (english proficiency not required).
    "All student know how Taylor in Homeworks? No! Should know is much basic. No be worry I teach. Have thing like sin(x) yes? See x-x^3/6 same when do physic. Now go do Homework due soon."
    Of course this only applies to standard freshman physics. At schools where the class has twelve people and encourages actual thinking it may be worth while.
    I would not trust any department to have students interest at heart, but here is something from utapd.
    from ut austin physics department
    Re PHY 301: Possibly you had a similar course in high school, though maybe not at the same mathematical level. If you scored a “5” on the AP Physics B exam, we encourage you to claim credit for PHY 301 and move on to PHY 316. You can also take our placement exam (offered each fall by DIAA here at UT) to see if you can place out of the course.
    Re PHY 316 : Possibly you had a similar course in high school, though maybe not at the same mathematical level. If you scored a “5” on the AP Physics C exam, we encourage you to claim credit for PHY 316 and move on to PHY 315. You can also take our placement exam (offered each fall by DIAA here at UT) to see if you can place out of the course.
  11. Oct 25, 2009 #10
    Everyone brings up very good points, and so I'm still quite mixed about what to do.

    I'll try to talk the department people there and see what they advise...

    Thank you all.
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