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Schools Physics at university

  1. Apr 10, 2008 #1
    I can't decide whether to do physics at university or not. I'm doing my A2 right now in the UK. Physics seems really interesting but I can't do maths too well. I got an A grade last year for AS and I'm predicted an A this year... but does physics at university require monster maths?

    I was also thinking about going to the US to do my undergraduate degree... how is physics done at high school in the US compared to the UK? Would you say one is more difficult than the other?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2008 #2
    Hey, I'm a 2nd year Physics student at Warwick, so I thought I'd chip in.

    Physics is definitely maths heavy at uni, especially when you compare it to Physics A-level! But, the maths is a necessary 'evil', and in my opinion, the maths isn't such a bad thing. I find the maths and the derivations mean that the physics makes sense, and you definitely get a deeper insight. I wouldn't worry too much about the maths though, I would suggest that enthusiasm and interest for physics can overcome any slight difficulties you're having with your maths. I would class myself as about average at maths, and would like to think I'm doing pretty well at physics; a physical insight is much more valuable than being about to breeze through tonnes of maths exercises. If you don't mind me asking, how are you doing in A-level maths?

    As for the US, I can't help you there. But good luck!
  4. Apr 10, 2008 #3
    As for my maths grades, I've got A grades for all my modules so far, although I have to revise a lot to achieve it. But many of my friends do further maths which I don't. Is that a huge disadvantage??

    And I don't know if it's okay to like physics without being a fan of maths.
  5. Apr 10, 2008 #4
    Getting an A in every single module is fantastic, much better than I did! Congratulations! As for the furthermaths situation, it's definately not a disadvantage, I didn't take it, and neither did most of my friends. You'll cover all the further maths stuff (that's relevant), in the first few weeks, and they assume that no-one's taken further maths. So, those who take further maths might have a relatively easy first few weeks, but it doesn't make any difference in the long run.

    I'll try and give you a little taster of what maths is like in a Physics degree (Disclaimer: I can only speak from my experiences here at Warwick, so it might be different elsewhere!). Basically, for the first 2 years, you have dedicated maths lectures where you'll learn all the maths you need: vectors, complex numbers, differential equations, series/Taylor series/Fourier Series, Integrals, Fourier Transforms, Linear algebra...etc etc. These'll be taught in a stand-alone lecture series; a bit like taking physics and maths at a-level. You'll have problem sheets and exams and stuff to do for the Maths lectures- and they'll be similar to a-level maths questions, in the sense that they'll be maths problems, and they probably won't be set in any physical situation. Then, you'll be using the maths in Physics lectures, like in E&M, you'll be using vector calculus, and so it'll be more physics-y, and for me, it makes more sense in this kind of situations. Of course, this might well sound pretty scary, but you do get used to the whole lectures/lots of maths situation.

    I would say that most people don't look forward to maths lectures, so it's not like we totally adore maths. But, obviously, if you hate the sight maths, and can't wait until you finish your maths A-level - then Physics isn't for you. At the end of the day, though, it's your choice, and it's up to you to make a decision that you feel comfortable with. What I will say, though, it seems that you have the ability and interest in physics to do well!

    Hope that's helped. :blushing:
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