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Courses Should I retake Physics I?

Hi everyone,

Somehow I ended up passing my calculus based Mechanics I class with a 60. I did well on the lab work and the problem sets but I bombed the exam and I'm really thinking whether or not I know the material well enough to continue. I feel like I know the basics but the exam was pretty tough and asked you to do a lot more complex things with the concepts. This was my first semester in University and I realized I made a lot of mistakes with my study habits (I procrastinated a lot) and I noticed a lot of gaps in knowledge, I guess I was not paying much attention in high school.

I'm considering retaking the mechanics course and trying to get an A, making sure I really get the concepts and doing every question from the textbook (or at least half). I'm not sure though, I know mechanics is important but I don't know its worth giving up my summer and setting myself back time and money. My other option is to go straight into the Electricity and Magnetism course, but I'm not sure if I'm prepared.
 
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Just so it has been said, talk to your advisor as soon as possible.

Firstly, are you sure you're even able to move on to physics II? As far as I know, it's generally required that you need to get at least a C to not only move on but for it to count toward your degree. While it's true that a D is technically passing for credit, it's usually not enough for satisfying the degree requirement or any prereq requirement. I imagine you won't have much of a choice in this matter.
 
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I'm considering retaking the mechanics course and trying to get an A, making sure I really get the concepts and doing every question from the textbook (or at least half). I'm not sure though, I know mechanics is important but I don't know its worth giving up my summer and setting myself back time and money.
Retaking the course sounds like a good idea to me. A grade of 60 on the Mech I might be technically passing, but it doesn't say much about how will you retained the material. Granted, retaking the course will cost you money and time, but in the longer term, it is almost certainly a better investment than jumping into the follow-on course.
 

Dr. Courtney

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The faculty at your school can most likely provide better advice than strangers on the internet.

At the schools where I have taught, the trade-off is staying on pace to complete your degree in 4 years vs. being properly prepared for subsequent courses given the weak understanding in Physics 1.
 

Choppy

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That's a tough question and I would echo the advice about talking to your advisor/professors on the matter.

Some things that you might want to consider...
  1. What are you majoring in, or planning to major in? If this was just a science elective that you had to get out of the way, it might be best to move on. If you were planning to major in physics or engineering, struggling with a first year mechanics course is a major problem. The course work is not going to get any easier as you go on and it will build on the stuff established in this course.

  2. Where do you stand in relation to your peers? It's always difficult to assess on these forums what someone means by a percentage grade. If the median grade in the course was a 47, you may actually have done quite well. Some professors just give hard exams and then curve things up to where they are "supposed" to be.

  3. The E&M component of first year physics can be somewhat independent of the mechanics component. Is one a prerequisite for the other at your school? If not, you might be able to turn your grades around with the E&M portion and then revisit the mechanics material in the summer. This is where a professor or advisor will be able to give you much better advice than we can.

  4. What do you plan to do differently? It sounds like you've identified some issues with your study habits, but how are you going to correct them? One major concern about taking a course a second time is that unless something major changes, you could very well end up with a similar grade.

  5. If you are planning to go on with further physics courses, you're going to have to fill in those knowledge gaps somehow. Whether you do that by locking yourself in a room and reviewing the material on your own over the summer (which tends to have a low success rate) or by formally re-taking the course, or some combination of the two (i.e. an audit of a summer course) is your decision. But this is a hill you're going to have to climb if you want this to be a stable pillar in your educational foundation.

  6. If the option is to re-take the course over the summer, you have to balance this course against the other opportunities available to you. For most students it's advisable to get a summer job to earn some money and gain some work experience. A summer course can take a severe bite out of that earning potential. Also, it's important to factor in your personal down time. Students can easily burn out if that summer break isn't there and they go from an intense couple of semesters straight into a condensed, intensive summer course.
 

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