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Should I take AP physics C with my current Situation?

  1. May 17, 2015 #1
    Hi. I've been pondering on this decision lately. I'm a Junior in high school and have been accepted to take AP physics C for senior year starting with my fall semester next school year. I really want to pursue a physics/ engineer related major, but here's the thing. I'm aware that AP physics C is a calculus based class, however, I will not be taking calculus at all for my senior year. I have to take pre- calc next year and it's not my choice on whether I do or don't. I want to know If it would be a good idea to take this class, or if I should just drop it. I told the teacher of the class prior to handing in the AP science application that I will not be taking calculus next year and that I will be taking pre calc. What he told me is that he teaches all of the calculus that you need to know for the class. However, from some people who have taken (or are taking the class), and friends of those taking the class, I have been told that he just skims through the calculus part to the point that the calculus and even the calculus AB have a hard time in the class. This really intimidated me especially since I will enter the class with no basic understanding of calculus. The other thing is that I am taking standard/ regents physics (I live in New York) and will be skipping AP physics 1 and 2 straight to C. Should I go for the class, even though I have no basic understanding in calculus and am currently in standard physics (which I am doing pretty well in by the way). Is there any type of preparation that I can do for the class, such as studying from an AP physics C Barron's book over the summer. I will try to talk to the teacher tomorrow about the pace of the class and how I will be able to handle it, but I will also work with the answers that I hopefully receive from here. Thanks in advance.

    Edit: I will also be studying for the SAT that I will take in October, November, and maybe December, so self studying calculus/ ap physics c will not be the only thing that I do.
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2015 #2
    You should assume that your friends are right and he only skims it. That's all my professor did with it and what every professor I've ever investigated about this has done. If you can't take basic derivatives and integrals (of polynomials, trig functions, using the chain rule), and understand how to min/max a function you'll be behind in Mechanics. If you go on to C:E&M, you'll be really behind if all you've taken previously is precalc and trig. You should at least be learning that as you're taking the class in a class all to itself. If you've at least taken trigonometry it may be doable, but studying the physics book shouldn't be what you do over the summer. You should be studying a calculus text and work through the limits and derivatives chapters and probably the first two sections of the books coverage of integration. Then it's probably more doable. If you can do algebra well, then you shouldn't need precalc to learn those things over the summer. Talk to your counselors about your options, but if they say you can't take calculus in the fall, definitely focus on that over the summer.

    Real talk though, you probably should just take AP Physics 1 and 2 next year if you can. Calculus based Mechanics and E&M aren't easy for most people, and you should go into them well prepared with a good math background.
  4. May 17, 2015 #3


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    I agree with Cake, you should be self-studying calculus over the summer. If you can get derivatives down and a bit of integrals (which is doable over the summer), then you'll be alright.
  5. May 17, 2015 #4
    Thanks guys. I've also been considering self studying calculus, but have been told that it's very risky because I might teach myself incorrect concepts and get into the habit of using those incorrect concepts. I don't have the choice to take ap physics 1 and I haven't been accepted to take ap physics 2, so I don't think I can take that either. I'm also pretty sure that I would have to take pre calc before taking calculus in my school. Just in case I can't choose to take calculus next year, how would I go about it then? How would I go about efficiently and effectively self studying for the class without doing anything that might be detrimental to my ability to take the course (such as self studying incorrect concepts or learning concepts incorrectly)?
  6. May 17, 2015 #5
    Watch MIT's open courseware video lectures for their single variable calculus course, and if you get a calculus book, slader.com has solutions worked out for most of the major texts for free. So if you make a mistake you can correct yourself very easily by looking at the solutions. Just be diligent. My recommendation is Stewart's calculus book.
  7. May 17, 2015 #6
    Thank you very much. I will definitely consider doing this.
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