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Courses Taking College Physics 2 before Engineering Physics 2?

  1. Mar 14, 2016 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I am trying to strategically plan my semesters ahead. This Summer I am planning on taking Engineering Physics 1 and Cal 3 (or College Physics 2 in place of Cal 3). Prior to this semester, I had no experience with Physics, so I enrolled in College Physics 1 to see how it goes. I enjoy it a lot. However, I have heard of horrors when it comes to Engineering Physics 2. If I do not take College Physics 2, the entire course load will be new to me, so I am thinking of maybe taking College Physics 2 this Summer with Engineering Physics 1. This way I can get some of the base concepts before taking EP2 in Fall.

    Initially I thought this would hold me back in my base engineering sequence because I thought I needed Calc 3. However, reviewing it Cal. 3 is only a co-requisite for my engineering classes, but I do need EP1. So this gives me some flexibility. Taking College Physics 2 will not affect my projected graduation, only my finances. Is it worth taking before EP2?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2016 #2
    Tough call.

    At some schools, there is a bigger separation between college physics and engineering physics than at other schools.

    Also, some students are more prepared than others to jump directly into engineering physics without ever having an algebra based high school or college physics.
  4. Mar 15, 2016 #3
    The syllabi between the algebraic and calculus treatments look exactly the same (as in covering the same topics). From people I know currently taking Engineering Physics 1 said that it's essentially exactly the same as College Physics 1 just with a calculus treatment and you have derive some of the equations by hand rather than using an equation sheet. That doesn't seem like a big deal to me since it's essentially just variations of integrals and derivatives which you can see most of them right off the bat by their algebraic expressions.

    Personally, I've been using KhanAcademy and MIT. Apart from using differing variables in the equations, the OCW by Walter Lewin seems to follow my course work exactly, just with a Calculus treatment (which, checking their syllabus, they use the same book we do just the calculus version).

    If it makes any difference in terms of rigor, the book we are using is College Physics by Hugh Young. The same book is used for Physics 2. The Calculus book used at my school is Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday & Resnick.

    As far as I personally go, it seems that concepts from Physics 1 take about 1-2 days before they truly develop an intuition when problem solving to the point that I can extrapolate on what's given. I currently have an 'A' in the class, and I'm taking arguably one of the most difficult Physics Professors at my school. So I think I'm capable of it, I just don't know if it's worth the extra money. I've heard how rough E&M can be, and I just want to be prepared.
  5. Mar 15, 2016 #4


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    College physics 2 will be basically useless, although I feel college physics 1 was probably also useless if you planned to take the engineering sequence from the start. Take engineering physics 1 with calculus three, but don't take them in the summer. (Assuming your summer sessions are half that of normal sessions) Take some GE's.

    E&M is rough for a lot of people. It's much harder to visualize than mechanics and that throws a lot of people off. Another catch for a lot of folks is that E&M will rely more on calculus than their mechanics course did and they realize they have shaky foundations, which is bad time to realize you don't really understand some concepts from calculus. It isn't that difficult though. Just as a warning, FoP is pretty hand wavy at times, you might want to get a copy of the older H&R&K Physics volumes one and two (4th and 5th edition are decent), if you can get them cheaply.
  6. Mar 15, 2016 #5
    My Summers are 11 weeks long instead of 16 weeks so it's about 70% of a semester. I think maybe I'll just stick with Engineering Physics 1 (EP1) this Summer for an 11 week course. Do you think Cal 3 + Statics + E&M would be a doable semester for 16 weeks in Fall? I'd probably take some Gen Eds with it, but I have most of them out of the way. But, that will probably make my Fall Semester easier because I was planning on taking DQ, Statics, and E&M. From what I've heard is Cal. 3 is fairly easier than DQ.

    Also, what parts of Calculus are used in E&M? Is it mostly the computational parts?

    I had to take College Physics 1 because I didn't have Physics in high school because they have it as a pre-req to Engineering Physics (or High School Physics). The same is not true, however, for E&M-- you only need EP1.
  7. Mar 16, 2016 #6


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    Since your summer sessions is nearly as long as your regular sessions, taking EP1 should be okay as long as you stay on top of things. Have you taken linear algebra yet? That might be a good course to take alongside EP1 over the summer, and will be useful for both your engineering physics series and calculus three/differential equations courses.

    It's also better suited to be taken in a condensed session, as long as the lecturer doesn't spend 6 weeks on determinants and row reduction that you should've already learned in high school.

    A lot of students believe that calculus three is simpler/the same as calculus 1 and 2 "with more variables", but some vector calculus topics are anything but. Neither class should be "harder or easier", but different- that's the way I see it.

    If you're taking vector calculus concurrently, you'll likely see surface integrals, line integrals, greens theorem, and basic concepts from calculus one and two. It's hard to predict what you will actually see though, as there is a lot of variance in introductory courses.

    Good luck, whatever you choose.
  8. Mar 17, 2016 #7


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    It probably does vary a lot. The intro E&M courses (second semester of calculus-based intro physics) that I've taken or taught, have used surface and line integrals mainly for conceptual purposes. For example, we used the integral form of Gauss's law, but only in very simple, symmetric situations where the integral reduces to a product, E·A. I've called them "Geico integrals: so easy a caveman can do them."

    And we never used the differential form of Maxwell's equations at all in those courses.

    But I have direct experience with only a handful of schools: three small colleges and one big university (Michigan).
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