Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Using AP Tests to skip classes in college for your major

  1. Jun 11, 2008 #1
    Passing the AP Physics C Tests usually gives credit at college for a similar class. However, I was wondering, if I'm majoring in Physics and did pass the AP Physics C Tests, should I skip the classes in college and move on? Or would it be better to take the classes at a college anyway in order to master it better and learn the things that my high school teachers left out? Is the AP test/class any real indicator of how well I know the subject(s)?

    Any thoughts/input on this subject would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2008 #2
    Before you go off to college, you have an entire summer off. Make sure you know and understand the material very well (Not just rote memorization of plug and chug methods).If you do that then skipping ahead shouldn't hurt you. I'd say do it.
  4. Jun 11, 2008 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Did you get a 5?
  5. Jun 11, 2008 #4
    I have not received my scores yet, though I am fairly confident I will get a 4 or 5.
  6. Jun 11, 2008 #5

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    A 4 is not a 5. I would be very wary about starting my studies on a 4. Even with a 5 a case can be made to take the class anyway, but with a 4, I think you should take the class.
  7. Jun 11, 2008 #6
    You definitely do not want to retake introductory physics. It is true that that same course at a university will be much more thorough, but its not worth it since the next level is not really too much higher. In my opinion, you could skip introductory physics altogether as long as you have sufficient math background. The intermediate level classes E and M and Classical Mechanics classes are exactly the same thing except with more mathematical detail. Also, if you did well on the AP tests that shows that you have interest and motivation to learn physics which is really a lot of what the intermediate classes require.
  8. Jun 11, 2008 #7
    A friend of mine got high enough on the APs to skip Physics 1, but decided to take it in the standard schedule anyways. I was a semester behind him in calculus, and he breezed through the material without much difficulty. We ended up with similar grades for physics, but he ended up with a better cumulative GPA at the end of the year since he was able to spend more time on other classes. I suppose the idea is--do you feel comfortable enough with the material to miss the introductory material?

    The best way for you to figure that out is to request a syllabus from the university you're entering, judge how well you know the material by looking through the books associated, and make your decision based on that.

    You don't want to be snoozing through your classes, but you don't want to put so much stress on yourself that you lose sleep (and grades). Going into college you want to have a rigorous--but not exhausting schedule. There's nothing stopping you from re-teaching yourself whatever you missed and asking friends and teaching assistants for help with difficult concepts you're missing if you're dedicated to learning the material.
  9. Jun 11, 2008 #8
    I would think a good compromise between taking the course and skipping it would be to audit the course. That way you can go to the lectures and take the exams without the stress of having to worry about your final grade. It also leaves you the option to stop attending if you decide mid-way through that you aren't gaining anything from the course.
  10. Jun 11, 2008 #9
    I realize this is slightly off topic, but I want to question the wisdom of skipping out on ANY college classes due an AP class even in a course not in your major.

    I was pretty centered on the sciences and math in high school, but took a bunch of spanish including an AP level course. I took the test and got a 4. Enough to get me out of the foreign language requirement at my college.

    I used to be pretty conversant in spanish. Now years later, I have my doctorate, by my spanish skills are pretty degraded.

    I wish I had kept up with it and not skipped out on that year of spanish.
  11. Jun 11, 2008 #10


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I STRONGLY suggest you retake the course in college for several reasons:

    1. Assuming you do know it all, you should have an easy A your first semester, helping to ease the transition to college.

    2.If you don't know it all on the other hand, you'll have made the right decision.

    3. Why you may not know all the material you need to know:

    a. AP classes notoriously teach to the test. College course often cover material that may not even be a big part of the AP test, depending on the curriculum and the professor.

    b. You can study for an AP Physics Test by memorizing formulas and plugging and chugging. This is NOT how you succeed in physics past the high school level. Can you derive any of the intro physics formulas, especially the formulas for fields and potentials of charge distributions, for the radius of a geocentric orbit, for frequencies of pendulums and spring oscillations? This will be asked of you in a freshman physics course. I had somewhat easy professors for freshman physics and this was still required of me.

    c. Even if you get a 5 on the AP test, a high school AP course is no where near as hard as a college course on the same material. Why? The workload makes the difference. Are you sure you can handle a college workload in your major? How could you be if you have never taken a real college course in it. It would be best to ease yourself into college courses with the freshman year courses rather than the higher level courses where even more will be expected from you and where the course will move even quicker.

    Retake the course. It can only help you understand the material even better, and it's not like it's putting you behind schedule or anything. If you try to move ahead before your ready, it will only make it harder to do well. Now, that said, for all I know, you may indeed be ready. But, in the experience of my friends and myself, it's best to play it safe.

    If the AP course is NOT related to your major, i.e. not a major or cognate credit, then you should be ok if you skip it. That will lighten your load of electives and GE requirements, giving you more time to focus on your major.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2008
  12. Jun 11, 2008 #11
    I got a 5 on the physics C AP exam and I don't feel like I had to know very much to pass it. The threshold for a 5 was like 50%. Ultimately it is your choice though; I did not retake physics I and I was fine, but maybe I would have redone it if I really cared about learning the material right.
  13. Jun 11, 2008 #12


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Personally I would've skipped the introductory physics courses at my university if I had the chance. I'm at a uk university so these core courses cannot be skipped. The course was at a slightly higher level than in high school, mainly using maths more, but I don't think its really worth it if you're already comfortable with the material.
  14. Jun 12, 2008 #13

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I passed out of the first year of Physics (in addition to some other courses). I took all the AP credits I could. I have two thoughts-

    1) If I had taken Physics I and II anyway, I would have gotten good grades and maybe understood the material a little better. This would have paid off for future classes: better foundation, more confidence.

    2) If I had not taken advantage of my credits, I would not have been able to take a lot of electives Junior and Senior year- lasers, high-energy, astro, etc. I benefited by having a broader educational experience, and had the opportunity to see what interested me for further study in graduate school.

    In the end, I'm glad I took the credits.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook