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How important is it that I take AP Physics C as opposed to AP Physics 1?


Hi. I am a rising senior who is looking to dual major either in psychology and classics or psychology and biology (potentially with a German minor) on a pre-med track. Because of the large amount of classes these paths require, I want credits where I can get them. My school only offers AP starting junior year unfortunately, and I took AP Lang and AP Bio. Next year I am taking AP Psych, AP Lit, BC Calc, and AP Physics 1. The reason is honors physics is a prerequisite for AP Physics C, and I haven't taken a physics class in HS.

I can get that requirement waved (my teacher agreed to sign the waver), but I decided not to because not only would I be taking BC Calc at the same time as Physics C, I would also have no physics background. As a result, I was worried that the class would be too difficult for me to get an A in, or detract from my other classes. I have all As in HS and I don't want to tarnish anything senior year. That said, I am quite confident in my ability to get an A- I usually can rise to the occasion and do the work, just sometimes it's a big stressor for me.

Thing is, I've heard a lot of schools don't take AP Physics 1 for credit because it doesn't have calc. Is this generally true? Also, I am worried that not taking the calc based class might damage my course rigor and therefore hurt my admissions chances. I'm likely majoring in psychology and classics so having the most advanced physics might not seem like a big deal, but since I am indicating a pre-med track on my application, I'm worried it might.

What should I do? If you need any further information, please let me know.

You're much more likely to get credit for Physics C but don't chose it based only on that. I took both BC Calc and Physics C this year and it was hard at the beginning when I didn't understand the Calculus behind the science, but it was actually really cool to see it all come together at the end--so personally I'm really glad I did it. That said, it was hard, but my teacher was in his first year and with coronavirus I ended up teaching myself a lot of the content. Choose the best teacher!

3 answers

answered on

Look, most Medical Schools will not accept AP classes to fulfill their pre-med course requirements, so don't expect to use any AP math/science credits. All of the pre-med courses should be taken at the University or Community College you plan on attending.

Seeing that you're already taking Calc BC, I don't see a reason to take Physics C. It's just adding more stress. Go with AP Physics 1. Most physics courses that are on the pre-med track are algebra-based and match with Physics 1, so taking it would give you helpful experience with the physics course you'll ultimately take as a pre-med. Physics 1 is already a very hard class and will look great on your application if you do well in it.

Hope this helped, please feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.

answered on

You seem to know well your strengths and your strategy makes sense. Get AP Physics 1 and get a top grade!!

answered on[edited]

What I will add is you CANNOT take Physics C and do well if you have not taken Physics 1. Physics C is part of a two-year course in which Physics 1 is the basis. You also will need to know basic to advanced calculus to do well in this course (I see you’re taking BC, so this should be fine). Unless you are extremely gifted in the sciences or have a great work ethic it will be really difficult. Physics 1 is a difficult course, it’s the most failed AP Exam, and I don’t think colleges would look down on you taking it. That being said you can skip to C if your school recommends but I really don’t think its a good idea cause you need to know Physics 1 (or at least the basics of it) to move on to physics C. One AP class that you take senior year doesn’t really matter, plus, colleges probably won’t give you credit for either. Pick the class you’re gonna do better in.

Or pick the class you think you'll have more fun in! If the Physics C teacher is super passionate about the subject it could be a great class!