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Inquisitive Idiot

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Story Time...

So I have a B.A. in History (due to my own stupid choices earlier in life). I currently work full time and am now slowly taking pre-med prerequisites (one class per semester due to work, painfully slow, I know) in the hope that I can one day go to medical school to become a Radiologist. If the medical school dream is never realized, I'd happily pursue Optometry, Audiology, etc.

I know I need Chemistry, Organic Chem, Biology, etc, (those are in the works one at a time), but my current concern is PHYSICS.

There is of course Calculus-Based Physics (3 semesters) and Algebra-Based Physics (2 semesters).

I have already taken Calculus I, II, and III, Linear Algebra, and Mechanics (aka Calculus-Based Physics, part 1 of 3). I did manage to get an A in Mechanics, but only because our teacher was new and gave us a LOT of extra credit assignments. I don't think I'd be quite so lucky to pull off another A in Electricity and Magnetism (part 2 of 3), especially since it's been over a year since I finished Calc III and Mechanics.

My question is... Should I take the rest of the calc-based physics (E&M and waves/optics), or jump ship and take the algebra-based physics instead?


I know most med schools recommend a year of physics. I also know they don't care whether it's calc or non calc. But what if you only take 2 of the 3 calc-based physics classes? Does it still count even though you didn't finish "the sequence"?

The main reason I'm asking this is because despite getting an A in Mechanics, I'm terrified of continuing to take the "harder" calc-based physics and risk dragging down my GPA. On the other hand, I'm also annoyed at the idea of switching physics sequences only to not get into med school and realize I need the calc-based sequence for some as-yet-unknown thing down the road. Does any other professional school (perhaps pharmacists) make use of calc-based physics? Or would I have to get a degree in Chemistry to be required to take it?

Worse yet, I don't know what chance I, as a non-technical degree holder with a few pre-med prerequisites, stand in the admissions race against droves of people majoring in Biology or Chemistry. I'm just trying to figure out what would be seen as most appealing by medical school acceptance boards; a high GPA regardless of what classes are taken, or higher/harder classes.

Wow, that was a mouthful.

If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, recommendations, etc, I welcome them and would be forever grateful.

Any ideas?

Thank you!




- "There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of Inquisitive Idiots."
 

bwc

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I'm sure nothing is going to stop you from mixing and matching, but sticking to one sequence is what I would personally prefer. One single sequence is designed to build off of one another. Personally, I think calc based physics makes a lot more sense to me than algebra based physics. Medical schools don't prefer one over the other.

If you are taking calc based physics, I'm sure most of your classmates are probably engineers. If so, don't worry. Within the engineering population, there is a subset of them who really don't care about their GPA as long as they pass (i.e., they don't mind being the C students).
 

LFC85

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It doesn't matter either way -- just take the class you'll get the highest grade in.

Sadly, I learned the hard way that it doesn't seem to matter that I'm in Advanced Calculus and theory-based partial differential equations. Getting an A in these classes seems equal to an A precalculus to an adcom, and a B or C in these classes (the more likely grade on the curve) can tank your sGPA.

Take the one you'll do well in, consider nothing else for medical school.

Only take calc-based physics if it is a pre-req for many courses down the road that you may end up wanting to take.
 
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philosonista

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Take what you would do better in, which is not necessarily non-calc. Look at the reviews on RateYourProfessor.

Also consider that you would have to take three instead of two semesters for calc-based. Likely not worth your time.

Though considering you have a good amount of math behind you, you could handle it.

Also worth considering that the MCAT pulls nothing from the calculus side (Having taken calculus-based, I will likely have to learn some equations I didn't learn or some such thing).
 

Smoove

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If I were you and I had the option to take either one, I would definitely jump ship lol. As an engineering major, i took the calculus based sequence and it definitely took more work than I expected. While there may be some engineers that don't mind low grades like someone posted above, that's not necessarily true especially if you're at a top school. You're gonna run into some of the brightest students who will break the curve even more so than the gunner pre meds.

tl; dr
I took calc based and I wish I had taken algebra based
 

ImmunoLove

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So, I took the calc based physics even though I was an mcb major (all of them, but because I like to understand things a certain way and calculus helps with that for me). You need two terms of physics. No one cares If you take the full sequence (well, rarely do they care) so long as the units are there. You can take the third physics course with or without calc (or not at all), typically. Call specific schools if you're concerned.
 

terra330

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Calc-based E/M was definitely tough and brought my GPA down a bit -- mechanics was a cake walk compared to that. So if you don't think you could have done well in mechanics without the extra credit, just take algebra based. I doubt anyone will care.
 

Pagan FutureDoc

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Calc based physics is in no way required but since you already have a strong calculus background and did well in your previous calc based physics class there's no reason to think you won't do well in the rest.

I will admit I'm prejudiced towards calc based physics though, I was a physics and chemistry major.
 

Fedekz

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Calc based physics is usually easier than algebra based physics. Especially if you've taken more than just Calc 1. Don't feel bad about being a history major or don't think it's some sort of negative, it probably has broadened your perspective on things and will make you more interesting than the 24,000 biology majors applying every year!
 
D

deleted393595

Story Time...

So I have a B.A. in History (due to my own stupid choices earlier in life). I currently work full time and am now slowly taking pre-med prerequisites (one class per semester due to work, painfully slow, I know) in the hope that I can one day go to medical school to become a Radiologist. If the medical school dream is never realized, I'd happily pursue Optometry, Audiology, etc.

I know I need Chemistry, Organic Chem, Biology, etc, (those are in the works one at a time), but my current concern is PHYSICS.

There is of course Calculus-Based Physics (3 semesters) and Algebra-Based Physics (2 semesters).

I have already taken Calculus I, II, and III, Linear Algebra, and Mechanics (aka Calculus-Based Physics, part 1 of 3). I did manage to get an A in Mechanics, but only because our teacher was new and gave us a LOT of extra credit assignments. I don't think I'd be quite so lucky to pull off another A in Electricity and Magnetism (part 2 of 3), especially since it's been over a year since I finished Calc III and Mechanics.

My question is... Should I take the rest of the calc-based physics (E&M and waves/optics), or jump ship and take the algebra-based physics instead?


I know most med schools recommend a year of physics. I also know they don't care whether it's calc or non calc. But what if you only take 2 of the 3 calc-based physics classes? Does it still count even though you didn't finish "the sequence"?

The main reason I'm asking this is because despite getting an A in Mechanics, I'm terrified of continuing to take the "harder" calc-based physics and risk dragging down my GPA. On the other hand, I'm also annoyed at the idea of switching physics sequences only to not get into med school and realize I need the calc-based sequence for some as-yet-unknown thing down the road. Does any other professional school (perhaps pharmacists) make use of calc-based physics? Or would I have to get a degree in Chemistry to be required to take it?

Worse yet, I don't know what chance I, as a non-technical degree holder with a few pre-med prerequisites, stand in the admissions race against droves of people majoring in Biology or Chemistry. I'm just trying to figure out what would be seen as most appealing by medical school acceptance boards; a high GPA regardless of what classes are taken, or higher/harder classes.

Wow, that was a mouthful.

If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, recommendations, etc, I welcome them and would be forever grateful.

Any ideas?

Thank you!




- "There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of Inquisitive Idiots."

Take algebra for the GPA
 
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bwc

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At my school, we have no exclusively algebra based physics. However, there is the sequence that is more calc intensive, mainly taken by engineering students. The other sequence is more geared toward pre-health students - they would expect you to understand what a derivative or integral is, but not necessarily how to perform the computation. It is true that for the calc intensive sequence, they spread the material across three semesters because they cover the material more in depth. However, unless you are trying to get a physics major or minor, people are only required to take two semesters. The sequence that the pre-health students take is more concerned with breadth than depth, so they cover more material at less depth.

If the calc based sequence at your school takes three semesters to complete, it is likely that you really only need to take the first two semesters to fulfill the medical school physics prerequisite. However, that does mean that you will likely have to do some self teaching to when it comes to studying for the MCAT.
 

Ismet

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I don't know a single person who has taken calc based physics and was applying the medical school. I do know about twenty people who have gotten into med school having taken a single calculus class and algebra based physics.

I sincerely doubt med schools would care, so take algebra based.

I took calc-based! :)

While I didn't take algebra-based and I can't personally compare the two, in calc-based you learn the derivation of the formulas and the actual math that was created to describe physical phenomena. It's quite intuitive if you're a math-minded individual. A lot less memorize and purge, a lot more understanding.

OP, you don't need to take calc-based as the second part of the sequence. However, you won't really need Calc 3 or Mechanics knowledge for E&M. I took both Calc-based physics courses while taking Calc concurrently, so I only went up to Calc 2, and that was more than enough Calc knowledge.

I'm sure this has already been answered as well, but you can get into med school with any major. Just keep doing well.
 

w0rldw3y3d

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I took calc-based physics for both physics classes because my degree plan required it.

I still had to memorize all the equations for the MCAT so I don't really think it helped or hurt me.
 
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Inquisitive Idiot

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Wow, less than 24 hours later and so many responses. Thank you so very much, one and all.

A plurality seem to support jumping ship and just taking the Algebra-Based physics, (my personal preference in the matter), but some still say to stick it out and at least finish E&M. If I'm even allowed to take the algebra sequence, (having already started the calc one), I might have to take both of them, rather than just one. I spoke with a local professor who implied that my desire to jump ship might be moot. He said the school system might not allow me to take the algebra physics track if I've already started the calc one. But I'll have to confirm that with a counselor.

I'm not only worried about the Calc-based E&M class, I'm worried because I'm taking it at the same time as my next Chemistry class (2nd of 2 semesters) and am worried the E&M will distract me from getting a good grade in the chemistry, which would seem to be more important/relevant to med school than the physics.

The main point brought up in favor of jumping ship is a high GPA. If GPA is that important, I suppose my next question is... What exactly is an admissions board looking for in an applicant? Is there some unofficial minimum GPA they prefer? You know, other than the standard official line: "must have 3.5 GPA, etc." What about anything else, personality/extracurriculars/MCAT score/etc?

In short.... What are admissions boards looking for, and how heavily do they consider GPA?

Thank you again, everyone. I really appreciate the outpouring of responses.
 

Ismet

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Wow, less than 24 hours later and so many responses. Thank you so very much, one and all.

A plurality seem to support jumping ship and just taking the Algebra-Based physics, (my personal preference in the matter), but some still say to stick it out and at least finish E&M. If I'm even allowed to take the algebra sequence, (having already started the calc one), I might have to take both of them, rather than just one. I spoke with a local professor who implied that my desire to jump ship might be moot. He said the school system might not allow me to take the algebra physics track if I've already started the calc one. But I'll have to confirm that with a counselor.

I'm not only worried about the Calc-based E&M class, I'm worried because I'm taking it at the same time as my next Chemistry class (2nd of 2 semesters) and am worried the E&M will distract me from getting a good grade in the chemistry, which would seem to be more important/relevant to med school than the physics.

The main point brought up in favor of jumping ship is a high GPA. If GPA is that important, I suppose my next question is... What exactly is an admissions board looking for in an applicant? Is there some unofficial minimum GPA they prefer? You know, other than the standard official line: "must have 3.5 GPA, etc." What about anything else, personality/extracurriculars/MCAT score/etc?

In short.... What are admissions boards looking for, and how heavily do they consider GPA?

Thank you again, everyone. I really appreciate the outpouring of responses.


MCAT and GPA get your foot in the door, everything else gets you accepted.

Great ECs or letters may get you an interview despite lower MCAT/GPA provided that you don't get screened out by the school based on your numbers.

Basically everything matters.
 

moisne

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Lol I didn't bother reading all of it --- but

Unless you need to take calc based physics or unless you are gifted in math - I'd avoid it.

Calc based physics is easier to "understand" (assuming you know calc)... But generally people do worse in it.
 

Bruskie_77

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Lol I didn't bother reading all of it --- but

Unless you need to take calc based physics or unless you are gifted in math - I'd avoid it.

Calc based physics is easier to "understand" (assuming you know calc)... But generally people do worse in it.
+1
It's more complete which is easier to understand how to apply and derive equations. However, it's generally more work because it's a weed out course and they can make the math nasty, which is more problematic since you typically have only a scientific calculator.
 

robin911

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Personally, I took algebra-based physics. However, if you are really good at math (which you must be if you passed all three calc classes and the first of 3 physics courses) you may be very qualified to take the rest of the calc-based physics series. Honestly, I regret not taking calc-based physics. My friends who took calc-based vs. algebra-based did significantly better on the MCAT physics portion. This could be because they had also taken more calculus and were better at math and I am not an expert in any way so this is just anecdotal.

Bottom line IMO: physics sucks. Regardless of if you take calc- or algebra-based it sucks. Obviously calc-based will be harder but you are probably very well prepared for it. If I were you, I would take the calc-based because I regret not doing so and forcing myself to really learn physics as that was the lowest score for me on the MCAT.
 
D

deleted393595

Unless you need to take calc based physics or unless you are gifted in math - I'd avoid it.

Also if you come from a liberal arts background, you're going to have a very hard time ramping up to the level of math, and thinking analytically about physics in a 1 semester span.
 

robin911

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Also if you come from a liberal arts background, you're going to have a very hard time ramping up to the level of math, and thinking analytically about physics in a 1 semester span.
The OP already has taken calc I, II, and III as well as the first semester of calc-based physics.
 
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deleted393595

The OP already has taken calc I, II, and III as well as the first semester of calc-based physics.

Whoops. Totes forgot to read through the thread before commenting. But my point still stands though - If you're a liberal arts student planning on taking Calc I + Calc Physics concurrently, you're going to have a very hard time
 
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Psai

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Take algebra based. Your gpa will thank you.
 
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Inquisitive Idiot

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Thank you again, one and all.

After talking with a counselor and getting things all laid out...

I was told that because I have already taken Calc Physics 1 of 3 (mechanics), that I can take Algebra Physics 2 of 2 (e&m and waves/optics) without having to take part 1 of 2.

In other words, I can switch to the 2-semester algebra-based physics, but skip part 1 and just take part 2. That class covers e&m and waves/optics in one class rather than 2.

I am sorely tempted to take the calc-based physics, I really am, but considering what you all are saying (no calc-phys on the MCAT) and the importance of a good GPA, I really shouldn't.

So even though it's two different physics tracks, it's still a year of physics, as required. Granted, still no guarantee I'll get an A in the algebra-based physics part 2 class, but here's hoping. At the very least, it should be easier than the E&M calc-based physics.
 
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