Which Physics Route is the Best (Calculus vs. Supplement)?

Aug 8, 2015
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For the major I want to transfer to, I have 2 physics series I can take. They both deal with the same subjects. However, they differ in that one series requires a separate calculus supplement that is online and I assume less rigorous. The other series, which is harder, is calculus based physics. It is the same series that engineers are required to take. So for example, it would be Physics for Life Science Majors Series vs. Physics for Scientists and Engineers Series. Overall, would med schools distinguish these too much? Is one better for the MCAT? And would an A in the first series be better than a B in the calculus based series? Thanks.
 
Oct 16, 2014
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I would advise against fulfilling your pre-requisites online.

Edit: misread the online portion.
 
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Caffein3

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I had the choice. I took the calculus based class. Med schools literally do not care which one you take. An A in the algebra based one is much better than a B in the calculus based one. Even if you are good at math and physical concepts, the engineering class will be filled with many many talented and smart people who will be very good at physics because it is their fundamental class for their major. I wish I had taken the algebra based one.
 

Caffein3

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Algebra/trigonometric based physics are extremely easy since the math isn't beyond like 10th grade. The engineering class will teach you the concepts much better and will better prepare you for the MCAT. However, you want the easy A, go with the algebra one.
Not true. I never used a single thing I learned in physics one or two on the MCAT. All we did was integrate. So much integration and derivation etc etc. setting up complex theoretical problems. There is none of that one the MCAT. The only applicable thing I learned was kinematics...but now that's a removed topic for 2015 MCAT.
 

Lucca

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Not true. I never used a single thing I learned in physics one or two on the MCAT. All we did was integrate. So much integration and derivation etc etc. setting up complex theoretical problems. There is none of that one the MCAT. The only applicable thing I learned was kinematics...but now that's a removed topic for 2015 MCAT.
Kinematics is still on the 2015 MCAT.

Take the Calculus based course, the one for engineers. I have been an advocate on this site in the past for it and will continue to do so. I don't think you can really understand physics without understanding calculus. Not because integration and derivation will be on the exam but because understanding how to derive simple relationships from complex problems using logic and math is the true value in taking a good physics course. Of course, having no knowledge of what your courses are like all I can do is say take the harder one. Likely, it isn't that much harder than the upper division classes you will have to take in your major in the future if at all.
 

Caffein3

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I completely understand. Trust me I understand the conceptual basis of the integrations and I support calculus based physics. I mean calculus fundamentally explains physics... When did I ever say that physics and calculus is disconnected?

OP asked if med schools will look at one more favorably than the other. Short answer? No. They would prefer the one you can get an A in.

Now...do I support calculus based physics? Yes. I view the two as an inseparable couple. I loved my physics class. But it was very challenging. It did not make me better at "MCAT physics".

OP must make a decision. Whether his "quest for knowledge" will spur him to take calculus based or algebra based. I simply recommend algebra based if he/she may struggle with math or isn't ready for a very hard class.
 

Neuroplasticity

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For the major I want to transfer to, I have 2 physics series I can take. They both deal with the same subjects. However, they differ in that one series requires a separate calculus supplement that is online and I assume less rigorous. The other series, which is harder, is calculus based physics. It is the same series that engineers are required to take. So for example, it would be Physics for Life Science Majors Series vs. Physics for Scientists and Engineers Series. Overall, would med schools distinguish these too much? Is one better for the MCAT? And would an A in the first series be better than a B in the calculus based series? Thanks.
I believe an A in the non-calc physics would look better than a B in the calc physics, and for the MCAT they would both be sufficient.
However, I would also advocate for the calc physics. Others currently in medical school have said that not much material learned in undergrad is useful for medical school, but what I believe undergrad can be most useful for is developing your problem solving skills and fluid intelligence. So I would recommend the course that does this better. It seems that many premeds think undergrad is a time to do what you think looks best for admissions committees, but I believe we should view it as a time to develop yourself and explore your interests.
 

Holmwood

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You don't need that calc based class to develop your critical thinking skills. There are other classes you can take for that...

Do whatever gets you an A. Take the easier one.

That online supplement is just for homework right? Online cousework, as others have said, is not accepted at many med schools according to MSAR. If it's a physical lecture-based class with online supplements like webassign for homework, that's acceptable.
 

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Algebra/trigonometric based physics are extremely easy since the math isn't beyond like 10th grade. The engineering class will teach you the concepts much better and will better prepare you for the MCAT. However, you want the easy A, go with the algebra one.
Kinematics is still on the 2015 MCAT.

Take the Calculus based course, the one for engineers. I have been an advocate on this site in the past for it and will continue to do so. I don't think you can really understand physics without understanding calculus. Not because integration and derivation will be on the exam but because understanding how to derive simple relationships from complex problems using logic and math is the true value in taking a good physics course. Of course, having no knowledge of what your courses are like all I can do is say take the harder one. Likely, it isn't that much harder than the upper division classes you will have to take in your major in the future if at all.
Glad to see more advocates of calculus-based physics.
 
Aug 8, 2015
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Thanks for all the replies. I should elaborate that the calculus supplement to the algebra based physics class is a short 1 unit class that involves 12 separate 1 hour lectures that are online. It is a supplement to the 84 hour physics class + lab that is algebra based. There is also homework, a mid term, and final for this. So you would learn some calculus, but I assume it isn't as heavy as that in the calculus based class which is 96 hours + lab . I believe as far as kinematics goes, I could get an A in the calculus based class, since I took AP Physics C in high school. However, electricity and magnetism is not my strong spot and I have never even worked with waves/optics. So I am not so confident that I could get an A in that class as easily as in an algebra based one.
 

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Thanks for all the replies. I should elaborate that the calculus supplement to the algebra based physics class is a short 1 unit class that involves 12 separate 1 hour lectures that are online. It is a supplement to the 84 hour physics class + lab that is algebra based. There is also homework, a mid term, and final for this. So you would learn some calculus, but I assume it isn't as heavy as that in the calculus based class which is 96 hours + lab . I believe as far as kinematics goes, I could get an A in the calculus based class, since I took AP Physics C in high school. However, electricity and magnetism is not my strong spot and I have never even worked with waves/optics. So I am not so confident that I could get an A in that class as easily as in an algebra based one.
AP Physics C is calculus-based physics taken in high school (at least that's what it was when I took it). There's no reason for you to take algebra-based physics, since you can do well in the calc-based version and learn the concepts you're weak. After all, you can't learn Maxwell's equations using only sums and fractions!
 

gyngyn

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AP Physics C is calculus-based physics taken in high school (at least that's what it was when I took it). There's no reason for you to take algebra-based physics, since you can do well in the calc-based version and learn the concepts you're weak. After all, you can't learn Maxwell's equations using only sums and fractions!
I can see that these concepts have intrinsic value to you and I'm glad that you enjoyed your mastery of them.
Not everyone needs to follow this path to excel in medicine, though.
Algebra based physics is more than good enough for some of the finest schools in the country. That would make this an individual choice based on personal preference.
 
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Oncie

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Don't take the engineering one if you aren't doing engineering -- I made that mistake and got a C. I'd imagine the life sciences one is easier.
 

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I can see that these concepts have intrinsic value to you and I'm glad that you enjoyed your mastery of them.
Not everyone needs to follow this path to excel in medicine, though.
Algebra based physics is more than good enough for some of the finest schools in the country. That would make this an individual choice based on personal preference.
I appreciate that. For medical school purposes, for MCAT and for getting an easy A, OP should take the course that is stress-free. If that's algebra-based physics, by all means go for it. If OP wants to understand the concepts (as he admitted he wasn't strong with E&M), he should go for calculus-based physics.

I realize I have an animosity towards algebra-based physics, but it isn't unreasonable. Medical schools and the AAMC still oddly seem to emphasize the requirements for physics for some reason. My guess is that they wanted to emphasize the physical aspects of medicine, which is fine. Yet, the 2015 MCAT deemphasizes physics significantly, which shows that the requirement of physics may not be that important after all.

If physics isn't important in medicine, eliminate it from the prereqs (and I am all for it). If it is, ensure that physical concepts are learned accordingly. That cannot be done by algebra-based physics, because more than half the concepts cannot be explained without using calculus. It's even puzzling to see that some medical schools still require calculus but are completely fine with algebra-based physics, even though calculus-based physics essentially wipes out two birds with one stone.

Simply put, requirements that eliminate physics and calculus will benefit for premeds, medical schools and weary college professors, and that time could be used to pursue other objectives.
 
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RedPhys

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Med schools don't care which one you take
If you're not interested in physics, take the algebra-based one
If you have interest in physics, take the calculus-based one

At least at my school, the algebra-based one was filled with premeds, so the calculus-based one was a breath of fresh air in meeting non-premed people :)
 

gyngyn

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If physics isn't important in medicine, eliminate it from the prereqs (and I am all for it). If it is, ensure that physical concepts are learned accordingly.
Simply put, requirements that eliminate physics and calculus will benefit for premeds, medical schools and weary college professors, and that time could be used to pursue other objectives.
Many schools have done exactly this, but as long as basic physics is needed for the MCAT, algebra-based physics will suffice. This is not to denigrate the concepts that one masters in any field.
 

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Many schools have done exactly this, but as long as basic physics is needed for the MCAT, algebra-based physics will suffice. This is not to denigrate the concepts that one masters in any field.
And more schools should keep doing it :smug:, but yeah, for practical purposes in fulfilling medical school requirements, the easiest course (in this case, algebra-based physics) is the way to go.
 
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