Algebra vs Calculus based Physics?

Hi everyone!

I was reading this forum for a long time and now have finally decided to register and take full advantage of all the nontraditional premed wisdom!

I am hoping to finish my prerequisites this year and apply to med schools in Summer’11. In fact, the only class that I have to take is Physics II. And here is my dilemma: I can take either algebra or calculus based physics. Both will be at local CC: I work full time and have a 8mo baby, so taking a day class at 4yr university and paying $1000 for credit hour is not an option for me

I checked with some schools that I am interested in applying, and they confirmed that they do NOT require calculus. However, almost all students applying to these schools do take calc-based phisics… So I do not know how bad it is going to look if not only I take physcis at CC, but algebra-based physcis as well…

On a side note, the professor who is teaching algebra-based class has awesome reviews - he seems to be nice and helpful. The one teaching the harder class has horrible reviews. Yet another side note is that I only look calculus I, but somehow was able to register for calculus based physics with calculus II and III as prerequisites! (the registrar person was new and did not checked my prerequisites). If I end up taking this class I hope that calculus part of it is not too intense. I took Physics I couple years ago at a 4 year school over summer. It was a calculuas based class. I did get at A in that class but it was HARD.

So any advise would be highly appreciated!!!

Currently I am registered for both, but will have to make a dicision and pick one in 1 week.

Advice? Opinions? We have plenty of both. Here is mine:

Go with the better class and better teacher.

Having said that, I found that, for myself, the calculus-based physics class was a far better fit than the algebra-based physics class. The latter was hard, mainly because we never actually learned why things happen as they do, just memorized the relevant equations. It was all plug-and-chug – a nightmare of a class. The calculus-based physics, in contrast, was a joy. Interesting, relevant, even fun. YMMV.

Here’s my opinion: no matter which physics class you take, it will be hard. Especially over the summer, when everything gets squeezed into very compacted days, with lots of material covered very quickly.

I took physics I (algebra-based) this last semester, and while I got an A in the class, it was definitely a challenge (MUCH more so than my other classes, bio and chem). Everyone in my physics class worked their butt off. Same went for the people taking calc-based physics – no one got off easy.

So I agree with spoxjox – I would go with the better teacher. You’re more likely to get more out of the class, which in turn (hopefully) means you will retain more and do better on the physical sciences section of the MCAT.

Best wishes to you, whatever you decide!

I’ve taken both kinds of physics, calc-based during undergrad and algebra-based just last year. For the purpose of MCAT studying, I liked algebra-based because it seemed to align closer to MCAT style material. From what I remember of my calc-based class (about 10 or 11 yrs ago) was that it was more engineering focused.

Unless you are very good with limits, derivates, and integrals, go with algebra based physics.

It will be a lot of “extra” work to integrate calculus and physics, especially if MCAT questions are based on algebra based physics.

Also, a good professor can make a class fun and make learning easier.

So, go for algebra-based physics. I already have a lot of physics in my undergrad (but from a foreign country) … and still I will be going for algebra based just because I am focussed on taking physics from the standpoint of scoring well on physical section of MCAT.

My 0.02cents!

I would partially agree with what is said above and nicely put by ChicBrownie.

You will need to prepare algebra based physics for the MCAT. However, I also think that if you are able to take Calc based Phys and ace it, it will give you a slight edge in front of the adcom standpoint (again that’s what I think and I have been wrong in the past). This is all the more important since you are going to CC (with excellent reasons). So higher level course will not hurt.

But it is true that it will require extra work for you because

1- you have to master algebra based physics for the MCAT

2- get OK with calc (but I remember that limits, derivatives and integrals are not too hard)

Whatever you decide, A is a must. So you must feel comfortable and ace whatever course and the MCAT.