Hoping Calc based physics is doable 18 years post-calculus

I’ve already got my bachelor’s degree (Nursing, '97) and all of my other post-bac requirements (OChem, genetics, biochem) taken. So physics is the last thing I need for the MCAT/med school application. BUT…the local colleges/universities with algebra based physics are all “full”, and I’m not even allowed to register yet since I’m not “degree-seeking”, leaving me with waiting and trying again next fall(still a crap shoot), taking an accelerated physics class next summer(don’t want to…math’s too rusty, delays applying another year), or taking calculus based physics over the full year(still don’t want to…math’s too rusty).

The only option that doesn’t set me back a full year is the calculus based physics, so I’m planning to do that (with trepidation and my husband’s math tutoring skills). Here’s to hoping THIS class doesn’t fill up before I can apply, and that I’m not biting off way to big a chunk with the calculus!

Hello. I am in the same predicament. My additional question is also do the med schools know the difference between algebra physics and calc physics? I don’t want to re-take calc just to enroll in the calc physics, but it looks likely that this will happen.

I’ve actually heard an overwhelming number of people say that the algebra based physics is what you need for MCAT.

I know the schools I’m applying to don’t require the calc. physics, so I’m avoiding it like the plague.

Algebra-based physics is what I want to take…and (woohoo!)I just found a school that does offer it AND has spaces still. It’s about an hour’s drive away, but is only two days a week (including lab) instead of 3-4 days a week (mid-day, during the work week). Now I’m just hoping THIS one doesn’t fill up before my paperwork’s complete.

As someone who took the calc-based physics, I suggest algebra-based for the MCAT. I love math (the calculus in it is very basic anyway), but there didn’t seem to be as much emphasis on the concepts as my classmates who took the algebra-based. Plus the calc-based at my school doesn’t cover optics, fluids, or solids, so that’s something else worth looking into at your school - exactly what topics are covered? I had to spend a lot of extra time in my MCAT prep on those topics. BUT these issues could also be specific to my school?

GOOD LUCK! Keeping my fingers crossed for you… isn’t it frustrating to be at the whim of registration? We have a time table, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care! I had to beg like crazy to get into my chemistry class this summer–luckily, the professor had mercy and let me in (it was full), but I just wish we didn’t have to struggle with that variable. Just let me take the classes I need to take at the time I need to take them. Please??

As a Chem major I’ve taken PChem w/ Diffeq, and I would spend a semester reviewing Calc 1 before taking calc w/physics.

I never did all that well on my undergraad calculus. I think I had C’s in Calc 1 and 3, B in 2. I was a lot younger when I took it also. Knowing that I wanted to be better prepared, and also to kind of prove it to myself, I retook it this past year. I got A’s.

I think that for most classes, making sure your algebra is really solid is key. Even in calculus classes, what screws people up is rarely the concepts, but actually being able to move the pieces around, and that’s all algebra.

  1. The key to calculus is solid algebra and the key to calc based physics is the calculus. Taking calc-based physics and calculus when you are rusty at math seems a risk to me.

  2. Having taken calculus-based physics (and being good at math) it left me less prepared for the MCAT then taking algebra-based physics. A lot of stuff I had to “retro” learn if you will
  • gonnif Said:
2) Having taken calculus-based physics (and being good at math) it left me less prepared for the MCAT then taking algebra-based physics. A lot of stuff I had to "retro" learn if you will

Ditto! Great algebra skills are a must!

I took algebra based physics and it was very difficult for me. Part of this was because the class was taught by a professor who was used to teaching using calculus, and he didn’t transition well.

It seems your main concern is being rusty in math and not ready for calc based physics because of it. If you’re committed you can re-train yourself in math really easily with Khan Academy. I am actually doing this now because I’m tutoring high school girls and find myself forgetting how to do things like divide fractions , and Khan’s practice problems make it easy to get back up to speed.

You’ve got a couple weeks until school starts (I hope) so if you just pretend you’re in school already you can probably get caught up in time.


The Khan Academy is a fantastic resource if you want to refresh your math skills. Regarding your original question, though, I would recommend the calculus-based physics IF you want to fully understand the material intuitively. If you’re fine with rote memorization, algebra-based courses are sufficient, and (with good review materials, such as the Princeton Review books, which saved my hide) should be enough to eek you through your MCAT.

Personally, I find that I don’t recall information well unless I understand it, but if the MCAT is your final hurdle, you should be fine.