Physics Calc based or alg based Does it matter?

Well, I’ve finally begun the “official” journey to becoming a doctor with my Chem class. It’s been intense but a great time and, so far at least, I’m very happy I finally decided to just go for it.
OK, now for why I’m really writing this-- Is there any advantage to taking calc based physics rather than algebra based in terms of both the MCAT and adcoms? For my particular situation, to take calc based would add about $6,000 and, more importantly, cause me to have to put off the MCAT until August rather than taking it in the spring. I understand from other research that the difference in time between those tests can really affect a person’s chances of being accepted. To add to the mix, I will begin volunteering for the first time in a medical/health setting next week. So factoring in the physics question and the opportunity to name four additional months of volunteering, maybe August is the better way to go?
Anyone have thoughts on this?
Thanks! I’m going to view a few more posts and then back to the periodic table!

Larry, Hi.
Just my .02, but when I was an undergrad I took Physics that required you to have a calc. background. When I asked the TA in my lab section what the difference really was, he just pointed out that some of the equations used, you could derive from calculus. Non-calc physics pretty much just gives you the formulas and a brief explaination of how they arrived at that formula. I actually had to re-take physics since my grades are too old and I took a non-calc version. You still cover the same stuff, besides (I’ve already taken the MCAT) there wasn’t too much in depth sort of stuff on the exam, it was all pretty much what you should cover in a good undergrad non-calc course. Hope this helps!

The MCAT is NOT calc-based physics. I took non-calc physics and did fine on the MCAT. Our physics professor used to say that calc-based physics was actually “easier” because you learned where the derivations of formulas came from, but I surely did not care about the derivations.
Bottom line: there is NO advantage to calc-based physics for the MCAT or for your application. Only advantage is if you are a math type and like calc; apparently it might make the physics easier.

None of the medical schools I have looked at required calc-based physics. At my university, the health professions physics series is the non-calc one. To echo, what Mary said, my professor said that the main difference was the math level, but that the basic concepts covered were the same. He often mentions that a lot of the formulas we use are derived from calculus, but we aren’t responsible for knowing how the formula came about, just how to use them.
My understanding is that any math required on the MCAT is basic. Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time on the calc- based physics unless you have a burning desire to take it.
Good luck -

I don’t think taking calc-based physics would be worth it if it means putting off the MCAT and paying a lot more. Personally, I am a big advocate for calculus, and if you WANT to take that version I think you will be glad you did–but it’s not required. There is no calculus whatsoever on the MCAT. I took 3 calc classes, and 4 that required it as background, and when I was studying for the MCAT I found myself having to retrofit my math strategies because the MCAT totally ignores the techniques you learn in calculus. It was actually annoying. Basic algebra is all you need.

I sent you a pm.

I wouldn’t take Calculus based physics unless you are thinking of majoring in Physics or Engineering.
I took Trig based Physics and felt that the Physical sciences portion of the MCAT was the one I did best on. (Famous last words, right?)

Many thanks to everyone who has responded to my question. The general concensus is definitely to skip the calc-based physics. Now if I could just get my advisors in the program here to agree… I have decided to go ahead and take calc I this summer to go along with the chem i’m taking. I enjoy math so I figured I may as well see how it goes. If it goes really well then I will have to reconsider what to do in the fall. If it goes alright but I’m not really excited by the calc, then I’ll go the albegra based physics for sure. Thanks again. I hope everyone is having a great start to the summer!!

I took the Calc based Physics as an undergrad because I thought (for a few crazy months) that I would be a Physics major. I am now retaking Physics, the non-Calc version. As others have mentioned you do not need to take the Calc version either for the MCAT or to fulfill the pre-requisites.
Having been in both sections now, I do actually see why the Calc version can be thought of as “easier” (assuming you’re decent in Calculus). It does help to understand where the derivations are coming from in some cases. I have frequently gone back to my Calculus based book to read certain chapters there because it helps me see how certain topics are related to each other. I had been having a weird hang-up concerning momentum and reading the Calc based book cleared it up for me. It is nice not to have to worry about Calc but the algebra can get pretty cumbersome at times. Sometimes I wish I could just integrate/derive stuff, but I don’t remember how.
If I wasn’t working full time and had the time to review my Calculus I would have probably taken the Calc based course again. However, I am happy in this class and am able to focus fully on understanding the concepts this time rather than plugging in formulas.

I say take algebra based Physics. It is all that is needed for the MCAT. I was reading the earlier posts and laughing about the possibility of wanting to know the derivation of some of the equations. To each their own.