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Should I take AP Physics 1 or AP Chemistry next year?

tthanengtthaneng 2 replies1 threads New Member
I am a high school sophomore and I want to go into the computer science and engineering field. I am currently taking regular chemistry and I am wondering if I should do AP Chem or AP Physics 1 next year. I don't have a background in regular high school physics yet and next year I'm going to be doing Algebra 2/Trig so I'm not sure if I should do AP Physics 1 or if I should do AP Chemistry since I already have a background. Which one should I do and which one is more important for computer science/engineering?
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Replies to: Should I take AP Physics 1 or AP Chemistry next year?

  • PengsPhilsPengsPhils Forum Champion Northeastern, Forum Champion Math/Computer Science 4161 replies34 threads Forum Champion
    edited February 17
    For CS, neither will be remotely important. For CE you could make a marginal case that Physics will help, but this will be minimal. I think I'd pick more off your interest/strength/comfort in the two subjects. Sounds like that would be Chemistry here.
    edited February 17
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 2078 replies33 threads Senior Member
    edited February 17
    I would recommend taking Physics so you’ve covered both, which most colleges expect (along with Bio). After you’ve had an intro course in both, you can better choose an AP course that interests you most the next year.

    Neither may be *directly* applicable to CS, but both provide fundamental skills and knowledge that will be used in the future. As a data point, CMU CS requires 4 Science/Engineering courses and my roommate was in my Physics 1, 2, and 3 courses, and I know he took Freshman Chem.
    edited February 17
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  • PengsPhilsPengsPhils Forum Champion Northeastern, Forum Champion Math/Computer Science 4161 replies34 threads Forum Champion
    Neither may be *directly* applicable to CS, but both provide fundamental skills and knowledge that will be used in the future.

    What of those skills are not just borrowed from math that would be required for a CS major? Having taken both I can't think of a concept that is used in any common CS practice or theory in a meaningful way where you'd need to have advanced knowledge on the subject.

    In my experience, the science requirements in many CS degrees are inherited from fitting ABET requirements which is a bit biased as an engineering organization, especially as we see computer science evolve more into a separate field. Engineering classes of course are more applicable for the CE side of things, but you see that many schools offer CS degrees without the science requirements, including top names in CS who also offer programs with heavier hardware focus as well (example, UCB).

    That said, a good point on getting some exposure to all three before leaving high school. Jumping right into AP could be less than ideal for some, so consider doing both, but perhaps Physics at an honors-level if offered.
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  • tthanengtthaneng 2 replies1 threads New Member
    edited February 17
    Well, I am planning to take AP Calculus AB in my senior year which I think will help me more if I want to go into the CS field, but I'm contemplating whether I should do 4 years of science or not. My school has a terrible 3 AP cap per year (meaning we can only take 3 APs in our junior year and 3 APs in our senior year), and I'm not sure if I should allocate my last AP in senior year to math or science. I'm planning to do AP Lit, AP Physics 1, and AP Comp Sci Principles next year. Senior year, I'm planning to do AP Comp Sci A, AP Calculus AB, and I'm not sure if I should do AP Statistics or AP Chemistry. Do you think I should do 4 years of science (AP Chem) or should I just do AP Stats in my senior year, like which one do you think is more beneficial?

    My school doesn't offer honors-level Physics either (they have regular Physics), but I am planning to take an online course over the summer (or practice on like Khan Academy) on regular Physics so I can get a background before going into AP Physics 1. I probably am going to fail the AP exam (it was like a 45.4% pass rate, I think the lowest AP exam pass rate), but I'm just aiming to get an A or B in that class. People also said AP Chem is harder (like the class), but the exam is easier than AP Physics 1 (it had a 55% AP exam pass rate I think).

    Also, I am currently in Integrated Math 2 (which I think is 1 semester of Algebra 1 and 1 semester of Geometry) and next year I am going into Integrated Math 3 (which I think is basically Algebra 2/Trig). Do you think I should finish Algebra first before doing AP Physics 1 (like basically do it my senior year, and do AP Chem next year)?
    edited February 17
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  • XtremeBlaze777XtremeBlaze777 156 replies16 threads Junior Member
    Definitely take 4 sciences. That is the min expected of numerous colleges. AP Stat isn't viewed as rigorously as other AP courses. Honestly, neither is CS principles.
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  • momtogirls2momtogirls2 948 replies7 threads Member
    Our school has integrated math 1-3 - after you complete all 3 you have completed algebra 1, geometry and algebra 2. Our school has honors and college prep versions. Trig is covered in honors but not positive about college prep but some schools may put trig in with precalculus.


    AP Physics 1 is designed by the college board to be an entry level physics (algebra based) course so no knowledge of physics is needed unlike AP Bio and AP Chem. However a specific math level may be recommended so check with your school. At our school students need to be in at least precalculus to take AP Physics 1.
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  • tthanengtthaneng 2 replies1 threads New Member
    So I think my plan is to do AP Chemistry next year since I already have a background in regular chemistry, and I'll do AP Physics 1 my senior year since by then I'll be finished with Algebra. My only question now is how hard is AP Chem? Right now I'm hovering around a B/B+ in regular chemistry right now and I don't necessarily think I'm struggling, but nor that I'm doing the best.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 2078 replies33 threads Senior Member
    edited February 19
    PengsPhils wrote: »
    [What of those skills are not just borrowed from math that would be required for a CS major?

    The analysis, thinking, observation and problem solving skills learned in advanced science courses are valuable life skills to pretty much anyone, IMHO, regardless of major. I don’t recall doing experiment design, data collection, observation, developing and testing hypothesis, etc. in a math course.

    If you don’t think studying advanced science topics is valuable, or that CS students somehow don’t benefit from those skills, then we can agree to disagree.
    edited February 19
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  • macroraptormacroraptor 41 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Most colleges don't accept physics 1/2 for credit hours or placement. However, AP chem is widely accepted. As someone who has taken both AP physics 1/2 and AP Chem, I can say with certainty that AP chem paid off so much more than both physics combined.
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