How hard is introductory physics (university) if I have NEVER TAKEN high school physics?

lillybeans
Posted: 7:01AM January 26, 2011 UTC
Hey Everyone,

I want to go to McGill for my science studies (undergrad) and eventually become a geneticist. I will definitely need physics. 

However, I have never taken highschool physics (no grade 11/12) because at the time I didn't know I wanted to go into science. I only took Grade 11 Bio and Chem for fun. I know, now the situation gets a little problematic.

The program that I want to go into (life sci) only requires 2/3 sciences, so I'm covered for that. But I am wondering how difficult is first year physics? (introductory, no prerequisite) Will I be able to survive? =/ Or should I learn some stuff on my own? Any suggestions?

Thank you in advance!

L.T.
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VegaKrazmych
Posted: 7:01AM January 27, 2011 UTC
I haven't been in this situation, but I'm sure that if you work hard enough at it, and seek help when you need it, you will do reasonably well.

Nice to see someone else who's pursuing genetics.
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TheLaw
Posted: 7:01AM January 27, 2011 UTC
Uni physics is not impossible to learn id u have no background; which means you will have to work very hard to achieve good grades. I didn't have gr. 12 physics but did very well in my physics course last semester, but u have to know that UWO's biological physics is much easier than McGill's physics.
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alyciap
Posted: 7:01AM January 27, 2011 UTC
The material in intro physics was identical to high school physics 11 and 12. So, the course itself is actually very doable. 

The problems arise in the teaching style, and learning style of high school and university. The professors do not teach you the concepts in depth like they are taught in high school; you are expected to do a lot of work outside of class to understand the concepts. So, what you would get a 90 in high school with very little studying, might give you a 50 with the same habits in university. 

Another thing you should be aware of is there is often a lab. Labs are worth anywhere from 25-40 percent of your final mark. These are every week, and require prelab and postlab assignments. 

Unlike high school, there are no chapter tests. This leads to a road to procrastination. Instead of studying for every unit test, you only get the midterm and the final (in addition to your lab mark). If you think you could do high school physics theory, then this class won't be hard at all in terms of difficulty, but you might find yourself struggling because midterms and finals are weighted so heavily, and count for ~70% of your mark alone. 
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lillybeans
Thread Creator
Posted: 7:01AM January 27, 2011 UTC
Thread Creator
@alyciap wrote
The material in intro physics was identical to high school physics 11 and 12. So, the course itself is actually very doable. 

The problems arise in the teaching style, and learning style of high school and university. The professors do not teach you the concepts in depth like they are taught in high school; you are expected to do a lot of work outside of class to understand the concepts. So, what you would get a 90 in high school with very little studying, might give you a 50 with the same habits in university. 

Another thing you should be aware of is there is often a lab. Labs are worth anywhere from 25-40 percent of your final mark. These are every week, and require prelab and postlab assignments. 

Unlike high school, there are no chapter tests. This leads to a road to procrastination. Instead of studying for every unit test, you only get the midterm and the final (in addition to your lab mark). If you think you could do high school physics theory, then this class won't be hard at all in terms of difficulty, but you might find yourself struggling because midterms and finals are weighted so heavily, and count for ~70% of your mark alone. 



Thank you so much for the explanation! That helps a lot. So it is mostly the work ethic, not so much the concepts. (That is definitely good to know!)

Thanks to everyone else who has helped me!

Just wondering, are there (if not none at all) any science majors who enter university without having taken physics in highschool? 
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Anonymous
Posted: 7:01AM January 28, 2011 UTC
Well it would have been easier if you had atleast taken physics 11, however since you haven't, it will be tough..
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Anonymous
Posted: 7:01AM January 28, 2011 UTC
I forgot to ask, the program that you are considering, doesn't it require a pre-req from physics?
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cyynthiia
Posted: 7:01AM January 28, 2011 UTC
@ging1593 wrote
I forgot to ask, the program that you are considering, doesn't it require a pre-req from physics?



Most undergrad science programs, if not all, only require at most 2 sciences in order to be considered for admission.
So you wouldn't even need physics if you have chem and bio.
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lillybeans
Thread Creator
Posted: 7:01AM January 29, 2011 UTC
Thread Creator
Hey guys, then would you recommend it if I take Grade 11 physics in Summer School? Would that be a better idea?

Thanks!
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cyynthiia
Posted: 7:01AM January 29, 2011 UTC
@lillybeans wrote
Hey guys, then would you recommend it if I take Grade 11 physics in Summer School? Would that be a better idea?

Thanks!



I had a friend who did that and he got 95%, so if you're good with numbers and concepts, take it!
If not, you can always take it in the summer and redo it over the year.
That's what I'm doing with physics 12 since physics is my weakest science.
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FBerle625
Posted: 7:01AM January 30, 2011 UTC
I'm in a similar situation, I did not take physics in highschool for various reasons. as we all probably know, it is recommended to take physics, but since it's a little late for that, i'd say definitely get ahead and do a little research over the summer just to get a head start. The best way to start in university is by being proactive!
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cyynthiia
Posted: 7:01AM January 30, 2011 UTC
You could actually just looking through your friend's Physics 12 stuff.
I have a friend in university taking a first year physics course and he's struggling through it so I offered to help him even though I had no idea what to expect.
But when I saw his notes and practice problems, it was pretty much exactly what I learnt in Physics 12.
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V21Jays
Posted: 7:01AM January 31, 2011 UTC
As a biological sciences student you'd probably be taking the easier stream of physics. I know at the UofA, there's a calculus physics for physical science students/engineers, and an algebra-based physics for bio/life/environmental sciences.
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Nahal
Posted: 7:02AM February 01, 2011 UTC
I suggest taking an online course of grade 11 physics because it covers the basics. When you get into first year physics courses, a lot of course material is stuffed into a short period of time. You may most likely get lost as they kinda assume that you know vectors, instantaneous velocities and projectile motion basics.
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AshleyLynne
Posted: 7:02AM February 01, 2011 UTC
If your good at math you'll be able to follow physics well enough, plus if u have the memory for bio then im sure you'll be fine :)
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Brocco
Posted: 7:02AM February 03, 2011 UTC
Physics is one of those subjects that you either 'get' or find really difficult... I find it really difficult. This could be because I also didn't take physics 12 in high school though. I did take physics 11, but I often skipped that class (my boyfriend at the time had a spare) and didn't pay very much attention. I survived first year physics though, and am almost done my biology degree! Also, it was one of my lower marks, but by 4th year that doesn't even matter. 
I would suggest that you take physics 11 in the summer if you have the chance, because as a couple others mentioned, first year physics essentially recaps high school physics and builds on it a bit more. A bit of background knowledge will help you immensely, as you will soon find that you won't have a lot of extra time for background reading.

You can do anything you put your mind to. Good luck!
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Anonymous
Posted: 7:02AM February 05, 2011 UTC
Honestly, I did better in first-year Uni physics than in high school, due to poorly taught high school physics, I think. If you get a great physics TA, take advantage of that and ask questions! Most importantly, do your homework, even when it's not required, so that you can ask your TA for help! This will ensure that you're not scrambling before the term test. Your university may have a beginner physics course for those who did not take it in high school, but need it as a prerequisite for later courses.
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