Selecting a Physics Course

Students who are pursuing an engineering degree or certain Bachelor of Science degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences majors will normally take PHYS 121 and 122. Engineering majors will take PHYS 121 in either the first or second semester; consult the schedule development recommendations for guidance. Students pursuing a BS in the College of Arts and Sciences that requires PHYS 121 may or may not be advised to take PHYS 121 & 122 in their first year; consult the schedule development guidelines for guidance.

  • The recommended preparation for PHYS 121 is MATH 121 or a year of high-school calculus. Students should be comfortable with integral and differential calculus before enrolling in PHYS 121.
  • Students who have credit for PHYS 121 through AP or IB are eligible to enroll in PHYS 122 if they also have credit for MATH 121 and enroll in (or have credit for) MATH 122.
  • Students who have credit for PHYS 115 from the AP Physics B or Physics-1 exam must still take PHYS 121 if required for their intended major.

The PHYS 115-116 sequence is directed primarily toward students working towards a BA in science, with an emphasis on the life sciences. Students pursuing majors that require this sequence do not typically take physics until their second or third year of study.

Both sequences fulfill the pre-health physics requirements. Students should select the sequence specified by the major they intend to pursue and should seek the advice of their academic advisor before pursuing an alternate sequence. Students pursuing a major that does not require physics may choose either sequence but should have the appropriate background in calculus (MATH 121 or a year of high school calculus) before starting the PHYS 121-122 sequence.

Students who are invited to take Enhanced Physics (PHYS 123 and124) may use these courses to fulfill requirements for PHYS 121 and 122 or PHYS 115 and 116. For more information, please see the enhanced course options section of this guide.

We encourage students with appropriate AP, IB, or transfer credit to attempt the second course in one of these introductory physics sequences. Those who are concerned about the strength of their background and would prefer to take the first course in one of these sequences may do so. However, students should feel comfortable attempting a higher level course at the beginning of their first semester. The first two weeks of each semester comprise the drop/add period, during which students in higher-level courses may opt to change their enrollments to a lower-level course if they feel that the initial course is too challenging. It will be easier for students to move to a lower-level course after beginning in a higher-level course.

Note: Choosing to enroll in a course for which one already has AP, IB, or transfer credit means forgoing credit for the AP, IB, or transfer course.