Physics is the study of matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. Simply put physics is the branch of science concerned with matter and energy.
Physics 1 and 2 are college-level courses that are taken by a large number of STEM majors including computer science, engineering, biology, and chemistry. Many students take AP Physics 1 and 2 to get credits for the college equivalents in a bid to graduate early.
In this article, we will be covering the difficulty of physics 1 and 2, the hardest topics in the courses, strategies to do well in the courses, and other similar questions.
Is Physics 1 Hard
Physics 1 is a moderately hard course. Physics 1 is difficult because it is calculus-based, has several perplexing and challenging concepts, and requires a lot of practice to get used to. However, AP physics 1 and other algebra-based versions are slightly easier.
Physics 1 is the first real introduction to the world of physics. Most of the physics classes you encountered in high school were toned down and thwarted your efforts in understanding the big picture. In contrast, physics 1 especially a calculus-based version provides an adequate preamble.
Students find physics 1 relatively challenging because the questions typically require an understanding of the underlying concepts and the ability to apply those concepts in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts.
Simply plugging values into the formulas will not do at the college level in physics. In physics 1 you will have to understand what the questions are demanding, the formulae that can be used, figure out a way to connect different formulae, consider external factors which could affect the equation, and then finally solve it.
Here are the topics in a typical physics 1 course:
- Motion Diagrams
- Position, Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration
- Error Analysis and Significant Figures
- Freefall and Motion on an Inclined Plane
- Scalers and Vectors
- Projectile Motion and Relative Motion
- Circular Motion
- Force and Inertia
- Newton’s Laws
- Equilibrium, Mass, Weight, Gravity
- Friction and Drag
- Action and Reaction
- Momentum and Impulse
- Kinetic Energy, Gravitational Potential Energy, and Elastic Potential Energy.
The syllabus for physics 1 is not very extensive. However in-depth topics along with the level of understanding required make it a tough course.
Math plays a central role in physics 1. You can expect nearly 40% of it to be mathematical, whereas the rest of the focus will be on the theory and applications.
You certainly need to have a solid understanding of basic mathematics; advanced math concepts such as calculus will be primarily used for understanding the material more fully rather than testing students on their mathematical skills.
What is the hardest topic in Physics 1?
Torque, rotational dynamics, and moments of inertia are considered to be some of the hardest topics in physics 1 since they often require visualization in more than 2 dimensions and a greater level of understanding.
Overall physics 1 is certainly a hard course but it is not very difficult if you study regularly and revise consistently.
Is Physics 2 Hard
Physics 2 is quite a hard course. Physics 2 is not easy because it is calculus-oriented, has many challenging topics, and requires a deeper understanding of the underlying principles. AP Physics 2 and other algebra-based versions are slightly less difficult.
Physics 2 is difficult because it has several advanced and complex topics. Many of the physics 2 concepts are difficult to visualize which adds to the challenge. Physics 2 topics are unintuitive and abstract.
Like physics 1, physics 2 is also calculus-based unless you are doing AP physics 2 or an algebraic version of it. In physics 2 the answers can range from 10^-23 to 10^23. The incredibly large range of numbers further adds to the abstractness of the course. Moreover, physics 2 will incorporate more irregular math, more vector components, and a lot more geometry.
It is important to point out that physics 2 can have wildly different topics across colleges. However, most colleges will have electricity and magnetism as their central point of focus.
Here are the topics in a typical physics 2 course:
- Fluid Mechanics
- Temperature and Heat
- Kinetic Theory and Thermodynamics
- Conductors and Capacitors
- Electric Circuits
- Magnetic Fields
- Phyiscal and Geometric Optics
- Atomics and Nuclear Phyisics
Intro to physics courses such as physics 1 and 2 are quite challenging. In fact, physics 2 has a notorious reputation of being a “weed-out course.” It is not uncommon to see a third to half of the students in a physics 2 class dropping out or failing it entirely.
This is because physics 2 is usually taught in the second semester and professors do not want you to waste your time with more advanced courses unless you are serious and are willing to put in the required effort. Physics is one of the toughest degrees and professors want to give you realistic expectations of what is to come in the future.
Is physics 2 harder than physics 1?
Physics 2 is certainly harder than physics 1 because it is more abstract, has more irregular calculations, and has more challenging topics. Physics 1 is easier because it has topics that are easier to visualize and we are more familiar with.
Why is Physics so Hard?
Physics is so hard because it is an abstract subject, uses a lot of advanced mathematics and chemistry, has challenging concepts that are difficult to visualize, focuses on both the microscopic and macroscopic level, and can often transcend reality.
Physics has the power to transcend reality. In physics, you will have to scale ideas to proportions that far exceed what we see in normal circumstances on Earth.
In physics, you will be studying the velocity and mass of subatomic particles as well as calculating the energy and work done by large turbines and nuclear reactors.
Chemistry and mathematics in particular play a crucial role in physics. The proliferation of advanced mathematics is one of the biggest deterrents in students taking up STEM majors, especially physics.
Moreover, many of the topics in physics are very abstract and difficult to visualize. You may have to use sophisticated tools and instruments to test out your hypothesis. Using a microscope and mixing chemicals can take you quite far in biology and chemistry; unfortunately, this is not the case in physics.
Can you study physics without maths?
You cannot study physics without maths. Mathematics plays an essential role in physics and the two cannot be separated. In fact, it would not be wrong to say physics is basically applied mathematics.
Is physics harder than calculus?
Physics is absolutely harder than calculus. Calculus is an intermediate level of mathematics that is usually taught during the first two years of most STEM majors. Physics on the other hand is a very advanced and difficult and highly researched field.
Physics is a hard subject. Physics 2 is harder than physics 1 but not by much. The best way to master physics is through regular practice. You can use a wide variety of resources at your disposal such as YouTube videos, notes, online courses, textbooks, and slides.
Physics is not an impossible subject as long as you are willing to put in the hard work. It is an amazing and interesting subject that is super useful and applicable.