Physics is the branch of science that focuses on the nature and properties of matter and energy. The major topics in physics include mechanics, heat, light, radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and other structures of atoms.
Chemistry is the branch of science that is involved with the study of properties, composition, and structure of elements and compounds and how they can change from one form to another, and the transfer of energy during a chemical reaction.
In this article, we will compare the difficulty of studying physics and chemistry at the middle school, high school, college, and post-graduation levels. This comparative analysis will help you determine whether physics or chemistry is harder.
Is Physics Harder Than Chemistry?
Physics is slightly harder than chemistry because it is more math-oriented and has more abstract concepts. At the high school level, chemistry is actually more difficult than physics. Beyond high school, physics is harder than chemistry as it is calculus-based and extremely complex.
In middle school, there is no standard curriculum to make a fair comparison between the two subjects. Many middle schools teach physics, chemistry, and biology as a common subject. Other schools let the teachers design their own curriculums allowing them to determine the complexity of the subjects themselves.
In high school, the physics and chemistry syllabi are more streamlined among different schools. Many high schools enroll their students for standardized exams such as AP, A-levels, or the IB system. During high school, most students find chemistry more difficult than physics.
20% more students get a 3 or higher in their AP physics exams as compared to their chemistry exams. The general consensus suggests the same trend in A-levels and other high school standardized exams.
This is because high school chemistry requires you to remember a lot of different things, and understand the concepts in detail. Moreover, high school chemistry has an enormous syllabus comprising physical, inorganic, and organic chemistry. Students find high school level chemistry a demanding and perplexing subject.
On the other hand, high school physics is relatively easier. High school physics is not calculus-based and although the topics are difficult they are not overly abstract. You can easily relate to the physics concepts in real life.
Proceeding into the college you will find chemistry just as confusing and perplexing as before, if not more. However, the difficulty you experience in physics will be on a whole different level.
According to this site, physics majors have the highest average IQ amongst all university students. Hard would be an understatement when describing a physics degree. The abstract concepts along with the introduction of calculus in physics make some of the most disciplined and smartest students struggle big time.
Generally, people with good memories find chemistry a little easier, whereas students with good mathematical and logical skills may find physics a little less demanding. Overall the general consensus agrees physics is harder than chemistry but only by a small margin.
At the post-graduate level, there is a lot to be discovered in both physics and chemistry. However, chemistry is more tangible. It is easier to test a hypothesis in chemistry. In physics, you will not be able to test all your theories and hypothesis since it is not practical.
Why is Physics So Hard?
Physics is so hard because it is very math-oriented, has several abstract concepts, and requires strong analytical and rational skills. People find physics difficult because it is a demanding subject, with a large syllabus, and lots of challenging topics.
Unlike humanities subjects, in physics, you will not be handed out marks for expressing your opinion. Instead, you will need to provide concrete answers to challenging problem sets.
In physics, the greatest challenge is applying your prior knowledge in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Most of the questions in your physics paper will not be ones you have encountered before. In such situations, you will need to use your reasoning and logical skills to solve the problem.
Rote learning will not take you far in physics. You must have an in-depth understanding of the topics in order to be successful in the subject.
The math in your high school physics classes is not calculus-based. It is only computational at best. In college, physics courses have a reputation of exponential difficulty over high school classes due to the introduction of calculus.
Calculus is just the beginning; in more advanced classes the concepts become very abstract and difficult to relate to.
Why is Chemistry So Hard?
Chemistry is so hard because it is very cumulative, detail-oriented, abstract, and has many challenging concepts. Chemistry is a difficult subject because it has a massive syllabus and everything is intertwined, due to which you must have an in-depth understanding of all the topics.
Chemistry has five main branches namely: analytical, organic, inorganic, biochemistry, and physical. Physical chemistry overlaps with many physics and abstract mathematical ideas.
Organic chemistry and particularly biochemistry coincide with the highly conceptual nature of biology. The interdisciplinary approach of chemistry makes an already difficult subject even more challenging.
Analytical chemistry focuses on obtaining, processing, and communicating information about the composition and structure of matter. Inorganic chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of inorganic compounds, which include metals and minerals.
Chemistry is a highly interconnected subject. Chemistry requires you to visualize things that are abstract and difficult to imagine. Most of the concepts are learned through diagrams in the book rather than through experimentation.
Chemistry labs have a notorious reputation for being extremely difficult. You need to apply your learning to practical situations with near perfection. All these factors combined make chemistry a very hard subject. In fact, chemistry majors are renowned for low CGPAs despite a large pool of talented students pursuing them.
Is Physics the Hardest Science?
Physics is the hardest science. Physics is the hardest major; it is harder than chemistry, biology, psychology, computer science, astronomy, biochemistry, and geology. The level of math and the number of abstract concepts in physics is unparalleled.
Physics is more challenging than all other sciences. Astronomy, computer science, chemistry, and biology are all difficult subjects but not quite as demanding as physics. Only the most talented and hardworking students manage to pursue a degree in physics.
What is the Hardest Topic in Physics?
The hardest topic in physics is quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is the study and calculation of physical systems such as molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. Quantum mechanics is such a difficult topic because it has abstract math and the concepts are difficult to imagine.
Classical mechanics, general relativity, quantum field theory, statistical mechanics, astrophysics, and tensors are some of the hardest topics in physics. Generally, the more difficult and abstract the topic is the more students struggle with it.
Quantum mechanics is considered a difficult topic because the underlying theory is difficult to grasp. You need to have a strong understanding of advanced math and courses such as particle physics in order to understand quantum mechanics.
Is Physics Harder Than Calculus?
Physics is a lot harder than calculus. Calculus is a foundational topic that enables you to study advanced-level courses. On the other hand, physics is one of the most difficult subjects and requires you to understand several challenging topics including calculus.
Physics attracts some of the brightest and most talented students across the country. Physics is perhaps the most challenging and demanding major offered by colleges today.
On the flip side calculus is not even the most difficult part of a math degree. There are several math courses that are more advanced and complex than calculus.
Which is Better Physics or Chemistry?
Physics and chemistry are excellent subjects that can enable you to have a successful career. However, physics is slightly better than chemistry since it is more respected and provides greater career opportunities.
Many finance, engineering, computer science positions can easily be filled up by physics majors.
This is because physics majors have studied a very advanced level of mathematics and have developed strong critical thinking and analytical skills in the process. This makes them competitive employees for several jobs.
Although chemistry majors are employable in a vast variety of fields they do not enjoy the same career benefits that physics majors have in careers that are directly and indirectly related to their field.
Physics and Chemistry are both fantastic subjects. Chemistry is actually harder until high school. Once college starts, the data is indicative of physics being the more difficult subject.
Although both subjects are difficult, it is imperative to point out that most students do badly in STEM degrees not due to a lack of intelligence/ability but rather due to not working hard enough.
The jump from high school to college-level studies is a significant one and the best way to overcome this difficulty is by working hard, revising consistently, and seeking help wherever possible.