Physics Placement for New Students

Greetings, new students! You will find here some information that may help you decide which introductory course is right for you.

If you think you might major in Physics, start with Physics 123 (offered Fall semester only). You can place out of Physics 123 in one of two ways:

  • If you received a 5 on the AP Physics C examination; or
  • By passing the physics placement exam.

The physics placement exam covers material contained in the first semester of our calculus-based physics course: kinematics, Newton's laws of motion, work and energy, momentum, rotation, gravitation and oscillation. The placement exam is a 90-minute written take-home test that can be picked up outside the department office (Room 214 in Merrill Science Center) during orientation. The tests must be returned the Monday before the first day of class. The Chair will contact you about your results by email.

If you place out of Physics 123, you may wait until the Spring semester and take Physics 124.  A mastery of the computational skills developed in Physics 123 will be assumed in all subsequent courses.

If you think you probably won’t major in Physics, you can take either Physics 116 (offered both semesters) or 123 (Fall semester only). Both satisfy the physics requirements for medical school. (Both also satisfy the requirements for the major.) You can take the physics placement exam (discussed above) if you want to get our opinion about which of the two courses is best for you.

If you have any questions about the placement procedure or the physics curriculum, please feel free to stop by the department office, Merrill 214.



Physics and Astronomy Department

AC# 2244
Amherst College
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
Larry Hunter, Chair

Particle Paths