Physics Placement

Students considering majoring in Physics, Astrophysics, or Astronomy will normally take Physics 5 in the fall semester. Such students should consult with their advisor or the Department Chair during orientation if they have any questions about course selection.

We now offer two parallel courses Physics 3/4 (mostly for engineers, chemists, mathematicians) and now also P3L/4L (for Life Sciences, i.e. pre-med, bio, etc.). The placement exams are all the same.

Physics 3/3L (fall) and Physics 4/4L (spring) is the two-semester sequence generally taken to fulfill Physics requirements for other majors, e.g. by pre-med students or students planning on majoring in Chemistry, Engineering, or Biology. Any student wishing to receive credit or advanced placement in the Physics 3/3L or Physics 4/4L sequence for work done prior to Swarthmore should take the placement exam during orientation. With regard to credit, students with a score of 5 on the Mechanics C AP exam or score of 6 or 7 on the IB exam and a satisfactory grade on the placement exam will receive one credit for Physics 3/3L. Students with a score of 5 on the Electromagnetism C AP exam or score of 6 or 7 on the IB exam and a satisfactory grade on the placement exam will receive one credit for Physics. 4/4L.

Students who do not have the AP or IB scores mentioned above but who have a strong high school preparation can still receive advanced placement in the Physics 3/3L and Physics 4/4L sequence (e.g. fulfillment of a prerequisite for other courses) by taking the placement exam, but they will not receive Swarthmore credit for the Swarthmore physics course(s) they place out of. Since our Physics 3/3L and Physics 4/4L sequence is calculus-based, we don't grant credit for taking the algebra-based AP Physics 1 or 2 exam.