Skip to content
Home » college physics vs general physics

college physics vs general physics

In this post, we’ll be discovering the difference between college physics and general physics. In addition, discover the hard topics of each subejcts.

the difference between college physics and general physics

College physics is much harder than general physics because it involves calculus in its curriculum. In general physics courses, students don’t study calculus combined with physics, they study superficially physics topics and don’t dig deeper into details.

The goal of studying college physics is to prepare students for majoring in branches like medicine, business, economics, psychology, or biology, these topics are not condensed in math, and don’t require calculus to complete.

Typically a general physics course has another name physics-based algebra. Students take physics-based algebra in high school especially in their last years before going to college, while others take physics-based calculus which is equivalent to college physics courses.

you could discover the difference between algebra and calculus-based physics courses in this detailed article.

College physics or calculus-based courses are the same. This program is dedicated to students who have an interest to major in engineering, physics, mathematics, and chemistry.

A calculus-based physics or general physics course is made for students who have an interest in pharmacy, medicine, psychology, business, and economics, meaning all the majors that don’t focus a lot on math.

But in reality, you can’t learn physics without calculus, in algebra-based physics, they just scratch the surface of physics topics like kinematics and motions, etc.

If you are majoring in or preparing for MCAT as a medical student, you don’t need to take college physics, algebra-based physics or general physics is already enough to succeed at this exam.

On the other hand, if you want to become an engineer or physicist,  you must take college physics to study calculus topics like derivatives, integrals, and differential equations. These subjects are primordial for any engineering or physics major.

Does college physics require calculus?

College physics requires a lot of calculus, if you have an intent to major in math, computer science, chemistry, or physics you will be required to complete 4 principal calculus classes from the easiest to the hardest one.

In the first year, you will be having two calculus courses calculus 1 and calculus 2 . you will be studying some principal topics like derivatives, integrals limits, and continuity. These subjects are crucial to preparing for more advanced physics courses like thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.

The minimum requirement you should have to take college physics is to have some foundations in precalculus courses or at least algebra 2 courses, like functions, complex numbers, and trigonometry.

If you are not good enough at these courses it is better to take an easier physics course which is a general physics course, it doesn’t include calculus so it is much easier to complete than college physics.

College physics vs general physics for med school

pre-med schools don’t require you to take college physics, only general physics is enough to join the med school. the med school doesn’t require using calculus in physics, but if you are good at math it will be a good idea to challenge yourself and take a calculus-based physics course such as college physics.

If you are preparing for the MCAT exam, general physics is enough. It covers 20% of the physics questions asked in the exam. You don’t need calculus at all. The physics in MCAT exams are easier.

The goal of taking a general physics course for med school is to ensure that students have basic foundations in physics and science.

What’s the difference between General Physics and university physics?

General physics is an algebra-based physics course students take to prepare for schools like medicine, business, economics, psychology, biology, and so on. In other words, all the majors don’t focus hugely on math. 

While university physics is a calculus-based physics course that prepares students to study or major in math, physics, or engineering. These majors require a lot of math so they focus also on calculus.

in general physics, course you will be required to have foundations in algebra courses like algebra 1 and algebra 2, while university physics courses need to have the foundation in all algebra courses we mentioned, in addition to precalculus and calculus 1 course, so it is more difficult and challenging.

Some schools call university physics college physics or general physics with calculus, all are the same.

general physics vs general physics with calculus 

General physics is a course that includes only algebra to solve physics topics. Students study a group of high school subjects like kinematics, electricity, magnetism,  optics, and waves but don’t dig deeper and solve difficult problems that require calculus.

On the other hand, in general physics with calculus, students take physics courses the same ones as general physics, but they go deeper and use calculus instead of algebra to solve problems. 

For instance, in kinematics students use prepared equations to solve problems while in physics with calculus students should proof these equations before using them. In other words, to make proofs you need calculus.

In general physics with calculus students must be prepared to take this course, at least taking precalculus.

 In addition, some students take calculus 1 before taking the general physics with calculus course because in this course you have to be good at these calculus topics:

Typically derivatives and integrals are taught in calculus 1, so a lot of students prefer to take calculus 1 before. If you don’t you will be forced to learn these topics in general physics with a calculus course which is harder.

The general course is designed for medical, pharmacy, business, economic psychology, and schools. While general physics with calculus is for engineers, mathematicians, and physicians it is harder than the first one.