There are three introductory physics pathways:
- PHYS 110 - Liberal Arts Physics
- PHYS 114, 115, 116 – General Physics
- PHYS 121, 122, 123 - Mechanics, Electromagnetism/Oscillatory Motion, Waves
Students take one of these pathways. Credit is not allowed for both the PHYS 114 and PHYS 121 sequences.
All three courses in the PHYS 114 and 121 sequences are offered every quarter, including summer. There is also an honors section of the PHYS 121 sequence, starting only in autumn quarter.
What Physics Course Should I Take?
- PHYS 110 is taken by non-science students who want a one-quarter "liberal arts" introduction to physics. Students planning on science majors should not take PHYS 110.
- Students planning on biological majors and premed students usually take the PHYS 114 series.
- Students planning on engineering, computer science, or physical science majors take the PHYS 121 series.
- Pre-science students with strong backgrounds in high school math, chemistry, and physics should consider the honors section of PHYS 121.
PHYS 114 has no prerequisite, although college algebra (MATH 120) and high school physics are recommended; students who didn't take a year of high school physics can take a remedial high school physics course at any community college. You must take PHYS 114 before 115, and 115 before 116.
The prerequisite to PHYS 121 is the first quarter of college calculus (MATH 124, 134, or 145), which may be taken concurrently. In other words, you can take PHYS 121 and MATH 124 in the same quarter. High school physics is also recommended. The prerequisites to PHYS 122 are PHYS 121 and the second quarter of calculus (which may be concurrent). The prerequisites to PHYS 123 are PHYS 122 and the third quarter of calculus (which may be concurrent).
In the both the PHYS 114 and PHYS 121 series, students who are "in sequence" have registration priority over other students. During Period 1, when continuing UW students register, only students currently taking PHYS 114 or 121 are allowed to register in PHYS 115 or 122, respectively; and only students currently taking PHYS 115 or 122 are allowed to register in PHYS 116 or 123, respectively. Other eligible students are allowed to register in Period 2. You should keep this in mind when you plan your classes; it will be easier to register for physics if you take all three quarters in a row with no breaks.
No High School Physics?
The UW doesn't offer an introductory course for students who didn't have high school physics. This generally isn't a problem with the PHYS 114 sequence, which is usually taken in the student's third or fourth year of college. By this time your coursework in college chemistry and math will more than make up for the lack of high school physics.
Students who didn't have high school physics should take at least the first quarter of chemistry (CHEM 142 or 145) before taking PHYS 121. It also helps to start college calculus at least one quarter before starting the PHYS 121 sequence, so that calculus concepts are well mastered before you need them in the PHYS 121 sequence.
There is no placement test in physics.
AP and IB scores
Students with scores of 4 or 5 on the AP Physics exams receive college credit. See our AP tables for the specific credit awards.
Students with scores of 5, 6, or 7 on the IB Physics exam receive 15 credits for the PHYS 114 sequence. See our IB tables for the specific credit award.
PHYS 114, 115, 116 is a lecture series. The accompanying one-credit laboratory courses are PHYS 117, 118, 119. Majors that require the PHYS 114 sequence may or may not require the labs. The labs are recommended for students planning on applying to professional schools, including medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine.
PHYS 121, 122, 123 is a combination lecture/lab series. Unlike most lecture/lab courses, in this physics sequence you must register separately for one lecture, one quiz/tutorial section, and one lab section. In the Time Schedule, lectures will be indicated by a single letter (e.g., A, B, C, D); quiz/tutorial sections will be indicated by two letters (e.g., AA, AB, BA, BB) and the QZ designation; and lab sections will be indicated by two letters or a letter and a number (e.g., AY, AZ, A1, A2) and the LB designation.
Physics lab courses require a separate lab fee, which will be included in your tuition bill.
Physics Transfer Credit
If your physics courses transferred as direct equivalents — they are posted as PHYS 121, etc. — then you may register for the next course in the sequence. If your courses transferred as "X credit" — PHYS 1XX, etc. — you need to speak with the physics department to determine which course you should take next. Contact Physics advising for an appointment.
If you are enrolled in physics courses at another college and planning to transfer to the UW, we strongly encourage you to finish your physics sequence before transferring. The topics are seldom taught in exactly the same order at different colleges, and if you transfer mid-sequence you may miss some topics and duplicate others.
The transfer equivalencies for courses taken at Washington community colleges are listed in the Equivalency Guide.