Which Physics Course is for Me?
Physics is a key foundation course for many areas of study. We have three introductory sequences to choose from—all of which have lectures, discussions, and laboratories:
- Physics 125-1,2,3 is taken by ISP students (and sometimes by other well-prepared students who are also enrolled in MENU or an equivalent Math sequence)
- Physics 130-1,2,3 is the algebra-based (i.e. non-calculus) version of introductory Physics. Most BioSci majors take 130.
- Physics 135-1,2,3 is a calculus-based version of introductory Physics. Some BioSci majors choose to take 135. Chemistry Majors, Engineering students, and students in some special programs such as HPME take 135, and Physics majors/minors may take it also.
- Physics 140-1,2,3 is intended for prospective physics majors and minors, and for others who want to learn physics in greater depth. Permission is required.
The lab sequence Physics 136-1,2,3 (1/3 credit per quarter) is associated with all three course sequences. Concurrent registration in Physics 136-x is required.
When Can I Take Physics?
During the academic year, if you are taking Physics 125 ,130 or 140 , you must take the classes in fall, winter, and spring quarter. The sequence begins with 125-1/130-1/140-1 in the fall, continues in the winter with 125-2/130-2/140-2, and concludes with 125-3/130-3/140-3 in the spring.
If you are taking 135, we offer two options.
- Sequence one begins with 135-1 in the fall and continues with 135-2 and 135-3 in winter and spring quarters respectively.
- Sequence two begins with 135-1 in the spring quarter and continues with 135-2 the following fall and finishes with 135-3 in the winter quarter.
Both sequences are identical in content. Math 220-1 and 220-2 (or their equivalent) are prerequisites for Physics 135-1. Math 230-1 is a prerequisite for Physics 135-2. If you've had any calculus in high school, you should be able to place out of some or all math prerequisites by taking an online exam: see Math Department's First Year Focus page.
Note that these courses must be taken in order. Each course in a sequence is a prerequisite for the next course in that sequence. Physics 135-x credit is also acceptable as a prerequisite for subsequent quarters of 130-x.
Getting Started in the Major
The Physics major and minor are open to all undergraduates at Northwestern, with a range of concentrations to choose from. The major is designed to help students acquire a broad background in physics and related fields (for more information on why a Physics & Astronomy major may be the choice for you, please see this page).
Many of our students have taken physics before coming to Northwestern, but it is not necessary to have had a physics class before beginning the major. In the first year, most students take a year long series of introductory physics: Physics 140-1, 2, 3 or equivalent.
Some first year students take a year-long series in calculus (Math 220-1, 220-2, 230-1) but you may be able to place out, either through AP/IB scores or by taking an online exam.
AP Exam Credit
Students with AP scores of "5" will be awarded credit as follows:
|AP Physics I Exam||Credit for Physics 130-1 and Lab Course 13X-1|
|AP Physics II Exam||Credit for Physics 130-2 and Lab Course 13X-2|
|AP Physics C-Mechanics Exam||Credit for Physics 135-1 and Lab Course 136-1|
|AP Physics C-Electricity & Magnetism Exam||
For a test taken in 2019 or earlier:
Credit for Physics 135-2, and Lab Course 136-1
For a test taken in 2020:
Credit for Physics 1XX, and Lab Course Physics 1XL
Physics 135-2 EQuivalency Assessment EXAM INFORMATION
Students with generic credit for Physics 1XX and 1XL from a score of 5 on the 2020 AP Physics C (Electricity & Magnetism) Exam may take an Equivalency Assessment Exam to verify physics placement. Passing the exam will convert these credits to Physics 135-2 and 136-2, which may be useful for satisfying some major requirements (total NU credits will not change). Performance on the exam can indicate whether the appropriate placement is in 135-2 or 135-3. Taking the assessment exam is not required if there is no need for explicit placement or credit for the 135-2 course.
The Equivalency Assessment Exam will be given on Wednesday, September 2 at 7PM (CDT). Please allot two hours. Details and updates will be posted here over the summer.
physics 140-x waivers
If you have credit for Physics 135-1 and/or 135-2 based on your AP score or the placement exam (see above), but you will be taking the Physics 140 sequence, please speak to Dr. Royster about which quarters you may skip. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis. If you do not have credit for Physics 135-1 and/or 135-2, you may not skip any quarters of 140-x.
As a Physics & Astronomy major you will have the opportunity to work with one of our faculty members in doing original research. We encourage each student to discover an area of physics they particularly enjoy and identify a research advisor. Please see here for more information on undergraduate research opportunities.
Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Professor Nate Stern
Phone Number: 847-467-0625
Office: Tech F317
If you are having trouble finding an open lecture or lab section for Physics 130 or 135, you may need a permission number to register. Please contact Peri Drury for assistance.
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