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AP, IB & Cambridge A-level Physics Credit

(last updated on March 26, 2014)

AP credit

Physics-B: If you earned a 4 or 5 on the Physics-B AP exam, you can receive credit for PHYS 115. If receiving credit for PHYS 115 is of no interest and you will not be taking another, similar course such as PHYS 121, then you may instead request 3 credits of PHYS T100. This does not translate into any particular course at CWRU but represents general physics transfer credit.

Physics-1 & Physics-2: The Department of Physics was informed on March 25, 2014, that the Physics-B curriculum will be replaced by “Physics-1” and “Physics-2” next year. These are year-long algebra-based courses, with the first focusing on mechanics and the second on electricity & magnetism. We plan to award credit for a 4 or 5 on the Physics-1 exam. No credit will be awarded for the Physics-2 exam but students who feel they know this material can earn credit for our PHYS 116 by passing a proficiency exam. More information on proficiency exams in physics, including sample exams, is available here. If you earn a 4 or 5 on the Physics-2 exam but will not take PHYS 116 or PHYS 122 at CWRU, you may request 3 credits of PHYS T100, general physics transfer credit associated with no specific course at CWRU.

Physics-C Mechanics: If you earned a 4 or 5 on the Physics-C Mechanics Exam, you can receive credit for PHYS 121.  If you are invited to register for PHYS 123, Physics and Frontiers I: Mechanics , and you accept this offer, you will forfeit your AP credit.

Some students will find that their intended major lists PHYS 115/116 as the required physics sequence rather than PHYS 121/122.  These students may request that, based on their grade on the AP Physics-C exam, they receive credit for PHYS 115 rather than PHYS 121. These two courses are similar enough in content that, from the point of view of the Physics Department, this is acceptable.  Before proceeding, we suggest that you first contact the major department’s academic representative to see if that department will allow the substitution of PHYS 121 for PHYS 115,  followed by your taking either PHYS 122 or 116 as deemed appropriate for the major. This substitution is often approved, as PHYS 121 is generally considered to be slightly more rigorous than is PHYS 115, while covering similar material ( differing mainly in that PHYS 115 will include some material on fluids while PHYS 121 may or may not include that material. PHYS 121 is also strictly calculus-based. )  The similarities between the sequences break down in PHYS 116/122 because, while PHYS 122 covers only Electricity and Magnetism,  instructors in PHYS 116 devote a significant part of the semester to concepts of modern physics used in the life sciences ( and tested on the MCAT exam .)

Physics-C E&M: Even if you earned a 4 or 5 on the Physics-C E&M exam, you cannot use this in place of PHYS 116 or PHYS 122. Experience has shown that too many students who use AP credit in place of these courses run into serious problems later in their academic careers.  If you feel confident that you understand E&M at a university level, you are welcome to take a proficiency exam given shortly before the start of classes each semester.  More information on proficiency exams in physics, including sample exams, is available here. If you will not take PHYS 116 or 122, you may request 3 credits of PHYS T100, general physics transfer credit associated with no specific course at CWRU.

IB credit

A score of HL 5,6 or 7 will translate to 7 credit hours; 4 credits for our PHYS 121 plus 3 credits of PHYS T100 (general transfer credit without a specific course equivalency).

Cambridge A and AS-level

Successful completion of the Cambridge International Physics Program (described at and ) MAY lead to credit for PHYS 115 and 116 or PHYS 121 and 122. Students who seek this credit will need to provide evidence of the mathematical level of the particular course they took (which could be either algebra or calculus-based) and the nature of the laboratory experience which accompanied the course.

International Program Credit

The following programs have been reviewed for credit at CWRU.

French Baccalaureate in Science with 4 Hour Physics Exam: We have decided to award PHYS 121 credit for a coefficient of 4 or higher. This was a close call. A faculty member in our department who grew up in Europe and has experience in their system of physics education warned that even 7 years of ‘physics’ courses in that system might not equate to PHYS 121 at CWRU. Still, several of our peer institutions do award that credit and we decided to do the same. Students will not, however, be given PHYS 122 credit based on this background. They may, of course earn this credit by passing the PHYS 122 proficiency exam.

Indian Secondary Certificate Examination: Although the list of topics this examination covers is similar to the list of topics in CWRU’s PHYS 121 & 122, the same is true of many high school courses in the US. This examination is necessary for admission to CWRU and our Office of Undergraduate Studies has ruled that it should not transfer as a university-level physics course. Students who have completed this program should register for a proficiency exam if they want to earn examination credit for a CWRU physics course.


Until the summer of 2007, the Department of Physics enforced a policy that students would not receive AP credit for physics until the student demonstrated an appropriate understanding of experimental techniques. This requirement was based on the College Board’s recognition that they cannot guarantee every high school AP course will have laboratory facilities equivalent to those at a university or college. The College Board includes a statement to this effect in one of their pamphlets; in a section Documenting Laboratory Experience the College Board suggests that you keep a lab notebook or portfolio of laboratory experiments and be prepared for a professor’s ‘ individual consultation with students to determine the nature of their laboratory experience ‘ . Case students were required to demonstrate Laboratory Competence by one of three methods: taking a stand-alone laboratory course ( PHYS 113A), via an interview with the Laboratory Director, or by successfully completing the laboratory associated with PHYS 116, 122 or 124 with a grade of C or better (> 70% in the lab component of the course).

Starting in the summer of 2007, the physics department eliminated the requirement to independently establish laboratory competence. However students should be aware that they accept some risk in using AP credit in place of taking the equivalent CWRU course and its associated lab. Before taking the second course in any of our physics sequences, a student should ideally have experience with laboratory notebooks, data acquisition by hand and by computer, data and error analysis (including error estimates, error propagation, statistical analysis, and linear as well as nonlinear fits), report writing and exposure to various types of apparatus related to basic concepts in mechanics ( for example: kinematics and dynamics in 1 and/or 2 dimensions, circular motion, harmonic motion, work, energy, friction, collisions).

Page last modified: May 28, 2016