Information about Physics Courses for Incoming Freshmen

Ph1 - Ph1 is an Institute requirement, so you must either take Ph1abc or have the requirement waived.

The 2017 Placement Exam was available online through

The Physics Section Placement Exam

The summer before coming to Caltech, you will receive a physics placement exam. Your score on the exam will be used to place you in one of the ten recitation sections of Ph1a. There are three different types of Ph1a sections:

Sections 1 & 2: These sections are designed for students who were exposed to less physics in high school than is the norm. These sections provide extra review of basic physics, in order to bring everyone up to speed by the end of the term.

Sections 3 - 8: These are typical sections.

Sections 9 & 10: These are advanced sections for students who have already seen a lot of physics. They cover the material in more depth, and may include some additional special topics.

The Physics Advanced Placement Exam

Students will be given the chance, if interested, to attempt the Ph1a Advanced Placement Exam. This exam covers basic Newtonian mechanics, much like in Ph1a. Students that do well on the exam AND on the freshman placement exam will place out of Ph1a and receive the Ph1a units. This exam has been completed for 2017.

First-year Courses Other Than Ph1

Ph3 - This is a freshman physics lab that includes mechanics and E&M, along with statistical analysis of data. It is open to freshmen 2nd and 3rd terms, except by permission of the instructor. Ph3 is often taken by students who do not intend on majoring in physics.

Ph8 - This is a take-home lab course covering experiments in electromagnetism.

Ph10 - This is a seminar course designed to introduce 1st-year students to physics research that is happening at Caltech. 

Ph11 - This unique course provides students with the opportunity to discuss current scientific research with their peers and faculty mentors. It also provides students with a summer research job. Many students find it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. 

Ph20-22 - These are three parts of a computational physics lab. The lab is not about how to program, but rather how to use computers to solve problems in physics. Check the Caltech course catalog for more details.