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Physics Diagnostic Exam and Advanced Placement Information

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Physics is a large part of the Core curriculum at Caltech, so we try to understand the physics background of each incoming class of students. To this end, we request that you complete the Physics Diagnostic Exam, which will be available in the summer before freshman year through Canvas.  
Your participation in the Physics Diagnostic Exam is optional, but highly recommended, as this information is quite useful for us as we design and adapt our first-year physics courses. You should not study for the exam; just open it up and do the best you can. Your exam score does not count toward your academic grades in any way.  
The Physics Diagnostic Exam testing window opens on Friday, June 14 at 12:00pm PDT and closes on Friday, June 28 at 12:00pm PDT. 


You can also take the Physics 1a Advanced Placement Exam during the summer, which may let you to place out of Ph1a. This exam is also optional, independent of your of participation or score on the Diagnostic Exam. Note, however, that testing out of Ph1a is not easy, and this option is mainly for students that arrive at Caltech having already taken college-level physics courses. 

The Physics 1a Advanced Placement Exam will be available in the summer before freshman year through Canvas. Placement out of Physics 1a is only available by successfully completing this test in the summer. We do not accept grades in courses at other institutions. No additional opportunities to write these tests will be available. No student is required to complete any of these exams. Based on the results of your Physics 1a Advanced Placement Exam and your background in physics, you may be invited to take the Physics 1b Advanced Placement Exam. Some students who have placed out of Physics 1b will be invited to take the Physics 1c Advanced Placement Exam. The Physics 1b and 1c Advanced Placement Exams are written in person once you have arrived at Caltech.

The Physics 1a Advanced Placement testing window opens on Friday, June 28, 2024 at 12:00pm PDT, and closes on Friday, July 19, 2024 at 12:00pm PDT. This test will be available through Canvas and instructions for accessing the placement web page will be emailed. 

If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].