The Physics Exemption Exam is intended for students who have a strong high school preparation in physics and are interested in taking a physics course that has a prerequisite of Physics 107 (Principles and Applications of Mechanics) and/or Physics 108 (Principles and Applications of Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics). The exam consists of two parts, one covers classical mechanics and the other covers electricity and magnetism. A strong performance on only the classical mechanics section of the exam will exempt a student from Physics 107 and allow her to enter Physics 108. (Physics 108 is offered in both the Fall and the Spring semesters, as is Physics 107.) A strong performance on both parts of the exam will exempt a student from Physics 107 and 108 and qualify her for a 200-level physics course, typically Physics 202 (Introduction to Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics).
The material covered in Physics 107 and 108 forms an essential background for all of our more advanced courses. There are relatively few students who end up being exempted from Physics 107 and even fewer who are exempted from both Physics 107 and 108. These courses are taught at a level that is higher than that of most high school courses, including a typical Advanced Placement (A.P.) physics course. The laboratory exercises that accompany these courses are also typically quite different from the laboratories that are found in most high schools. Our experience has been that unless a student has an unusually strong high school physics (and math) preparation, she will be best served by starting out in Physics 107. Few people report feeling bored or unchallenged in this course. Of course it makes little sense for those students who do have a preparation equivalent to the one offered by Physics 107 and 108 to repeat these courses. The purpose of the exemption exam is to identify these students and guide them to a course at the appropriate level. It is therefore purely a diagnostic tool used for placement purposes. Results of the exam are kept strictly confidential and will not appear anywhere on your Wellesley College transcript.
One good way for you to decide if it is appropriate for you to take the exemption exam is to look at the sample exemption exam problems and syllabi. They should give you a sense of what the exam will be like and the content upon which it is based. If you decide to take the exam it will be very helpful if you spend some time reviewing material from your high school physics course.
The Physics Exemption Exam is a closed book exam with a 90 minute limit for each of the two parts If you have questions regarding the exam, or if you are unsure about whether or not to take it, please feel free to contact the Physics Department Chair.