First Year Academics: Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement
The Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement is a diagnostic tool that evaluates your high school math preparation, including facility in pre-calculus, i.e., Algebra, Geometry, Logarithms and Exponentials, Trigonometry. You do not "pass" or "fail" this diagnostic. The results are meant only to help you and your freshman advisor choose the appropriate version of freshman physics. Your score will place you in 8.01L, 8.01, or 8.012. Details of these versions of Physics I appear on the Physics Department website.
The Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement is mandatory for all freshmen.
- The only exemption from the Math Diagnostic is for freshmen who have credit for 8.01 (Physics I) through a score of 5 on both AP Physics C exams or from an appropriate score on an international exam.
The Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement is given as a paper/pencil test on Monday, August 25, 2:30-4:00 pm. You do not need to register in advance; locations will be given you at Orientation check-in.
There is no make-up for the Math Diagnostic. If you do not take it, you will not be allowed to enter 8.012; you and your advisor will need to evaluate independently your preparation to succeed in either 8.01 or 8.01L.
Pre-calculus is the language of physics. In Physics subjects, you are presented with problems that will assume that you have instant recall of pre-calculus. Over the years we have found that many students, including those who have completed a high school calculus course, do not perform as well in pre-calculus as they need to.
- So, if you are rusty in, or did not sufficiently master, pre-calculus, especially trigonometry, you may be recommended to take 8.01L, the Physics subject that reinforces basic concepts and problem-solving techniques.
- Conversely, if you are highly proficient in high school math, you may be suited to take 8.012, a more mathematically advanced version of Physics I.
We recommend that you brush up on pre-calculus over the summer before taking the Math Diagnostic during Orientation, especially if you started calculus early in high school.
Download the practice version of the Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement. The practice version has the same number and type of problems as the real test, at the same levels of difficulty. Work through the test without looking at the solutions first; then check your answers and use the solutions to figure out where you went wrong on the incorrect answers.
The Physics department recommends in general the Schaum Outline series, published by McGraw-Hill. These books are concise, well-written, inexpensive, and widely available throughout the U.S. and abroad. The following volumes in particular will be of most use:
- College Algebra covers everything on the Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement, except Euclidean geometry.
- Geometry covers Euclidean geometry in the plane and space.
- Understanding Calculus Concepts, a good introduction to get a head start on calculus, if you have had none in high school or just a semester.
- Beginning Calculus, a complete review of the one-variable Advanced Placement course, for those who have Advanced Placement credit, or would like to try for it by taking the Math Department's Advanced Standing Examination during Orientation in late August.
Also check out relevant sections of the Khan Academy website.
For More Information
If you have questions or concerns about the Math Diagnostic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.