Physics at Berkeley High

Parent Q&A

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Son is considering taking AP physics next year

March 2007

My son is considering taking AP physics next year as a Senior. I have some vague memories of hearing through the grapevine that this can be a killer class. I've looked through the archives and find 2 comments from BHS science teachers that no longer teach there.

Can anyone give me any input about the class from the last year or two? How did your student do? Did they enjoy the class and learn a lot? Was it too intense? How much time did they spend on homework?

Does anyone know which teacher(s) teach it? If yes, do you have any feedback?

My son is doing well in AP Chemistry this year w/ Mr. Glimme and is taking Honors Math Analysis which is a bit of a challenge for him. In college he may major in math or some field of science.

We're also interested in info on AP Environmental Science classes.

Many thanks in advance! a BHS mom

Both my kids attended BHS and were in as many AP courses as they could get. My son, a physics major, took AP physics and had little trouble with the class work, but felt that the teacher ''hated'' him. The classwork was extremely time consuming. My daughter, also a science major - but in an integrated environmental program, enrolled in AP physics but switched to AP Environmental Science. She did this only after first contacting several of her college choices to ask if they gave greater weight to one over the other. She entered AP Enviro knowing that it is considered a ''bit of a joke'', but also knowing that she had a huge load with her other classes. She treated the class as a study hall, taught herself the material from the AP study guides and was glad that she made the switch. She was accepted at each college she applied to. Warning: the only reason she was allowed to make the switch is because her entire senior year schedule was a problem. She started out with 4 gaps!! So, your student should make his decision at scheduling time. In the long run, it probably comes down to the background your student needs for his future plans and his true interest in the material. I know many successful college students who opted for the regular physics course along with a healthy sprinkling of AP courses. Anonymous

Hello, My son is in AP Physics, and although it is fast-paced, challenging, and demanding, he really enjoys it. His teacher is Mr. Salser who obviously loves his job and is very accessible to students who need extra help. The class is project oriented and great for those who like problem solving. For example, one of the projects this year was to figure out how to drop an egg off the roof of the C Building without the egg breaking.

Mr. Salser says AP Physics is one of the hardest classes at BHS, but if your son likes math and likes to work hard, he should take it. One thing to know is that once you're in an AP class, it is next to impossible to get out of it.

I don't know much about AP Environnmental Science, but his friends taking the class say there is a lot of busy work.

Ap Physics has hours of homework a night, a 7:30 am lab, and tests every two or three weeks, but I think the majority of the students would say it's worth it.

We had two seniors last year. One took AP Environmental Science and thought it was a joke, with lab credit for things like picking up trash. I'm sure she leanred some important things in the class -- but she got a 2 on the AP Exam. Her class didn't seem to following the AP syllabus very closely. Our other senior was steered away from AP Physics on the theory that she's not ''a math science person''. She took Physics and found it badly taught and underwhelming. I don't know if AP Physics would have been hard but, if well taught, it might have been worth the effort...

If your student is interested in math/science in college I would find out which level of Physics gets the best teacher next year and take that one -- my daughter finally had an o.k. Physics experience by taking it freshman year in college. Sorry not to be more encouraging, but that's what happened with my kids.
More Impressed with Other Courses

I posed the question to my college sophomore who took upper division physics as a freshman at University of Washington. Her input re BHS AP Physics: *I spent 1-3 hours on homework a day, not including labs.
*Very intense class, you have to work hard every day
*Left me very well prepared for the AP exam and college classes
*The teacher is Mr.Salser - competent, knowledgeable, devoted to his students, available to give extra help and generally a really great teacher.
*I don't think you'll learn more in any one class at BHS than in AP physics. Good luck!


Is a tutor necessary for Physics?

Oct 2001


In reply to the woman seeking an inspiring tutor for Berkeley High physics:

I'm a physics teacher at Berkeley High School, and the short answer to your question is easy: if you need a tutor, check with the excellent UCB Parents group recommendations here

Also, physics teacher Steve Salser is often available for free tutoring up in the school's Student Learning Center on the 4th floor of the C-Building.

A longer answer is this: Occasionally, students feel that they need a tutor because the material appears to be so difficult, but private tutoring isn't always necessary. Physics is notoriously challenging for students at all levels, and if your daughter is having difficulties or feeling overwhelmed by the material, she is definitely not alone! All the usual strategies for doing well in a difficult course should be applied here: show up to class and show up on time, pay close attention during classroom lectures and discussions, have a well-organized notebook in which to keep your work, take good notes on everything that happens in class, including examples and demonstrations, don't be afraid to ask questions during the lecture, do the homework, be prepared to ask questions about any homework problems you can't do, turn in work on time, find a "study buddy" or 3, etc.

Many students find the first 6-8 weeks of physics the most difficult. It's not that the material is that hard, but looking at the world "through physics glasses" takes a little getting used to. There is an adjustment period at the beginning of the year that ALL students go through, and she shouldn't feel that she's alone in that process.

Most importantly, if she hasn't done so already, I would strongly encourage her to talk with her teacher about her feelings (especially if I'M her teacher!)

Hope this helps...
Richard White
Physics, AP Physics
Berkeley High School