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Science Core: Physics

Physics concepts are vital for study in every other science and in all engineering fields. To provide a solid mathematical foundation, MIT has a two-subject General Institute Requirement in physics.

To fulfill the Physics GIR, you must receive credit for both introductory physics subjects, 8.01 Physics I and 8.02 Physics II. Which versions of Physics I and II you take will depend on your background and interests.

You can fulfill the Physics GIR in the following ways:

8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics:

Placement into 8.01 (Physics I) will depend on the results of the Math Diagnostic, a mandatory paper/pencil test given during Orientation. 

  • 8.01 uses the TEAL format (Technology-Enabled Active Learning).
  • 8.01L (L=Longer) covers exactly the same material and in the same depth as 8.01, but finishes during January IAP. 8.01L is offered in the Fall Term only. Intended for freshmen with little or no exposure to physics with calculus in high school. If you take 8.01L you should be taking some version of Calculus I 18.01 at the same time. If you have AP credit for calculus, consider 18.01A/02A along with 8.01L.
  • 8.012 is intended for students with a strong background in physics and math, especially for those with AP or Advanced Standing Exam credit for 8.01. 8.012 is taught in more depth, with longer and harder problem sets. The Physics Department suggests that a student with AP or ASE credit for 8.01 consider enrolling in 8.012, rather than going right into 8.02. Students with credit for 8.01 who elect to take 8.012 receive 6 units of elective credit.
  • 8.011: Physics I(Special version of 8.01 for Spring for students who do not pass 8.01 in the fall. 8.011 covers the same material as 8.01.

8.02 Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism:

You cannot enroll in 8.02 until you have received credit for both 8.01 and 18.01 (Calculus I). Both 8.02 and 8.022 are offered in Fall and Spring terms.

  • 8.02 presents the material using the TEAL format.
  • 8.022 is taught at a more mathematically advanced level and is intended for students with a strong background in physics and math. It is offered in both Fall and Spring.

For more information on these subjects, visit the Online Subject Listing and Schedule and the Physics Department’s Undergraduate FAQs.

Advanced Standing Exams in Physics

The Physics Advanced Standing Exams (ASEs) will be held during Orientation. Physics Validation Exams for transfer credit will be offered at the same time as the Physics ASEs.

  • A passing grade on the 8.01 ASE will give credit for Physics I.
  • A passing grade on the 8.02 ASE will give credit for Physics II.

Be sure to also check out the videos about GIRs that can be found on the School of Science YouTube playlist at: