Bio, Chem, or Physics: Which High School Science is Best for You?

Whether its freshman year or senior year, regular science or AP classes, students across America often have to make a decision about which science class to take in high school - our online science tutors are highly experienced.  Students often complete one or two of the “big three” science classes (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) in their high school education, but very few can take all three.  And if you can take all three, should you?  And which one should you take first?  If you can only take one as an AP class, which one should you pick?

Here, we will talk about each of the “big three” high school science classes, including which skills they use and which types of students tend to enjoy and succeed in each one.  Note that this is considering introductory level classes in each subject.

Biology

In biology, you will learn about life in all of its forms: from cells to organisms to ecosystems and organic cycles.  Of the three, biology requires the most memorization and the most varying memorization.  It also requires the least math.

For Students Who Are Good At:

Complex memorization

Working with diagrams and visuals

Cycles, procedures, progressions

Drawing

Learning many discrete topics

For Students Who are Bad at:

Math

Equations

Word problems/problem solving

In biology, you will memorize diagrams, pictures, cycles, and vocabulary.  There are the most vocabulary and the most overall memorization, and it is possible to perform very well in the class by only memorizing the information.  Math skills, equations, and problem-solving are used less in this class (though not absent), meaning that you can do very well even if you are poor at these topics.  This class may also be a good choice for those who identify as visual learners, enjoy drawing and diagraming for notes, and are comfortable covering entirely new topics week to week or even class to class.

Chemistry

In chemistry, you will learn how elements and compounds of matter interact with each other.  You learn what the world around you is made of and what properties different components possess.  Chemistry is in between biology and physics for both memorization and math: less memorization than biology but more than physics, and more math than biology but less than physics.

For Students Who are Good at:

Memorizing lists

Working with charts and tables

Simple equations and basic math

Rules and exceptions

Step-by-step word problems

For Students Who are Bad at:           

Pictures and visual learning

Switching between different topics often

Complex math

 In chemistry, you will primarily be working off of tables, charts, and lists (notable the periodic table for nearly the entirety of the class).   You will have to memorize rules, the exceptions to the rules, and multiple steps for problem-solving.  There are the fewest pictures and visuals compared to biology and physics (though there are diagrams and simple pictures you will see and draw).  There is a significant amount of “simple” math, meaning addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, exponent, and basic algebraic equations.  Students who do well following directions, memorizing lists, and learning problem-solving steps will do well in this class.

Physics

In physics, you will learn about the laws of nature and how they govern the world around us.  You learn how to explain the everyday phenomena you see, as well as how to predict how things are expected to behave.  Of the three, physics has the most math and least memorization.

For Students Who are Good at:

Working with equations and diagrams

Algebra, graphs, and math in general

Word problems and problem-solving

Long math problems and showing work

Drawing diagrams

For Students Who are Bad at:

Memorization (in most classes)

Pictures and visual learning

Following specific rules and directions

In physics, you will learn many mathematical equations that you use to find variables and answer questions.  You typically have these equations on hand to reference, although occasionally you will find a teacher requires the equations to be memorized (very uncommon).  Unlike chemistry, where the problem-solving steps tend to be more concrete, physics problems tend to have a lot of variabilities that requires more complex problem solving and differing steps from question to question.  Students who have strong math backgrounds will have an advantage, and students who struggle with memorization may find more success in physics than in biology or chemistry.

Science classes will differ from school to school and from teacher to teacher.  Every teacher will instruct the class differently, so it is impossible to predict exactly what each class will be like.  However, these are good rules of thumb that often are not shared with high school students before they pick their science class.  Hopefully, this guide will help you decide which is best for you and which you will have the most success in. Book your online science tutor from TutorNerd today!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.