Department of Physics & Astronomy

Physics Readiness Exam
Math Qualification Test for Introductory Physics – Physics 111 or Physics 220


In addition to meeting course prerequisites, students wishing to enroll in Physics 111 or Physics 220 must demonstrate adequate competence in mathematics by achieving a satisfactory score on the Physics Readiness Exam the same semester that you plan to take the course. Scores are not carried forward from previous semesters. The exam will be given at the SFSU Testing Center and you should register for the test there.

This exam will be given as follows.

For Summer Session classes 2014 the dates are Saturday June 7, Saturday June 14 and Saturday June 21.

For Fall 2014 classes, the dates are:
Saturday April 26, 2014
Saturday May 10, 2014
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
Saturday August 16, 2014
Saturday August 23, 2014

The test takes 50 minutes. The cost is $20.

You may take the test once per semester. The testing center software allows you to sign up more than once. If you take the test more than once, we will only count your first result.

No outside aids, including calculators, are allowed.

You must take the test even if you have taken it in a previous semester. Scores are not carried forward. The passing score is established by the department faculty. It is our experience that students who cannot pass this test will not be able to successfully complete introductory physics, and therefore will be dropped from Physics 111 or 220. Students who fail the readiness test should review in preparation for the next time the course is offered. See references below for study purposes. Math 199 (previously numbered Math 109) and Phys 101 are SFSU courses that are recommended for preparation.


The readiness exam covers the following topics:

  • Exponents, roots, and scientific notation - ability to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and take powers and roots of variables and numbers expressed in scientific notation.
  • Algebra – Ability to solve linear and quadratic algebraic equations, including use of the quadratic formula. Ability to solve for one variable in terms of other variables. Ability to solve a set of two simultaneous equations.
  • Geometry – Basic knowledge of angles, triangles, perimeters and areas of figures.
  • Trigonometry – Ability to use sin, cos, and tan functions and the Pythagorean theorem.
  • Graphing – Knowledge and ability to work with graphs of linear and quadratic functions, including understanding slopes and intercepts and ability to write the equation for a straight line based on knowledge of the coordinates of two points on the line.
  • High-School Physics – Some elementary questions at the level of high-school physics courses.


Brief lists of relevant formulae and relationships may be found in the back of many introductory physics textbooks.


There are several math review books that might be helpful in preparing for this test, such as:

  • Maths, 2nd edition, by Jenny Olive (Cambridge University Press, 2003), ISBN: 0521017076
  • Just-in-Time Algebra and Trigonometry, by Guntram Mueller and Ronald I. Brent (Addison-Wesley, 2004), ISBN-13: 9780321269430
  • Precalculus – A Self-Teaching Guide, by Steve Slavin and Ginny Crisonino (Wiley, 2001), ISBN: 978-0-471-37823-5

There is a very useful on-line course that you can use to prepare for the readiness test. Go to the ALEKS web site and sign up for Math Prep for College Physics, course code
PHYS 111 - SP 2014 / Math Prep for College Physics E9VLV-9DPXT
PHYS 220 - SP 2014 / Math Prep for College Physics ANXGW-DU6DY
The cost is $30 for six weeks of access.

Here is a practice test

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