How to Study Physics

ACC, Cypress

You have to be a good problem solver so be prepared for thinking outside the box.

Great Tips!
Jake Cena, College Sophomore
Sierra College, Rocklin, CA

I am a physics tutor, and people are always wondering and asking how to prepare for exams. My favorite part of "How to Study Physics" was the test preparation. I tell them to look at past tests (if their professor posts them) and go over the homework. But, it is a vague suggestion, and I think they hear that a lot. I really like the idea of a self-test and asking yourself, "How can this problem be changed using this principle?" Thinking back, I feel like it would have been a good way to go about it.

The early preparation is also good, review the topics are really paying attention to what principles are emphasized.

Thanks a lot, this will help me in the future.

Review of How to Study Physics
James Potts, College Sophomore
Sierra College, Rocklin CA

Regarding "How to Study Physics", I found the Problem Solving section to be most relevant to my tutoring and helpful to me. I agree with most of the steps in the procedure, especially drawing a picture. This is probably the most critical part of solving physics problems, since physics is very visual in nature and it's necessary to have a good diagram to even understand the problem. Also, looking at the picture allows one to make inferences about the problem much easier.

I also agree with the second picture step as it is sometimes more convenient to redraw the problem (I usually have my students write the diagrams on the first picture, but this can sometimes be messy).

I do believe that step 3, identifying the principle, could be extended a bit. Usually I like to ask the students what type of problem it is (i.e. kinematics, energy, etc.), and write out some formulas relevant to these types of problem. Also, in step 2 I usually have them write out not only parameters, unknowns, etc., but also facts that can be inferred in the problem (i.e. the tension holding up two blocks A and B is the same because they are connected by the same rope). Once all the knowns, unknowns, equation and facts are written out, it's just a matter of selecting the right information to put together in the right sequence to obtain a solution.

Regarding the Test Preparation section I thought most of the information was useful, but I believe that it should be mentioned for a student to also complete the study guide before the exam, as this is the material most likely to appear on it. This shouldn't be done to the exclusion of reviewing homework and chapters, but I believe that the focus should be on the study guide FIRST. If the student cannot complete the study guide, they should go back and review homework problems, examples, notes and important chapter sections until they can. After the study guide is complete, a comprehensive review of all notes, problems and chapter examples is highly recommended, followed by a review of all written chapter material if necessary.

Other than that, I think the method described would be quite effective at preparing the student for an array of problems, some of which might be unfamiliar, since they would have a solid understanding of principles and how they can be applied.

My grades went up!
Joshua franklin, College Freshman
Austin Community College, Austin, Texas

This review has been very helpful to me in my physics class. I wasn't taking very good notes and not asking as many questions as necesarry, but afterwards though I was asking questions and my grades went up.

On the home work side of it though definately draw pictures, reiterate what you'r ereading and double check always. Get something to help you visualize. It's a very visual course to solve problems.

Does it make sense?
Joshua R Reynolds, College Sophomore
Sierra College, Rocklin California

I can't impress on you how much this question matters in understanding the physic/science. Instructors are not ineffable as they too are human too. If you don't ask yourself this question there will be no self check in you education. And if some one helps you with a problem and you don't ask this question you will be worse for the experience. If you can honestly answer yes to this question at every step in your education, you will excel.

Good, thought demanding advice
Drew, College Junior
Goshen, Indiana

Like most study tips, this site has some good ideas on how best to go about studying for physics classes, but it is very time comsuming. It would be difficult to do this for 6 science classes and remain sane. However, the ideas of slow and steady studying are always best!

Thee author brings up some good points about solving physics problems; Ask what the problem is about, what type of problem it is, and how you think you should go about it. However, in multi level physics problems, the way through the problem is not always clear. One approach that I find helpful is to start by just finding something: anything that you dont already know. This gives you confidence about the problem, and usually with the new piece of information you can solve for one more part that you dont know, and so on, and then eventually you will find that you have all the pieces that you need to solve the problem.

I think it is a very good idea to spread out homework and studying over several days: Try several problems, and set a time limit, maybe 6 min a problem. If you don\'t get it, give up and try again the next day. Physics sometimes just takes time to sink in and this approach keeps you from frying your brain over one particular problem.Overall this piece offers some great advice!


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