# A/A- study habits for physics!

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.

#### jon stewart

##### Senior Member
15+ Year Member
Any good ideas? It can be either for calc based or algebra based.

i never studied for physics and got an A. thats my advice.
-mota

Some people just get it and some people never do.....

But similar advice to all other academic endeavors: work hard, pay attention in lectures, seek out help if you need it but don't if you don't.

Members don't see this ad :)
do the problems in the back of the chapter, and you're most likely golden.

Practice problems and then some more practice problems.

Like people have already pointed out, all you need is practice. The secret to acing a physics course is realizing that there are only so many variations to the classic type of problems that you see in class. Once you've seen all the curveballs, nothing can surprise you on the test.

The other thing is that, fundamentally, you need to know how to set up the problem. I got straight A's in physics and excelled over the other students because I had that engrained in me in high school. I knew exactly what to do with the information in a problem. For people who are taking physics for the first time in college, this can be extremely difficult, and often the professor doesn't do a good job setting the foundation. I would recommend getting some one-on-one help on setting up problems (force diagrams and such) if you find yourself just lost on every problem.

A few people here say do lots of practice problems. I think thats just one way, and it is VERY time consuming and exhausting. That method is like using a horse to pull your load instead of a 4X4 Hemi powered truck. heh.

The true power lies in UNDERSTANDING the material first. Then attacking the problems. How do you understand? Read the background information and learn how to derive the problems yourself. If you are taking calc based, how to derive the equations will be so very crystal clear. For example, understanding the idea behind Gauss' Law and how it was derived will clear a lot of confusion about how to use it. Your TA should be able to help you out with that if you can't follow how the books presents it.

There are few classes you cannot tackle with this strategy (including O-chem):

Come to class, pay close attention and take notes. When you come home, review what you have learned and read the book. Do related problems for that day. Before the test, review the material and simply refresh your memory. It should be solid in your mind by this time. As long as you are very consistent, 1-2 hours a day (more if you wish) is enough for some spectacular scores..

Do lots of problems. And if you are taking algebra-based physics, really understand the equations and how to apply them.

Know the reasoning behind every equation, and if possible, derive the equations. Any monkey can plug and chug an equation. However, the beauty of physics is that the equation can be applied elegantly to whatever situation thrown to you. The problem is that you have to know what term does what in the equation, and how it pertains to the situation given to you. For instance, in EM, if you're working with conductors and insulators, when you set up the integral, you need to visualize why the charges flock to an area in a conductor and why they don't in an insulator.

Then, once you know the concepts, keep doing problems until you feel confident. Doing problems endlessly will get you only so far. You need to understand where the equations come from and why/how they model the situation given.

Take Algebra based, work practice problems, go over exams with prof, ask for extra credit if needed, learn all equations, go to all help sessions/review sessions

jon stewart said:
Any good ideas? It can be either for calc based or algebra based.

Depends on your school/prof. Some people go to easy schools/prof and only need to be able to plug numbers into the formulas. Some have it a bit harder and need to be able to understand whats going on in order to do well.

I found the most helpful thing to be doing practice problems.. that way you really get familiarized with the equations and concepts and stuff without having to just sitting around memorizing stuff.. Maybe doing the problem sets in your textbook or something would be a good plan Good luck!

Keep in mind that often there's multiple ways to do a problem. Use whatever method you feel like using.... then it'll become more like a game, as opposed to a chore.

Why do you all keep on bothering with answering this type of question. Everyone knows you need to study until you understand the material if you want to get an "A/A-" NO MAGIC COMBINATION OF THINGS will secure an A in a class.

Just realize that Physics explains everything around you. Once you get that it will be so fascinating that you'll naturally ace it.

(If that doesn't work for you I suppose studying a lot is an alternate acceptable approach - although a lot less fun.)

Physics is one of those things that you can "naturally" be very good at (or vice-versa). In other words, Physics is a breeze for students who have a good physical intuition: they understand what is happening and why it happens. For example, assume that we perform this experiment in a vacuum: a 10g bullet is shot out of a gun horizontally and a similar bullet is dropped from the same height, which one hits the ground first?

If you don't have a good physical intuition, you're going to work at it a lot harder than other students. Seeking help and doing many problems is the only way you can do well.

Make sure you clearly understand the basic concepts and basic equations (including the derivations of them). This makes things much easier, obviously.

okay thanks for the responses. I use the cutnell book 6ed and i dont really like it. Are there any other good textbooks?

jon stewart said:
Any good ideas? It can be either for calc based or algebra based.
do lots of practice problems and master the ti89. same advice as calc. for the ti89 learn to use the solve function and get good at graphing, also integration and differentiation. maybe matrices but i cant remember

jon stewart said:
okay thanks for the responses. I use the cutnell book 6ed and i dont really like it. Are there any other good textbooks?

I liked "Serway and Faughn" because it was in color (I'm biased to color... nice bright colors) and had more than enough problems. Explanations - in my experience, explanations have never really mattered much, the example problems are too simple & there are just too many variations on a single principle. If you want explanations, google. Its more a question of manipulating a formula or integrating several different concepts. Usually a combination of both. Plus a fancy math trick doesn't hurt once in a while.

You may also want to try going to different college websites and printing out old tests. I know Harvard has them and MIT. MIT also has live lectures, if you have the time to watch: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/index.htm. Good luck.

jon stewart said:
okay thanks for the responses. I use the cutnell book 6ed and i dont really like it. Are there any other good textbooks?

I used this book:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/04...104-4446786-3371138?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

A good calc-based textbook (very well known and widely used). People learn differently so I don't know if you would like it. The questions do get challenging at times but I think it helps instead of those algebra-based books that have plug and chug type problems.

Bottom line: If you can, go to a bookstore and skim this book. If you like it, buy it, if not move on.