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2 questions -- How best to learn? How much to study?

  1. Jul 25, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone, I have two questions about physics in general.

    The first one being, how do you effectively learn physics and the problem solving skills involved into it? I usually end up searching for the solution online and I do really want to become independent. How do I succeed in doing so? I'm not talking about experimenting in a laboratorium, I am talking about analysing a piece of text (the maths is never the problem unless I forgot a formula, it's usually is how I should start). Can this skill even be improved?

    The second one being, how much studying is recommended if I want to succeed in the physical sciences (mostly astrophysics)? I'm currently studying 3-9 hours a day but I do not that that makes up for my intellectual capabilities as my problem solving skills aren't very well. Should I study more or just focus on improving my problem in the first question?

    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2014 #2
    What is your background? What classes are you taking and what have you taken thus far? This may be able to help others see what you are struggling with ( basics or advanced) and you will receive a better answer.
  4. Jul 25, 2014 #3
    Background: Never been good with maths, but somehow good at physics. My teachers in High school are telling me I am making huge improvement because of my interest in science. I'm utterly worthless when it comes to geometry, but I'm good at algerbra and trig.

    Classes: I've taken what that is expected from a 16 years old which involved algebra, trigonometry, and lots more. In physics I'm basically rushing through it everyday, involving newton's laws, thermophysics, momentum, and lots more.
    Currently everyone in my class are working with a energy chapter, I'm ahead with 2 chapters currently at thermophysics.

    Problems: I can solve the basic tasks which is about 4/5 of all tasks, but the advanced ones, I just can't do. I usually have problems combining different fornulas with eatch other. Also I'm very often impatient and eager to learn so I will just rush through some tasks without actually understanding it (just a few tasks) which is ironically as I i want to learn more. Last problem is independence, I can't solve hard problems without looking out the solutions (THIS is the biggest problem, please give me advice about it).
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
  5. Jul 25, 2014 #4
    Thats good u realise geometry is your weak point. It is also myne. Not really ur fault. Geometry is passed over (weak education) in the states for mediocre ap calculus.

    By knowning you are weak in something knows what you have to study. There are times material is going to go ovwr yout head. That means you just have to work hardwr to undetstand. Which is fine.

    Their is a book I really like but it is really terse in my oppion.

    Kisselev planemetry volume 1. A really good book that builds geometry from the groubd up.

    I wouldnt recommend it as a first book tho. Really is a brain buster.

    Maybe start with a simple book. Essentials of geometry by lial? It is ok. Explanations for sone things arnt great but the exerciaes are not to simple n not to hard.

    By using lial or a aimilar txtbook will prepare you for kiselev.
  6. Jul 25, 2014 #5
    Does your teacher offer office hours? Or is therea tutoring center you can to? Remember Iif u do get tutoring. Give the material and honest effort. If you are still stuck ask the tutor for help. But do not let him fully solve it. N study the solution after and why yhings happened as they did.

    When you do problems do you reflecr on the syeps and ask why this was true?
  7. Jul 25, 2014 #6


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    The answer here is really different for everyone, but one truth that appears more-or-less universal is that your skills grow with time and effort. You practice. You attempt problems first and then use a reference as a means to check your efforts at problem solving rather than a source for the initial solution. I think there's a lot to be said for coming up with your own problems as well. Working through a book is one thing, but I think to really know the material, you have to ask and answer your own questions.

    Again the answer varies from person to person, but I'm sure you already knew that. I think that in order to be successful you need to enjoy the studies. So it's not so much a question of putting X amount of time in (although there are times when that's necessary), and really more a question of you keeping at it until you're happy with whatever result you're getting.
  8. Jul 26, 2014 #7
    Thanks for the help guys :)

    And yes TitoSmooth, I do reflect, at least in physics.
  9. Jul 26, 2014 #8
    How is astrophysics at a mathematical level? Can I succeed in physics with poor geometric skills (mostly same-shaped triangles) but with good algebraic skills?

    And yes we have free tutoring 1-2 hours a each day in school, maybe I really should take advantage of that. Also I'm studying out of pleasure, and a bit of competition.
  10. Jul 26, 2014 #9
    You should not leave these topics un-mastered. They are the foundations that you will be building upon and weak foundations will be your undoing when you come to more advanced topics. These basic topics can be understood with plenty of practice and perseverance.

    As for Astrophysics, an 'Introduction To Astrophysics' course for first year undergrads (in England at least) is mostly algebraic manipulation of equations, but includes calculus and first order differential equations.
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