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Am I studying physics/calculus right?

  1. Jan 21, 2016 #1
    So I've been doing relatively well in all of my classes so far since I've started university and even though I end up doing good enough to get the grades I want in the end, a common issue I keep coming across whenever I'm practicing problems, be it word or straight up calculus problems (stuff like finding the domain of a complex looking function or finding minima/maxima of a function), I tend to continuously make little yet costly mistakes.

    Of course the solution is to practice, practice, and practice more problems until they become 2nd nature to me, and so I did make sure to do that and also make sure I'm understanding why I'm doing something, but come the day I get my exam back and instead of getting a really high A, I get like a 93-95/100 on my exams, with the points I missed due to small errors in algebra or forgetting to account for some little part of the problem that I did write down in the beginning of said problem.

    I feel like it's probably because of the fact that I try to do these problems as clear yet quick as I would like to after reading the question statement once or twice so I think it would be beneficial to do these problems more slowly, yet when it's exam day I have to go at a relatively fast pace since it's timed. What should I do?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2016 #2
    Learn to clear your head and focus. Maybe some meditation exercises might help? Remember that there is no benefit to finishing the problems faster. (unless you are at risk of running out of time in class.) Perhaps, once you finish the test, re-read each question and then check your answer. Time focused elsewhere can help you spot an error you missed before.

    It's also possible that you have already answered your own question. Practice practice.
  4. Jan 21, 2016 #3
    The only thing that breaks this is consistency gained from doing dozens of problems and the patience to keep sitting down when you've deemed yourself finished on an exam and rework the problems while following your first attempts to see if any algebra mistakes come up.

    For working problem sets, when I was learning triple integrals (probably one of the most algebra intensive parts of calculus) I picked out the most tedious problems I could and worked them out. If I got the wrong answer, I'd look through my work to find the mistake, and keep that mistake in the front of my mind when I continued on with more problems. It'd be something simple like forgetting to divide by 3 instead of 2 when integrating x^2. At the end of it I had a list of the common mistakes I made to remember for my exam. When the exam came, I thought of each of those types of errors with every problems I did, and made sure not to do them again. I ended up with a 99 on that exam with no curve.
  5. Jan 21, 2016 #4
    Yeah, I just realized it may also be due to multi-tasking inadvertently, because that is most possibly the one thing that happens when I do homework or simply practice sometimes, which does ruin focus. Also thank you for making that note Photon, I'll make sure to do the same thing this time around. I always made mistakes and I would immediately keep it fresh in my mind to not make that same mistake, but then come exam time when I'm feeling confident in my ability to do well on these exams, I end up making ones just like them or at least very similar ones to them anyway.

    Thanks for the tips so far guys! This is really helping me out.
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