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Book for Physics Olympiad

  1. Apr 4, 2013 #1
    I realise this must have been posted to death already, but brushing over that:

    What's the best way to study for the (British) physics Olympiad? Feel free not to answer all of the following points (I've arranged it this way for clarity):

    Firstly: would it help in the regional finals to have studied for the IphO, even if there is a nebulous chance of being selected for the IphO itself? (Is there a nebulous chance?)

    Secondly: I am strong in mechanics (a little worse at waves), but looking at past papers, I'm poor at most else. To what level does one have to know thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, waves and geometrical optics for the Olympiad, and what are some good books on the subjects? Is it better to have specific books for each field (with the risk of getting bogged down in necessary details) or broader ones (,running the risk of shallowness)? Will the exercises in them be easier (or less devious) than Olympiad-style questions?

    Thirdly: Are these recommended books bare minima (that is, would it be helpful at all to know more, or should I solely focus on polishing the phO curriculum)?

    Fourthly: How amenable are the problems to more advanced methods? Will knowing Lagrangian mechanics or more differential equations help more than incrementally, for example?

    Fifthly (the most gruesomely subjective of all): How should I prepare? Should I use (some) phO problems to steer study, or should they be locked up until all is learnt? Is the internet good for learning (the topics from different approaches), or is it much better to stick to paper? Is there a knack to these problems, or is it a pure aptitude test?

    So many questions...
    Anyway, thank you for reading through.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    One thing for sure: don't lock old PhO problems, do as many as you can. PhO is much less about how much you know, much more about how many problems you can solve. You would be surprised how many problems can be solved without an exact knowledge of the problem, but with good solving skills - quite often it is possible to solve problems using general principles (like energy conservation) instead of detailed equations. But it requires experience which you can gain ONLY by doing tons of problems.
  4. Apr 5, 2013 #3
    Thanks, Borek. Would you say this book (contents page here) is too advanced or about right for the Olympiad Electricity and magnetism?
  5. Apr 13, 2013 #4
    I was going to start a separate thread but thought Id post here instead as my issue is similar to yours. After some search, Ive noticed that in general there is a lack of material when it comes to Olympiads preparatory material in Physics as compared to Mathematics. I mean yes there are Olympiad past papers in Physics but in Maths there is just so much more material, there is, to name books Ive used: "Thinking Mathematically" by J Mason and "How to Solve It" by Polya, these two books are on general problem solving in Mathematics and more catered to Olympiad problem solving are "A Primer for Mathematics Competitions" by Zawaira, "The Mathematical Olympiad Handbook" by Gardiner, "The Art and Craft of Problem Solving" by Paul Zeitz and "Problem Solving Strategies" by Arthur Engel. These books should be read in that order for people interested in Math Olympiads.

    However, sadly similar material does not exist for Physics (at least insofar as my search has gone), there is only past papers on Physics Olympiads but no helpful books on general Problem Solving in Physics in general or books on Physics topics catering specifically to Olympiad style Physics.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
  6. Apr 14, 2013 #5
    1. Must do University Physics / Fundamentals of Physics twice before appearing Regional Physics Olympiad.

    2. Some Problem Books in Physics
    (i) General Problems in Physics by I E Irodov.
    (ii) Aptitude Test in Physics by S S Krotov
    (iii) 200 Challenging Problems in Physics by Cambridge-UP.

    3. Try to solve Problems of the Week from some University Webs such as University of Maryland.

    4. Name of Some Regional Olympiads which is quite easy than IPhO, also there Old Problems are available (Search the Google)
    (i) Asian Physics Olympiad
    (ii) British Physics Olympiad

    Try out
    Canadian and American Physics Olympiad Problems too for Semifinals.

    4. Visit Physics Olympiad Preparation at Toronto (POPTOR)
  7. Aug 25, 2013 #6
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