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Challenging physics books for high school students

  1. Feb 13, 2012 #1

    I've recently became extremely interested in physics. I was originally hoping to do maths at university but now I'm also considering physics.
    I'm looking for physics books that will help me broaden my knowledge and help me tackle difficult physics problems.

    I hope to apply to Oxford. Here are some past papers.

    (Please look at the physics section - esp longer questions ; not maths section)

    To make it short,
    could you recommend me some books that will help me
    1. broaden my knowledge. (General)
    2. solve difficult questions (esp mechanics questions)
    3. think critically

    Thank you.

    P.S. is Thinking Physics by Epstein any good?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2012 #2
  4. Feb 17, 2012 #3
    There's a lot of advice on the Oxford website:

    http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/courses/suggested_reading.html [Broken]

    I'd follow that, at least 'on the surface'. They say:

    "Popular science books are normally readily available at your local library, as are copies of the New Scientist or other scientific periodicals. Anything that takes your interest will be valuable..."

    Therefore, as Epstein has taken your interest it is valuable! I'd read it, it would look OK at interview if they ask what you are reading... Also start reading New Scientist (at least the interesting looking physics bits...)

    But the best way to tackle complex physics problems is to ...er... solve complex physics problems! Of course, if they are hard you may not be able to solve them, so you need worked answers. The Schaum series is full of physics problems, some of them complex, with many worked answers.

    I found the "Schaum's Outline of Vector Analysis", and similar outlines on many other topics, invaluable throughout University. Maybe start with "Schaum's Outline of College Physics", the problems straddle A level standard and first year UK university, so should be sufficiently challenging but not too difficult...

    Hide the fact you are using Schaum from Oxford :) The myth of the "English gentleman" is retained there - and the English gentleman should attain sublime proficiency without trying too hard (or at least he should not be seen to be trying too hard...) Maybe that's why they say, "read any old book from the libary or New Scientist". That's the kind of amateurish approach the British gentleman pretend to be taking. But, under the surface, they're all slaving their way through Schaum...

    It's always best to focus in on finding books for *exactly* what you need to do, so get hold of books like "Oxbridge Entrance: The Real Rules" by Elfi Pallis and "Do You Think You're Clever?: The Oxbridge Questions" by John Farndon.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  5. Feb 18, 2012 #4
    From the 2009 test, it seems that what you are looking for is a regular introductory course in Physics - such as the books from Tipler (Physics for Scientists and Engineers). There are other, similar books (Serways, Halliday etc) which you may use. I've used Tipler and I really liked it, but people have different tastes. The problems on the Oxford test aren't really challenging - all they seem to require is a firm grasp on the basics, but they don't go much further than that.

    The problem with Tipler, Serways, Halliday and others is that they are really overpriced. I wouldn't buy the newest edition. I have Tipler's 5th edition and I've compared it to the newest editions and they didn't change that much. So you might save some money buying a somewhat older edition without worrying that it will harm your studies.

    If you have a lot of free time (say, you have at least one or more years until the tests), and you want to take challenging to the real meaning of that word, you may try the problem books by Irodov, Krotov, Saraaeva, Lim, Rees, Thompson and others. But given the look of the 2009 exam, that would be overkill. I think you can be well prepared to the exam without needing to reach this higher stage.
  6. Feb 19, 2012 #5
    Have you taken calculus yet?
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