What is the best way to prepare for upperlevel undergraduate physics finals?
What do you mean by upper level undergraduate physics finals? What is the course material? Saying 'upper level undergadute physics' doesn't say anything about what material you covered. Some people are on quarter systems, some are on semester systems so the material covered on any given final is indeterminable from that.
Work practice problems. Go over previous exams and homework. The same way you'd prepare for any exam, I assume.
I study differently depending on the class, but usually what I find to be the most helpful is to review all the homework problems and make sure I understand every step taken in each problem. And if the text has examples I go over those too. In some classes I make a little study sheet where I write down the essentials to gloss over right before i take the test. Like I said it all depends on the specifics of the class, and also on you (how do YOU learn stuff best?), but as long as you understand the material and you know how to go about solving the different kinds of problems you should do well. Also be sure you have read the chapters in the text.
Just do problems, lots of them.
I too think that it depends a lot on what you're studying...
For Classical Mechanics/Relativity: I would just work through AS MANY PROBLEMS AS POSSIBLE. Since the concepts are more intuitive, and this kind of stuff is what you usually first get with the upper level classes, I found it best to work problems.
E&M: For me, I spent a lot of time reviewing notes, working through old homework problems, and reviewing examples from the text. If you have a hard book like Jackson's "Classical Electrodynamics" this is a particularly useful technique. If you're using a book that undergrads don't fear (Griffith's "Introduction to Electrodynamics" is what I had for undergrad E&M) throw in one or two new problems, but nothing too hard.
Quantum: PROBLEMS!!! Think about it, the basic underlying theory in this class you've learned after the first two weeks, after that, it comes down to learning to perform the cookbook solution of the Time-Independent Schroedinger Equation for different potentials and then constructing the solution to the full S.E. for different sorts of potentials (i.e. first the infinite square well, the the harmonic oscillator, etc.). Because of this, when I took this class I would just do a ton of problems before the exam.
I'd like to comment on some other classes (condensed matter, particle) but I haven't taken them yet .
My general advice is to look over what the material is and go from there.
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