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Doing well in physics

  1. Mar 23, 2010 #1
    I need to know how to study efficiently. I study every day but seem to get very poor marks. For ex. I spent my whole reading week solving problems for stats and thermodynamics and i did horrible on the midterms. The marks i received might lead people to think i didn't study at all, but i spent so many hours solving problems. However, i should admit, i had to refer to the solutions manual a lot and i didn't read the lecture notes or the textbook. I thought i could just do the homework over and over again until i knew how to do it exactly. Also, i usually have no idea what I'm doing when solving problems.

    Could anyone please recommend: 1) How to study
    2) How to get the most out of problem solving.

    Please i beg you, i thought i knew how to study but sadly i do not. I spend countless hours studying, but never get the marks i think i deserve.

    thanks for anyhelp!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2010 #2


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    For starters you need to read the textbook and the lecture notes. A lot of professors put lecture material right on the exams.

    Next, put down the solution manual until you spent at least an hour trying to solve the problem on your own. Then, if you must look at the solution, just look at enough to get you going again and not the whole thing. This will help build a foundation for your analytical skills so that it will not take so long to solve them in the future.

  4. Mar 23, 2010 #3


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    Ask questions when you are stuck. All professors have office hours, and usually the TA's in the class do too. One-on-one, the prof/TA can interact with you to pinpoint your difficulty and then clear it up.

    Advice: Do the reading first. No one wants to help a student who is blowing off the class.
  5. Mar 23, 2010 #4
    This might sound obvious but it is an exceptional piece of advice. I'm sure all of the undergraduates here have been in situations where they didn't understand everything that happened in a lecture (and if you haven't then..go you! amazing.). I know this happened to me a lot when I was at undergraduate level and, despite many pleas for questions from lecturers during and after lectures, I rarely asked any questions. Some people do, but I think that most people are happy if they can escape lectures without looking stupid. It's a bizarre attitude, and one that only really becomes very noticable at graduate level. As a graduate student, I attended a few undergraduate courses (since I was changing field) and I found that I had a totally different attitude to lectures. I was always focussed on getting the most out of the material, and when I didn't understand something, I'd ask the professor - and in fact I'm fairly sure I was the only one in the class that bothered to actually ask any questions, despite the fact that I was only there for interest and the rest of the class (undergraduates) needed the grade as a core component of their degree.

    Anecdotes aside! There are lots of different study techniques. The important thing is obviously finding out what works for you. It took me years to find out how I work best - and what I found was that I like to:
    -- read lecture notes
    -- look over the notes again, making my own notes on things I have thought to be important
    -- tackling problem sheets that come with the course using the notes that I have made and, if there are things that I have missed from my own notes, I figure out why I didn't write them down. perhaps it is more important or useful than I suspected.
    -- then, adding anything I have learned from the problem sheets, I look over my course notes again and then seek out each of the main topics in textbooks
    -- more problems! from textbooks this time.

    You'll probably be able to guess that I don't have a great memory. Some people can read things once, remember all of it and tackle problems without having to look at it again. I can't. I learn through repetition. I also like to plan when I am going to study particular subjects. Setting aside specific hours in time for taking on specific things mean that if I can avoid getting stressed, or sick, of the subject and keep my studying fresh and varied.
  6. Mar 24, 2010 #5
    So i have to read the notes and lecture notes first. No wonder why i dont know what I'm doing half the time. When reading, Is there anything i can do to understand it better? Do you have any other tips that you could recommend?
  7. Mar 24, 2010 #6
    Reading the book and taking notes from it on the concepts, not formulas, helps me succeed.

    Before attempting the homework you should read the chapter first. When you do the homework with little understanding of the material, all you are doing is looking for ways to "plug and chug" and get the right answer and not grasping the concept behind the problem.

    If there is a problem that you think you understand, think in your mind how you would explain to a classmate how to approach that problem if they asked you. If you can explain it well, then you got it, move on. If you can't, then maybe you were just solving it and not understanding it and should go back over the problem again.
  8. Mar 24, 2010 #7
    wow tatiana_eggs, thanks for the advice. So by thinking to yourself how you would explain the problem to someone else, leads to understanding. thanks again
  9. Mar 24, 2010 #8
    I'm in my first Modern Physics course, and I'm realizing it's important to know the formulas but also know them in their context, i.e. understand the logic behind any originating or confirming experiments, etc.
  10. Mar 25, 2010 #9


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    Try to relate it to an everyday experience in life if possible.

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