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Double major in physics and math

  1. Jun 25, 2008 #1
    I have several questions, so hope no one minds me putting them in one thread.

    I am an undergrad, going into my sophomore year. I recently decided to double major in physics and math.

    I got my textbooks early so that I could begin studying the material.

    I'm progressing rather well, reading at least a few sections per day. My problem though is once I get to the practice problems at the end of the chapter. There seem to be a few pages of them. Since I'm obviously not taking the course until the fall, there are no assigned problems, so I don't know whether to do all of them, or just a fair sampling. The material's not difficult yet, but I want to make sure I'm not missing anything.

    I also am thinking about doing my own study separate from the course work. do you think this would be a good idea, or not? I'm usually quite fast at understanding things, especially when it comes to science and math, so I don't really think doing my own study would add too much stress. I mean, this course seems just to start with the basics, but I don't know how far it goes. The course is called General Analytical Physics I.

    If studying on my own would not be a problem, what would you recommend starting with? Essentially, I would like to go at a faster pace than what I think this course will provide in the beginning. I am a very fast learner, and get impatient if things are going too slowly. That's why I got the textbook already.

    OK, my third question is about studying. I'm not very big on studying, and I'm trying to change that. I really didn't have to study my first two semesters, even when I took Calculus I and C++ (computer science), and I came out with a 4.0. But I know things will get more difficult, so I'm trying to develop the self-discipline now to study enough. So, my question is, how much should someone with such majors study per day, on average? I know it varies and depends on the individual, but I need something to work toward. My goal is both to maintain my grades and to retain the understanding of the important material.

    My long-term goal is to then get my masters and doctorate, and do either research, teach at a university, or likely both. I have high standards and high goals, so want to make sure I have a good foundation on which to build.

    Sorry for the differing questions, but I feel weird starting one thread after another.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2008 #2
    Re: Studying

    The real trick in physics and math is to do problems. Nearly everyone needs to do problems to learn the material.

    The number of problems you should do is really a personal thing that you have to figure out based on how easily you can do the problems you've done. If you book ranks the problems based on difficulty, you should make sure that you've done a sampling of all of the levels, then if you find that one particular problem was very difficult for you, you should do a few more from that section.

    Doing your own separate study can be helpful, depending on how much you like your textbook and the number and variety of problems in it. It won't hurt you to use other books, as they let you see more problems and other explanations and do better in the course (since what you're really trying to develop is the ability to solve different types of problems).

    There is no really good way to judge the amount you need to study. You just need to gauge your knowledge against the problems you've done and realize that you may need to study more if you are having a hard time.

    http://www.theUndergraduateJournal.com [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Jun 25, 2008 #3
    Re: Studying


    Thanks. It sounds like doing problems is the undercurrent here. Though, wouldn't it be a balance between problems and studying and understanding the actual principles being discussed?

    I understand that studying depends on the person. But surely there is at least some recommended minimum and/or average, just to give a general idea of the requisit workload?

    Over the summer, I've been doing an hour of physics, hour of chemistry, and an hour of reviewing the notes and doing problems. I do expect to have to do more when the semester starts.
  5. Jun 25, 2008 #4
    Re: Studying

    I did not want to start a new thread since I also have a question about studying in Physics. Currently I am taking a full year Physics course over the summer. Only this year they split the course into two different courses, and so my final for the first one is tomorrow.

    I have tried to study for this course but I seem to not have fully found the perfect method of studying mostly because I still could not obtain a perfect 90% on any test. I am hoping though to start studying for the next or second course more than I did for this one and at least try and get a 4.0 gpa.

    My current method is to read the sections assigned and do some of the questions although since it is summer and I have other duties I don't really get all the time so sometimes I do not have time to do the challenging or tougher problems. I am not sure if this is the reason why I am not doing all too well but I still believe that Physics is not about doing all of the questions in the book. I would rather study and understand the concept and then do some problems to test my knowledge.

    But for some odd reason this method doesn't work - and so I wanted to get some feedback. Is there anyone who can say they were similar to me, and thus found a better form of studying that did not take a long time or should I just try and do a lot more questions next semester. (thus spend more time)

    If it helps in any way, I tend to love to study Biology, and Chemistry. I will study any topic related to chemistry as well or the study of atoms and the microscopic level which is why I love reading up on some quantum topics in Physics. Also I need a full credit of Physics to get into my Program which is what I am trying to before my Second year actually starts.

    Thanks for the help.
  6. Jun 25, 2008 #5
    Re: Studying

    BioCore, I have most experience with advanced math, not physics, but I find that I need to do a variety of problems. I think you need to be able to stretch the equations to their absolute limits, understanding how they work, and how to shape them to solve whatever you need to solve.

    I wanted to ask also, well there are a lot of things in physics I am interested in. I would love to eventually study quantum mechanics, though I know this is probably far beyond my current knowledge since I am pretty much just beginning. Therefore, that's why I asked about what else I could study, besides the book(s) for the course I am taking. I want to speed ahead a bit according to my own pace, but really don't know where to start. I'm really intrigued, but find myself in a bind because I want to learn about a lot of the things I've read about in these forums, but don't even know how to begin.
  7. Jun 25, 2008 #6


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    Re: Studying

    That is about the right way to study. You should study about 10 to 14 hours per week for each course. You want to achieve as much understanding and as high of skill as possible.
  8. Jun 25, 2008 #7
    Re: Studying

    14 hours, per course? You are saying about 4 hours per credit? That is pretty much impossible with my schedule, unless I study during every waking hour and sleep about 4 hours per night. I'm only taking 16 credits, too. Even the upper limit I have seen says 3 hours per credit.

    Of course I agree with you that we should strive for as much understanding as possible, but I feel that this number is a little unrealistic.
  9. Jun 25, 2008 #8


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    Re: Studying

    You are correct; 12 to 14 hours per week per course is mostly unrealistic. You would do that just for hopefully ONE course which you find very difficult. You would probably want to do a total of 3 to 4 hours per day of study time for all courses in the term, maybe more, maybe skip one day per week of study. Some courses are so very demanding in order to be learned that spending more time may be necessary - you may find that you do not have enough time during the term to learn a particular course excellently, and this will show in your grade.

    This 12-14 hour per week idea can best be used during either a light semester, or during an off-season like the summer-time while you have no course to attend, when you can study on your own.
  10. Jun 25, 2008 #9
    Re: Studying

    12 to 14 hours currently like you said would not be impossible for me. I was wondering though, would doing more questions from the tougher challenging problems be a better tactic to use rather than doing more of the easier ones or should a balance be found between both?

    Also, if someone from here knows anything about Professional Masters Programs. I plan on applying to one in about two years from now, and the program currently looks at only my last two years which I haven't even started yet. I was just wondering if you guys know whether or not they would mind or even look at my marks in first year since I expect that this first semester physics grade will be a bit low - hopefully not below a 70 though. BTW, the grade they prefer is an A-, although a B to B+ is accepted if the person has very high GRE scores. (In shorter terms, should I worry too much if my grade is a bit lower than I would like?)
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