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Failed first test, very worried

  1. Feb 21, 2008 #1
    hi, the title says it all, I failed my first test in physics I w/calc, 40 point test, did well on force diagram questions but did very badly on motion in 2 dimensions and a question about the movement of a particle with varying acceleration; I used alot of the wrong formulas in the 2D and motion questions, and used bad trig in the force questions which cost me points there two, got a 20/40.

    I'm very depressed and angry with myself, especially since most of my friends in the class got 30/40 at the least, some of whom I helped to get the initial concepts so it was a big blow to my pride as well.

    The only reason I'm alive in the class is because I'm doing moderatly well in the online homework, masteringphysics, I recently got a 90% in the chapter about work (with the help of PF members here though)

    I'm very worried for the next test and final, I made stupid mistakes and I want to know what I can do to make sure it doesn't happen to me again and if I still have a chance to do well (at least get a B) in the class (a B- in this class is a 64 so I think I have a shot) but I want to do well even without the large curve, any and all advice is greatly appreciated.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2008 #2
    I'm in the same boat you are. I had my first Physics test yesterday and likely failed. I scored poorly on conceptual questions but understood all the long drawn out math based questions. I'll find out monday my exact grade.
    The same thing happened to me in Calculus I. I miserably failed the Limits chapter test while most of my buddies passed. It really bothered me for about a week. I kept thinking that If I couldn't do basic Calculus how was I suppossed to expect to succeed in Math heavy majors in college. I ended up going to the teacher's office hours and having him walk me the harder concepts. I made a point to spend about three hours a week in tutoring and before each test I hired a tutor to walk me through the Chapter review, and spent about 10-15 hours on my own studying for each test after failing the limits test. I ended up with a B in the class and scoring 88, 83,85,and 88 on the rest of the tests. Meanwhile about 1/3rd of the rest of the class ended up failing or withdrawing.
    It sucks to fail a class but if you're doing a high tech major you'll find that a lot of the junior and senior students also failed one or two freshman/sophomore level classes too. Unless you're trying to get into a Stanford level grad school it's usually not a big deal to retake a class in the summer.
    But before worrying too much about failing Physics, there's still a lot of time left in the semester for us both to pass.
  4. Feb 21, 2008 #3

    wow, it does seem that we are in the same boat, and yes I would like to get into grad school for physics as crazy as it sounds, I enjoy the subject and I enjoy solving the equations and problems, when I can, I'm just sick of looking at everyone I know getting B's and A's while I'm getting stuck behind even though I've been studying alot, I know for a fact I study more than some of my friends who passed, maybe I'm studying the wrong way.

    also the frustration got to me in class so I was concentrating alot more on that than today's lecture so that's a problem as well.

    I suppose a tutor would be in order or more time at the professor's office hours, I suppose you're right there's alot of time left, but my professor only gives 3 tests, 2 'midterms' and a final, along with masteringphysics that's makes up our grade, so whether or not I pass the class will depend on my grade in the next test, I eventually get most answers right in masteringphysics but I only get one shot at the test and I really don't want to mess it up.
  5. Feb 21, 2008 #4
    noone else?
  6. Feb 21, 2008 #5
    Sorry, I got a 4.0 in that class...MasteringPhysics should die in a very hot fire, though.

    Nothing in that class is very hard conceptually. It sounds like you need a good study group and to exploit office hours more. If you're making stupid mistakes on the problems, the only real way to deal with that is to get more practice and to be very methodical about your solutions. You have very finite time during the exam, but most of the problems are very procedural and yield very well to practice.
  7. Feb 21, 2008 #6
    I remember I failed a trig exam back when I had the class. People always go omg trig? How, its such an easy subject. I had a 69 on the exam & it was the highest in the class... the professor always went well above & beyond the textbook. Luckily I managed a B in the class, but not sure how that looks for a math major. Anyways, at least in my math classes, I usually feel a bit awkward. It just seems everyone else gets the information so quickly while it takes me forever to grasp the concepts. I think my time is coming soon for failing a test in discrete mathematics. Not because its hard, but I think I just signed up for too many classes this semester & am aways trying to play catch up.

    Its rough getting bad grades in classes where there are only a few exams that pretty much make up your grade. No idea what I'm going to do if I fail this next discrete exam, which isn't looking good atm. Then there are others that just get straight As & sometimes I wonder what the heck am I even doing here...

    What can you do? Study, study, study. Study enough a week before hand & let the concepts sink in. That usually works best for me.
  8. Feb 22, 2008 #7
    If that was in my old university's physics 211 (the equivalent of what you're taking, i think) that would have been passing.
  9. Feb 22, 2008 #8


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    Sometimes you don't do well because you may not enjoy the course you're taking. For example, I didn't like mechanics that much, and that was one of the big reasons why I switched over to electrical engineering from physics. I had an overall grade of B for physics I, which was enough to persuade me I should not stay in physics.

    Just for comparison, I scored about 11/20 for the midterm, and was by then quite demoralised so I didn't bother comparing my scores with that of my peers. But again, like the others have pointed out, it's really hard work that matters. Go solve the end-of-chapter problems in your physics textbook. For extra practice, if you want something more challenging, I recommend the earlier editions of Halliday & Resnick.
  10. Feb 22, 2008 #9
    hmmm, not really that I don't like mechanics, I feel it's quite interesting all the information that can be solved mathematically, I would like to be in phy 2 though where they learn optics and electronics or modern physics' relativity but I digress mechanics is alright.

    jeeze you turned away from physics just cause of a B? that doesn't make me feel too good, lol.

    hmm, yeah I suppose looking at other text books might help, I'm using young and freedman's 12 edition university physics atm.

    kuahji - yeah I get the same feelings that I'm inferior to most of the others in the class, probably shouldn't compare myself to other that way but I would like to at least be on par with my friends that are doing well, study study study is I guess all I can do.

    aquitaine, yeah phy 211 is the same as phy 2048, only thing different is I think you guys cover relativity where we cover gravity, like I said a C+ is a 57 and a B- is a 64 in this class, with my masteringphysics which basically counts as another exam grade I currently have a 61 so I'm technically passing, I just want to do better, getting a 50 where everyone is getting 80's is not good for the confidence or the ego, especially since this is the subject I want to go into.
  11. Feb 22, 2008 #10


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    Well, actually it depends a lot on your interest. I thought I would find engineering a lot more dry and dull compared to physics, but if you ask me I would say they're probably the same content-wise. Just think of an engineering course as studying through certain sub-fields of physics. And of course an engineering degree is a lot more employable than a physics degree. So, I wouldn't say it was the grade that turned me away from physics, but more of the realization that engineering wasn't as boring and dry as I thought it would be.

    And your grades can always go up so long as you work at it. I had another intro class to linear algebra, where I scored 16/40 for my midterms and 10/20 for the lab quiz. The midterm was worth about 20%, the quiz about 10%. I was rather discouraged by my grades, of course, but I did as many problems as I could over the whole range of chapters covered and ended up getting a B+ for the course.

    I was using the same textbook, Y&F 12th Edn as well. I still have it here on my bookshelf. I find it quite ok, but a little too thick and heavy.
  12. Feb 22, 2008 #11
    thanks man, as far as physics goes, I'm interested in biophysics, it seems to be a pretty cool field.

    yeah, I know how that is with calc II, I have a trigonmetric integration quiz on monday, I intend to pretty kill myself with problems.

    thanks for all the encouraging and kind words.
  13. Feb 22, 2008 #12

    Not really, it's just a basic course on kinematics and newtons stuff. For Phy 212 the class average was more like 40 percent (so they curved it to 35 or better was a C) and the Phy 213 (gaussian spheres, magnetism, and stuff like that) class average was 20% (!). It was really sad.....
  14. Feb 22, 2008 #13


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    I'll give you the same generic advice I'd give anyone who failed a first exam...meet with your professor. Really. They know the problems they wrote and what they were intended to test, and are the best person to ask what you need to do to correct any misconceptions or insufficient conceptual learning, as well as to help you figure out better what to practice/study in the class.

    I have had students pull up from C and lower grades to straight As on the remaining exams just by coming to office hours and getting clarification on what they didn't get out of the lectures. Not every student learns best by listening to lecture material or reading a textbook. Some need the one-on-one interaction and Q&A that comes with talking to professors/instructors.

    Of course, we also have a HW help forum that does not need to be used only for HW questions. You can ask about course concepts there too.
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