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Failing classical mechanics.

  1. Jan 7, 2005 #1
    This semester I will be taking classical physics for the 3rd time in my life.
    I have classically done badly in mechanics.
    I go to class, I take the notes, I do the homework, but I fail the exams.

    I just don't get it. Even if I have solutions to the homework problems, the exams always are problems i've never seen before, so I always get stuck on them and are unable to do them.

    Anybody else have that problem? How did you defeat it?

    Ironically, I have traditionally done very well in math, so why so much difference? I just cannot handle variations of physics problems...I get stuck so much.

    Never have I been so frustrated in my life. For the time and effort I put in for physics I can get A's in other classes, but I can only get D's in physics.
    What am i missing?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2005 #2
    I never have this problem... I A's all Math and Physics classes. Therefore, I can't really give you any useful advise. However, I can give you a little hint doing good in physics. Try to UNDERSTAND the formulas instead of MEMORIZE them. I never memorize any formulas and I always As the Physics.... Hope this help
  4. Jan 7, 2005 #3


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    The math of physics (at least introductory physics) is extremely easy.

    The thing your missing is that the skill you need to develop is that of looking at a problem, identifying the variables, and translating words into equations.
  5. Jan 7, 2005 #4


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    Yea, understanding the concepts instead of memorizing equations is key. Find somebody in the class that is doing well, and ask them if they would help you out. Find someone that doesn't use big words to explain things though, that shows they actually understand it. LOL
  6. Jan 7, 2005 #5


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    From the perspective of one who has taught mechanics numerous times, I see two potential issues. The first is: to what extent do you understand the material? the second is: how to deal with exams.

    There are many ways to make sure you understand. Key to this is to do everything you can to understand before seeking much help -- or discussion. Under these circumstances, your questions and problems are much better defined than if you start yelling for help at the outset -- I do not suggest that's what you do.

    What worked for me, and many of my students was a fairly simple regimen: As soon as possible after class, copy your lecture notes, and also add/subtract to make them as complete as possible. Take notes, with pen and paper, while reading the texts. Before your exams, redo your lecture and reading notes into a single work, what you need to know for your exam. look for patterns and connections among concepts and techniques. There's magic when you put pen to paper.

    Homework. Do not use your texts nor notes, unless you are hopelessly stuck. Get used to solving problems with what's in your head, that's, after all, what you must do on exams. That is, practice taking exams: set yourself a "typical" exam. and work with a time limit. When you easily pass your own exams, you'll walk into that next real exam with great confidence.

    Lot's of work? Indeed. But, I have yet to see this approach fail. It get's easier with experience.

    Reilly Atkinson
  7. Jan 11, 2005 #6
    Well, not that this applies to me, but I always found homework the MOST frustrating aspect of a class. I mean, if i understand the concepts, get A's on exams/test, can learn a little faster....why can't I get an exception?? I always get HELD BACK by HOMEWORK!!! and the labs! So much work---so tedious--i mean, I have essays to write for English, projects for AP History, etc...; that is, I have many harder and more important things to do than physics homework! Sure it's easy....but does feel like wasting time doing 100 such word problems??
  8. Jan 11, 2005 #7
    ^ The concepts in physics are relatively easy, its the application which mostly is demanding. Practice tons, routine, non-routine questions, everything. I think practice is the key to get grades in ANY subjects.
  9. Jan 11, 2005 #8


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    Study the parts you don't understand until you do understand them. That's the only way I ever learned a thing worth knowing.
  10. Jan 4, 2011 #9
    There's more to knowing physics than just reading the material and simply knowing that it can work. One needs to practice it, change the setup of a problem and redo it, and understand the consequences of each principle to be able to apply it to physical systems. Then you gain an intuition that allows you to solve exam problems. Studying by rote only ever works 100% with history.

    Make sure you can get to the point where you can solve the problem without looking back through material and on your first try with consistent success rate. Otherwise when the exam comes around you won't have fully prepared for it.
  11. Jan 4, 2011 #10
    6 years later...
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