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Studying Falling behind in physics courses

  1. Nov 7, 2016 #1
    Hi all,

    So I'm having hard time going through my physics courses. I tend to fall behind in the middle of the semster and once I'm behind it's hard to get myself on track again.

    So I am taking Classical Mechanics using Taylor's textbook. And Quantum Mechanics using griffiths

    I want to self-learn the stuff i missed in class, what is the best way to do it?

    Also, I want to study to be able to solve problems and I feel like it so hard for me to connect the dots in my classes! Any help with that?

    One more thing, how would you describe a good studying behavior/schedule how often? Also what are the best ways to study?

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2016 #2
    Why are you missing things in class? I highly recommend going through the book before it's covered in class... lectures should be used to solidify the material.
  4. Nov 7, 2016 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    I would start by rereading the material the professor wanted you to read and redoing the problems that were given in greater details trying not to skip steps and write down a reason for each step. If you can find worked out examples of the problems to compare your answers too that would also help find steps or conditions you missed.

    Alternatively you could start at the beginning of the book and do the even problems especially if the answers are provided at the back of the book. However sometimes this strategy fall down when you discover that some answers are wrong or have typos in them. Also you should check if your book has an errata sheet posted online so you know where these errors may appear.

    Be awrae that this self-study strategy is fraught with great uncertainty as to whether you did the problems right. Basically you need a lot of patience and fortitude to proceed and to succeed.

    Before you begin any of this though, you need to assess whether its your weakness in the mathematical techniques used or in your understanding of physics. On your tests and problem sets what stumped you? Where you missing a key physics concept or confused how to apply it to the problem?

    Often its a combination of both but its something you need to identify. For the math it would make sense to take a course in it rather than struggle via self-study where you read everything because you can't decide whats important.

    Lastly, are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating healthy stuff? Are you foregoing enough recreational activities so you can study and review your daily course material?

    I know many students, myself included, would find all sorts of reasons to avoid studying because we were getting depressed when our grades weren't good enough. We would study courses we were doing okay in but not the ones we weren't kind of like holding onto the life preserver instead of swimming to shore.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
  5. Nov 8, 2016 #4
    Usually the proffers either don't have very good presenting skills, and use slide show to explain classical mechanics for examples.
    In quantum I feel like the professor goes too fast for me and I cannot fill the math steps in my head when he skips them. It's hard to take notes and understand the same time.
    How would you recommend me going through the book first on my own? I find it hard
  6. Nov 8, 2016 #5
    Also, as I get bored in my classical mechanics class there is no help for me but to reach for my phone. So that's a problem too.
  7. Nov 8, 2016 #6
    I do have chegg for the texbook problems but I should be able to get the others from the professor. For classical I use Taylor and I would like to review Energy ch4 and Damping ch5. How should approach this?
    For Quantum, I feel like I am lost, like I don't undersant how to divide the material in an orgnized way, what are the main ideas I should understand?
    I would like this to work because I have my finals in a month, but now I realized I am doing very good. I do not feel like my brain things as physcist. It feels like someone out of shape trying to compete in some sport. What I am doing to study does not work anymore and I want to find a solution.

    I feel like it's mostly the physics. I cannot connect the concepts that I have understood. They disappear from my head so fast. And when I doing hw for example i get lost in the book formulas. The math not much, I did great in my calc III & diff eq but applying it into math is harder for me. I am also a proof class in math and I am doing great! But it's the physics. Keeping in mind that my math classes are very active small classes, but physics are the traditional lecture form.

    As much as I hate admitting this, it is exactly what I'm doing.
    I sleep well, around 8 hrs every night, if I sleep less than 6 I do horrible. I eat relatively healthy, I cook my meals, i think part of it is I'm trying to lose weight and my mind is saturated and preoccupied by body image issues that i am trying to get over. I go out every weekend and I meet my friends at least 3 time a week, that's more than enough for recreation.
    It is true, i love physics, i find it fascinating but i get depressed when not understanding the concepts. I feel like a sad excuse for a physics student most of the time. I would like to get an A but there is something wrong with my behavior that leads me to mostly get C.
  8. Nov 8, 2016 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    Make a detailed outline/list of your areas of confusion then decide on what items are the most important relative to your courses, next test, quiz and/or homework. Try to evaluate them as to how much bang for the buck you'll get.

    As an example, say you're having trouble with the vector curl and you're taking Calculus III, Classical Mechanics and EM Theory where the curl is used in two of your courses (Calc and EM) then it makes sense to understand its features as it will help you more than some other item necessarily in one course.

    Use your intuition to order your study items and then go to work. Do one or more items per session. DON'T STOP or take a break until you've DONE at least ONE ITEM fully.

    Start at the top of the list and work down as things change, reorder your list and then start from the top again. If something proves too difficult then skip it and go to the next in line.

    Studying is a lot like taking a test, you have limited time so you have to make a list of what you want to study. It should be very specific perhaps with page numbers to your book of where the problem is or where you've been confused. I can't tell exactly how you should do it as this is something you need to work through.

    Its REALLY important to be SINGLE MINDED in your pursuit. You must work through each item you've listed and answer it. Sometimes your answer will bring up new items to research so prioritize them and add them to your list.
  9. Nov 13, 2016 #8


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    You're going to find using "chegg" or other online homework solutions are going to bite you in the butt. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. I'd recommend you stop paying for that service.

    Your professor doesn't need to be good (although it helps), you need to be able to read the textbook and then understand what it's trying to elucidate. How do you do that? You pick up a paper and pen and the book, and you read while working. The book states a formula? Derive it from the concepts stated. The book asks you to verify something? Verify it. Sample problem? Work through it.

    In the case of Taylor, I like the book and find it easy to read. I think the first fourish chapters should just be a review of freshman mechanics, but I don't remember. Anyway, if that book doesn't do it for you, go to the library and look at other texts of the same level. There are options if you don't care for the assigned text your course happens to use. ( I know some people don't like Taylor, to each his own. Griffiths is also my favorite for QM, and generally well liked as well, but again, there are other options out there. )

    Then you need to do problems until you're blue in the face. That's how you learn physics and start thinking like a physicist. Back to chegg, looking at solutions online robs yourself of the ability to think independently on a problem, and of what it's actually trying to teach you. The most important thing is you have to try.

    Another key point: Stop falling behind. You should remain ahead the entire semester, and if you aren't, you need to take a good hard look and start analyzing why.

    If you need motivation, just remember, C's aren't going to get you into grad school and you'll find yourself with a rather hard won (and expensive) degree that's not worth much more than a wall decoration.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2016
  10. Dec 21, 2016 #9
    I have finished this semester, I passed my classical with a B and quantum with a C+, I hoped for better but I am glad I passed. I think your comment was very helpful for me, I was missing the part of organizing and visualizing what i need to study. setting a timer limit also helped a lot, I used an app called Forest.
  11. Dec 21, 2016 #10
    as harsh as this sounded when I first read it, I think you are completely correct. Searching for answers online takes away from my ability to think. understanding from texts is more important than the professor
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