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First year undergrad struggling

  1. Apr 12, 2014 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm really struggling in Physics and I need some guidance. I got a 50% in my first class test ever and although it counts for 5%(of which I got 2.5%) of the overall year mark, I'm freaking out. I got my second class test next month and I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it to 90%+. High school physics was a breeze and I aced it. Now I'm struggling and I'm not sure how to catch up within 2-3 weeks. We are using Matter and Interactions by Chabay and I hate the book, but it's being used in the lectures extensively. The thing is, it's loaded with problems but no answers for me to check if I'm on the right track or not.

    Now my lecturer said, the first class test reflects the final year mark. I'm freaking out since I don't want to end up with 50%.

    I'm not sure if I know how to learn anymore and thus I'm looking for some experienced people to give some advice on how to tackle the Physics. I'll appreciate it if you could suggest some books as well because I honestly hate M&I by Chabay.

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2014 #2
    What was the class average for that first test? If there is a large curve applied your 50% may not be a big deal.
  4. Apr 12, 2014 #3
    I don't know the class average exactly but I have the statistics. Out of total 85 students, 19 got 50-59, and 53 got above 60%. Now 27 got above 80% with 11 above 90%. 3 or 4 got 99.9%(not 100%, wonder why). The rest got below 50

    My grade is bad in my opinion and I have less than a month before the next test.
  5. Apr 12, 2014 #4
    It sounds like there's no reason for that test to be curved. Can you maybe as your teacher for practice/old exams?
  6. Apr 12, 2014 #5
    Are you having trouble with the physics or the math (I see the text is calculus based)?
  7. Apr 12, 2014 #6
    It's definitely not the maths. It's the Physics, probably because of the way the book is arranged and we are going by the book. I'm not sure how to go about it. I aced A-level Physics and I feel stupid these days.
  8. Apr 14, 2014 #7
    Best thing to do is voice your concerns! Speak to your tutor / lecturer / teacher, ask them if they can recommend some more basic / introductory texts, and if they have any additional problems you can work through for practice. They may even be able to give you some one-on-one help. (I'm at Oxford uni in the UK - in 1st year I really struggled with vector calculus, and when I told the lecturer this he let me stay behind after one of the lectures and he went through everything much slower and explained all the steps - since then, vector calculus has been a breeze!)
  9. Apr 14, 2014 #8
    If you have trouble with a concept try using YouTube. Seriously.
  10. Apr 18, 2014 #9
    Following from FermiAged, are you having trouble with understanding the concepts or applying them on tests? If the former, read the book again. If that doesn't help, try Googling (or Youtubing) the concept, talking to professors or friends/peers, or posting on here (Wikipedia probably won't help). Often all you need is an alternative explanation. However, don't focus too much on the concepts. It is important to understand the concepts, but it isn't uncommon to not understand everything the first time through, especially when you start doing more advanced physics. For instance, inorganic chemistry requires you to be able to solve a lot of group/representation theory problems. Although the problems aren't that hard and the class itself is one of the easier chemistry courses (possibly even the easiest), most (I assume) students get through it without the slightest idea what a representation is. It has taken me a few algebra/group theory books and I am finally starting to grasp the actual meaning behind representations. Again, knowing the concepts is, ultimately, extremely important, but as far as the tests are concerned, being able to confidently solve the problems is what matters most.

    Now, if the latter, practice, practice, and practice again. Even if you understand all the concepts perfectly after the first reading, you will have trouble on tests without practice. Do the problems. Then do them again. If there are any you had trouble with, do them again. Keep doing them until solving them starts to feel like as much of a waste of time as completing multiplication tables (the ones you did in third grade). Even if concepts are your main problem, attempting the problems will help highlight what specific areas you are struggling with. Do the problems. Do the problems. Do the problems.
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