Getting higher marks in engineering?

  • #1
I am a computer engineering student at UofT. Last semester, my marks were all A's/A+'s in math and computer science, but I got a B- in physics and some other course (team project screwed my marks over, we got a 50% but I managed to pull my marks up by acing the final) which killed my GPA (dropped down from 3.8 to 3.4). I was planning on taking extra computer science and math classes as electives, but to do this, you need to have a 3.7 GPA and do the scheduling yourself. I'm going to start off by saying in high school, my physics marks were very high (higher than math) but now in University I'm getting B's in physics because of the massively increased difficulty. I study around 12 hours per week and take a full course load (5 per semester).

My goal right now is to get higher marks. I realize I need to increase my studying time, but physics keeps getting me. I feel like I have to memorize a bunch of equations to do well in physics, (i.e. velocity/acceleration equations for multiple coordinate systems in dynamics, because it is too time consuming to derive them each time). Not only that, the questions on the tests are 1000x harder than anything in my book or anything on the assignments they give us. I literally have mini-panic attacks when I'm presented with a physics test.

How can I achieve my goals? I've considered switching out of computer engineering, because my true passion lies with math/computer science, and I often look forward to summers where I can do these topics all day (10 hours per day) but my family is giving me a hard time about this, saying that engineering is higher, etc, and how its not good to transfer because I made a decision and that I need to stick with it, and that if I leave engineering I'll regret it because I'll never be able to get back in.

I generally do enjoy physics too, because I find it interesting- but it's definetly not my passion. I'm struggling with it a little bit, because I'm not getting A's. It's also easier to do questions at home when I study physics, because when I have a physics test, like I said above, I feel like I have a panic attack. (Get really hot, sweat, nervous, dizzy)

What advice can you give me to do better in physics? I didn't study at all for computer science (I've coded for years), and calculus/linar algebra was also easy because I read spivak calculus in the summer, which really improved my math skills.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
941
394
It's not always a question of studying more, but of studying better. What kind of problems cause you difficulties on your exams? Do you have difficulties working through the problem, or setting the problem up in order to be worked through? Do you forget required formulas?
 
  • #3
It's not always a question of studying more, but of studying better. What kind of problems cause you difficulties on your exams? Do you have difficulties working through the problem, or setting the problem up in order to be worked through? Do you forget required formulas?
I'd say I have difficulties setting up the problem and forgetting required formulas, because I've always been huge on having a no-memorizing approach unless necessary (chemistry, biology, etc). If the question is set up, I can easily solve it. But I think my main problem is I don't know what to do when presented with a really huge hard problem on a test, which likely combines everything I've learned in the semester.
 
  • #4
941
394
Have you gone to office hours and asked the professor about problems that you've missed on the exams?
 
  • #5
Have you gone to office hours and asked the professor about problems that you've missed on the exams?
I answer every problem, but my school (UofT) doesn't release final exam answers or discuss them.
 
  • #6
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
282
I'd say I have difficulties setting up the problem and forgetting required formulas, because I've always been huge on having a no-memorizing approach unless necessary (chemistry, biology, etc). If the question is set up, I can easily solve it. But I think my main problem is I don't know what to do when presented with a really huge hard problem on a test, which likely combines everything I've learned in the semester.
When broken down, many problems that seem very complicated are in reality multiple simple problems put together. In many cases, you simply need to look at the problem in a certain way.

try breaking that complicated problem into multiple pieces, and think about how you can attack it one piece at a time. think about how you can simplify it.

ex. in electrical engineering many students get thrown by very large circuits. In many many cases, a lot of the large circuits are comprised of one or two isolated simple circuits, with a lot of protection circuity. in many cases to find things like a voltage output, large parts of the circuit can simply be ignored.

There are many situations in physics that are like that. My point is attack the problem one step at a time. If you need to, talk to the proffesor or other students about their approach to problems. Even if they talk fast and seem to skip steps, in reality they typically break the problem down in their head. if you need to do it on paper. the more you do this, the better you will get
 

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