Got a 78 on the first test

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  • #1
Natalie Jones
I feel way in over my head. I've been telling people I'm going to major in physics, but I've actually never taken a physics course before. This is my first one. I was so excited to start this class, start the major. I was so excited about research and internships and what I'd be able to do with this. Then things were actually put into perspective.

I didn't study hard enough. I mean I did the two days leading up to the exam, but man did I not do enough during the first 6 weeks of the semester. I simply did not realize how hard this is. I tried taking general chemistry along with calculus 2. I dropped the chemistry after realizing I wasn't doing enough physics, but I realized it too late.

I don't know whether or not to say I'm not cut out for it. I don't know what to say. I mean I'm good at math and science. I got over 100 percent on my chemistry tests last semester. I got a 95 on the first calc 2 test. Yet I can hardly pass this first mechanics tests. Really, who gets As in calculus but can hardly pass a physics test? Me, apparently.

I'm going to do more problems, practice until my hands give out. I know now what I need to do... this was one big mistake, and sure I'll learn from it, I just wonder if this will end well...
 

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  • #2
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I feel way in over my head. I've been telling people I'm going to major in physics, but I've actually never taken a physics course before. This is my first one. I was so excited to start this class, start the major. I was so excited about research and internships and what I'd be able to do with this. Then things were actually put into perspective.

I didn't study hard enough. I mean I did the two days leading up to the exam, but man did I not do enough during the first 6 weeks of the semester.
This is key, and it seems that you recognize that cramming two days before the test just won't cut it.
Natalie Jones said:
I simply did not realize how hard this is. I tried taking general chemistry along with calculus 2. I dropped the chemistry after realizing I wasn't doing enough physics, but I realized it too late.

I don't know whether or not to say I'm not cut out for it. I don't know what to say. I mean I'm good at math and science. I got over 100 percent on my chemistry tests last semester. I got a 95 on the first calc 2 test. Yet I can hardly pass this first mechanics tests. Really, who gets As in calculus but can hardly pass a physics test? Me, apparently.

I'm going to do more problems, practice until my hands give out. I know now what I need to do... this was one big mistake, and sure I'll learn from it, I just wonder if this will end well...
Now that you're down to just the math class and the physics class, you should have more time to devote to the physics class. Getting a grade of 78 is a wonderful stimulus to concentrate the mind.
 
  • #3
vela
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I don't know whether or not to say I'm not cut out for it. I don't know what to say. I mean I'm good at math and science. I got over 100 percent on my chemistry tests last semester. I got a 95 on the first calc 2 test. Yet I can hardly pass this first mechanics tests. Really, who gets As in calculus but can hardly pass a physics test? Me, apparently.
Keep it in perspective. It's just one test. It's way too early to decide you're not cut out for it.

Many find physics is a difficult subject because to succeed requires a good understanding. In other subjects, you might be able to get by with memorizing or just learning the mechanics of solving certain types of problems without understanding why you're doing the steps. That approach generally doesn't work in physics.

I'm going to do more problems, practice until my hands give out. I know now what I need to do... this was one big mistake, and sure I'll learn from it, I just wonder if this will end well...
You might want to look into different learning strategies. I'm not really a fan of the idea of doing tons and tons of problems. There are more efficient ways to learn and master physics.
 
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  • #4
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Really, who gets As in calculus but can hardly pass a physics test?
A lot of people, myself included at first. Taking principles you learn in calculus and applying them to real-world examples is hard. My first physics exam (also in mechanics), I don't remember what I got but I know it was less than a B. I remember having the same thoughts you are - realizing that I either had to buckle down, settle for being a mediocre student, or switch majors. I took the first route and ended up with a 4.0 and going to graduate school, with no regrets.

Some here will disagree with me on this, but I think that college-level physics has a fairly steep learning curve. My first mechanics class was one of the hardest for me for this reason.

As you've realized, it isn't a reflection of your ability to be a good physicist, just of your poor studying habits. It happens, and everyone learns that lesson at some point.
 
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  • #5
Khashishi
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78 is a number, not a grade. What is the mean score?
 
  • #6
analogdesign
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I had a much harder time in my first physics classes than I did in my math classes. It really isn't that uncommon. Some people struggle with the abstract notions in mathematics, while others struggle with the more concrete concepts of Physics. Some people are automatically good at both (rare) and some people struggle with both (common).

It took time but I finally turned my mind around to that kind of thinking. E&M (which most people think is harder than Mechanics) was actually easier for me because I had learned, in some way, to "think like a physicist". Keep studying, and solve as many problems as you can because that is the key to "getting it".
 
  • #7
Natalie Jones
Not sure. It was a 100 point test, so I got 78 out of 100. I don't know if the professor curves or not, I just know my grade from online.
78 is a number, not a grade. What is the mean score?
 
  • #8
Khashishi
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You can ask your professor if it's a good score. Most professors aim for something like an average of a 60. That could catch you off guard if you are used to high school grading.
 
  • #9
wukunlin
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I don't believe I've met people with spotless top grades throughout their bachelor's degree. The most successful postgrads are the ones who can shake off the occasional nasty surprises and learn their lessons.
 
  • #10
symbolipoint
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You can ask your professor if it's a good score. Most professors aim for something like an average of a 60. That could catch you off guard if you are used to high school grading.
Some departments or professors, instead of using classroom members' statistics for grade-curving, might use a strict 90-80-70 A-B-C system for grading, which would mean that 60% score would be minimum for a D grade.
 
  • #11
Drakkith
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Really, who gets As in calculus but can hardly pass a physics test?
Well, I'm the opposite. I got a B or A in both of my 200-level physics courses, but I've had a lot of difficulty with my math classes. I've had to retake Calc 2, Calc 3, and Differential Equations so far. Setbacks are common. Failures in classes are far more common than you would think. But true failure only happens when you give up.
 
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