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Homework in Grad Level Classes

  1. Aug 20, 2009 #1
    I just want to get an idea of how taking courses as a physics grad student differs from that of undergrad. As an undergrad, I usually find a friend to work on physics homework, mainly because it saves a lot of time and can sometimes help clarify a difficult problem when two people are working on it. Is it common for grad students to work together on homework, or is it usually done alone? Just something I'm curious about.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2009 #2
    I spent a lot of time helping my fellow grad students on problems sets and seeking their help understanding solutions. We didn't always sit in the same room working on a problem at the same time, but we definitely collaborated. But I also knew people that were very competitive and did not like to share their insights into solutions.

    A lot of people learn best from peer-learning environments and most professors know that and encourage group learning. But, when it comes down to exams you better be damn sure you understood those solutions because if you don't you will pay the price.
  4. Aug 21, 2009 #3


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    I found that the degree of group collaboration wasn't too different from that in senior undergraduate classes. This is something that really depends on the people involved though. Most graduate physics classes are quite small and so if you have three out of four people who prefer to work alone, that's what you'll be doing.
  5. Aug 21, 2009 #4
    My first year, collaboration on homework assignments was both encouraged by the professors and essential to getting it done. Jackson E&M is not something you want to do alone unless you're some kind of genius. There were many late nights up in the grad student office working on quantum or E&M and trying to piece a solution together from everyone's insights. Without the help of the rest of my class, I wouldn't have made it through first year.

    I took three classes, and always ended up having two assignments a week. Each one probably took a solid 8 to 10 hours of work. But considering that your only responsibilities are homework and teaching (=mostly grading), it was actually a lot less stressful than undergrad.
  6. Aug 22, 2009 #5
    Unlike many people in physics, I really like E&M. My policy to fellow grad students was "Bring beer... I'll help you on Jackson homework"! Fortunate for me... we did spend a lot of time collaborating on that topic.

    I was in a large graduate program (each incoming class was about 40 students)... so collaborations were in smaller groups of 3-4 (some larger groups of 5-6), and some people probably worked on their own more often than in groups.
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