How can I become better at solving physics problems?

  • #1
Can anyone give me some helpful advice as to how to improve my problem-solving skills?

Please help me out. I'm currently taking a 1st year (undergrad) level Physics course. I do well on my assignments for the most part, and occasionally look for help on these forums to find approaches to solving these questions. I believe I have a good grasp on the concepts BUT when it comes to the class tests/mid-term exams, I do poorly. I often get stuck on figuring out how to approach the problems and end up doing guess-work. t
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
201
0
Practice makes perfect.
 
  • #3
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,812
10,475
Exactly. Practice, practice, practice.

As Piet Hein said, “Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back."
 
  • #4
As my physics professor tells me:
1. make a sketch of the problem
2. write down the variables (both known and unknown)
3. write down the concept (for example f=ma etc etc)
4. write down the working equation/s
5. solve the problem
 
  • #5
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,989
16
Understand the equations and what they are telling you. Ask any professor/TA and he'll probably pop a vein thinking about students who say "well, I saw this equation had X in it so I used it", having no idea as to why they should use it.
 
  • #6
chiro
Science Advisor
4,790
132
Don't try and use specifics: think broadly. Most concepts involving math are often quite broad (think abstract) and the more "broad" they get, the harder it often is to relate it to the specifics.

In saying this, relate the "specifics" (ie different problems on case-by-case basis) to the "broad" (the concepts that are meant to cover all of the individual "specifics").

Also don't feel bad if you are struggling: its hard to think broadly and see the connection between specifics straight away, and as you get more broad, it gets a lot harder very quickly.

Use any resources at your disposal (professors, friends, etc) to make the appropriate connections between the broad and the specific and make it a habit of curiosity to build new understanding as much as you can.
 
  • #7
8
0
physicsnewb12

I know how you feel. I had a rough time with physics in high school and still some trouble spots in physics in college (i am a second year now). Simply put, the best thing to do is to do problems on physics daily. Do drill problems. Concepts are good but the test more often than not ask you to apply tests. Make sure you vary your problems and that none are the same. Physics is about applying the same principles in different ways. People make a huge mistake and try to memorize the problem of the test rather than the concepts behind it. The hardest thing to do is get information from the problem due to the fact that conclusions are (or are supposed to) to be drawn from both what is and isn't stated in the problem. Understanding this is simply a matter of practice. It is painful but in the end you will be satisfied when you see that strong A or B for your final grade!

-BlynxGT
 
  • #8
992
127
Schaum's outlines did the trick for me.
 

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