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How do/did you study Physics?

  1. Mar 2, 2013 #1
    I am starting this thread in the hopes that newcomers, like me, may benefit from this thread to improve their study habits. I notice there are similar threads that already exist, however, they are old and not as comprehensive as I'd like such threads to be.

    Currently, I study by doing a good number of problems daily. What good is my understanding of Physics if I am unable to apply it correctly? However, I still have trouble with solving Physics problems, especially the more challenging ones. So I'd like to improve my studying habits.

    So my question is, how did you study for Physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2013 #2

    Yeah, this is a great question.. I have two parts to my comments on this. The first is that I personally probe, like a human google engine, all of the youtube videos where the amateur and not-so amateur physicists and mathematicians hawk their wares. I get great insight from this as you can learn very important things from any tutor at any level of understanding, even if, and especially if, they are not brainwashed in the rigor of the contemporary Zeitgeist or dogma.

    My second comment is an appeal to those who may know of a website(s) that focus on presenting problems for you to solve on your own, and then presenting a fully-worked solution so you can check how you did.

    The vast majority of youtube math/physics videos just make an effort to explain some lesson in mathematical physics without giving you a chance to solve it yourself first and then guiding you through the solution step by step. I'd love to get some links to these kind of videos..
  4. Mar 3, 2013 #3
    this is how i do it

    1. try to solve the problem as long as possible without going to the solution
    2. go ask somebody for helping hints and try again
    3. look at solution understand what is going on
    4. try the problem again
  5. Mar 4, 2013 #4
    Here are a few things I have found helped me:

    1. Learn as much as possible from the homework, while you do it. Basically, for most classes if you do it right, you shouldn't have to study much before tests, just review what you learned while doing the homework.

    2. Continuing the first point, you should look at the homework the day you get it. Think about what you need to know to solve the problems, and look for that information in the lectures that week. Usually there is one or two problems that you can solve using knowledge you already know, and you can do them to get a headstart on the week.

    3. Focus on understanding how to solve the problem before you focus on getting the mathematical details exactly right. It's much better to make an arithmetic mistake than to not set up the problem correctly. Arithmetic mistakes can always be fixed with care.

    4. Try to come to your own understanding of what is important in the subject. This forces you to think about how everything fits together, and think about what everything is used for. (Also, try to figure out what the prof thinks is important, because that will be on tests.)

    5. As you get more experienced, try to see what things you are exposed to are similar to things you have already been exposed to. Especially with notation, always try to relate new notation to the old notation you already know.

    6. I think this is just personal, but the later in my physics education I got the less useful practice problems became. They are clearly invaluable at first, but later they start to take a lot of energy. However the benefit of just thinking about a problem never looses it's effect. Often just considering a problem is sufficient to find holes in your understanding.

    7. Own "math methods" books and flip through them every now and then, making a mental list of what techniques exist and what they do. Physics uses so many different techniques that you may be expected to use one technique only once in undergrad. As long as it's not a test that you need to know if for, all you need is to know that you can look it up.

    8. Make a list of useful equations from a course, making brief comments as to what they are and what they are useful for. This is obviously useful for open notes tests, and for closed notes tests they give you something compact to memorize. It also gives you a nice summary for when you have to refer back to the course after you have taken it.
  6. Mar 4, 2013 #5
    I usually read my notes and practice problems, as others have posted above.

    If it's a practical problem, writing everything down and drawing a picture helps a lot. Also having an equation chart can be handy, depending on the material.

    If it's a conceptual problem, I usually just literally sit there and think about it; along with writing it down. Sometimes I just understand the material just like that if the professor is talking about it and providing examples.

    Occasionally, analogies can help a ton. Again, depending on what you are studying.

    If the material goes in one ear and out the other, I usually just talk to the professor after class about it, or look it up and read about it.

    I'm not really keen on watching YouTube videos, but very rarely will I ever if it's about Physics.
  7. Mar 6, 2013 #6
    Hi, thanks for the responses! You guys have so many helpful tips! I am going to integrate the relevant tips into my studying habits. I hope other PF users will find this beneficial too. :D
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