1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How exactly do you study for Physics?

  1. Oct 18, 2009 #1
    What are some tips? What have you guys done in the past that worked? Because lately I've done a crapload of studying for physics and some subjects seem to not want to stick and it's really starting to get hard.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2009 #2
    I think the best way to study for physics is to ask yourself a lot of questions when you are learning something new. Also, I think it's very important that after reading a derivation, to do it yourself after without seeing the book. (or even try to do it with just having seen the result and not the derivation yet if you're up for a challenge :-))

    It's easier to be convinced than to be able to convince (like, it's easy for someone to tell you how to beat a video game and show you, but you won't really know how to beat it and show others until you try it yourself)

    So yeah, I definitely recommend, when you're reading the text, spend a moment to close it or put it aside and try to do the derivation they showed you, and explain it to yourself without the help of the book.

    One more important thing afterwards is to do a lot of practice problems, even do the conceptual questions if they have any as well.

    And unfortunately, another thing that helps in physics is work on your math skills. If you get stuck on a problem because you're not used to a certain math or geometry or something, then it would be advantageous if you spent time getting comfortable with it, even if it means taking more than just an hour to learn. The math methods used in physics tend to repeat a lot so chances are, if you learned some new math trick for one physics problem and are an ace at it, then you've just learned to solve 100 problems or so ;-).

    That's my opinion, but yeah, you will have to read a lot and you will be better off getting more comfortable with math. Good luck!
  4. Oct 20, 2009 #3
    It's a very broad question- my opinion is that physics is a subject of two complementing sides, the conceptual side which is the light bulb going off in your head: when you understand a phenomenon beyond the words used to describe it, and the analytical side, using mathematics, logic, and derivations to come up with correct numerical answers or algebraic expressions.

    When something won't stick, say a proof, for example, I will write the proof in non-maths language. A good example of this for me was always the orthogonality derivations. I'd repeat them for ages and never take them in, but then when I wrote down the steps, 1. multiply by a different function, 2. integrate, 3. use orthogonality, 4. ... I'd have a much better overview. So this would be an example of taking a conceptual viewpoint of what you originally thought was an analytic problem.

    On the other hand, you may want to do the opposite. I'm currently working on understanding discrete Fourier transforms, which I am having trouble to learn from a textbook which only uses descriptive language and formal definitions to teach. I had a look on Youtube for some lectures on the subject, and the first result was a professor doing an example of the DFTs for a number of different functions, and using the maths to explicitly find the examples in the frequency domain, something I didn't really even consider when I initially started my reading!

    So my message is, physics is such a broad area that there is no one proven technique, but the advantage of this is that usually, every problem has more than one way of looking at it, and you may find one that suits you better if you bear this in mind!

    Hope this helps,
    (I thought I'd write a mini essay for my 2nd post!)

  5. Oct 23, 2009 #4
    My usual answer is to do more problems. The problems in the back of the book, problems you find online, whatever. This is very good (for me at least) for learning how to do the computations, and is therefore pretty much mandatory before tests. It is also useful conceptually, since you're looking at the same basic laws in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to stick very well. For example, last semester when I was taking ODE, I must have solved at least several hundred of the blasted things. This semester, though, I can barely remember any of it, and have to keep looking things up in books. So you need to keep doing problems or something else that requires what you learn, like research, to keep it up. If I had been doing research on ODEs or on something that required ODEs, I probably would have remembered a lot better!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook