How to get 100% in Physics course?

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  • #1
MathINTJ
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OK, this question is for those who is genuinely amongst the group to which I am referring to. I just got my physics exam back (college) and I got a 39%. Don't ask me how it happen. The teacher displayed our grades on the black board....there was...and it IS always...ALWAYS, that 100% in the midst of failures...Who is that person? Once and for all I want to use the internet to issue a request...Please can That SPECIFIC category respond to this ONLY..HOW DO YOU GET 100% on a physics examination?I appreciate all genuine responses from this group of people...No ad-homeniems...as i does not develop the yaddah yaddah ya....
 

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  • #2
SHISHKABOB
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I find that the more I study, the better my grade is on a test. Of course, it has to be good studying. I like to ask my professor about the kinds of problems to expect on the test. Usually they put problems that are incredibly similar to the ones found on the homework. Thus, doing the homework over again can be really helpful for studying.

it's not like good grades happen because of magic, you have to work hard for them. I'm sure if you put more effort into studying and spend some time asking your professor for help on problems that you don't understand, then you will do a lot better next time :)
 
  • #3
Simon Bridge
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I only got 100% on easy exams.
I have got 100% on exams where everyone else got much less ... so it only has to be easy for me. The secret is to understand the physics. OTOH: it is unusual for one person to always get 100% (it happens - but it takes a great deal of work). Basically, if you keep getting 100% on exams, you are in a year-level below your learning level. I mean, if I went back to High School, I'd get 100% on everything - even Shakespear.

BTW: this is an age old question, not just from students, but teachers too. You won't get anywhere by asking the A+ students how they got their grades: they don't understand how people can fail. They will just tell you to work harder and smarter. For teachers the problem is how to teach students so they have a high pass-rate. There is quite a lot of inconclusive research on the topic.
 
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  • #4
sophiecentaur
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Despite the popular opinion that 'rote learning' should be a thing of the past, you cannot do well in exams without having actually learned quite a few facts / formulae/ scientific relationships. Rote learning is actually, not a bad way of getting some of this stuff into your head. That, in itself, is not sufficient - of course - because you then need to be able to apply that knowledge. Answering past exam questions and reading textbooks (also, not a popular habit these days) will allow you to assemble the things you learned and to reach some 'understanding' of the subject.
It is not 'just an old fashioned idea' that actually learning stuff off by heart can be useful. It represents the necessary pain before the gain of serious understanding. I wish more people could take this on board. They are not doing students any favours by ignoring the (self driven) 'learning' half of 'teaching and learning'.
Most young people are more than capable of learning the words of songs, the names of sports teams etc. etc., most of which parcels of information are totally arbitrary and just have to be learned. So it is a nonsense to say that they couldn't 'just learn' a handful of formulae and statements. Perhaps the reason that many teachers are not doing more high level and better paid work is because they, themselves never took the trouble to 'just learn stuff'. (I will probably need to duck now, to avoid flying brickbats. :wink:)
 
  • #5
Vanadium 50
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The first thing you need to do is to pay more attention to what you read. For example, you initially posted in the wrong section.

The second thing you need to do is show more care in what you write. Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent. If you always write like your first message, you are dramatically increasing the chance someone - perhaps the grader - will not understand what you mean and take off points.

Once you regularly start doing that, one can focus on other issues. But without those two as a foundation, its far too early.
 
  • #6
thegreenlaser
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Despite the popular opinion that 'rote learning' should be a thing of the past, you cannot do well in exams without having actually learned quite a few facts / formulae/ scientific relationships. Rote learning is actually, not a bad way of getting some of this stuff into your head. That, in itself, is not sufficient - of course - because you then need to be able to apply that knowledge. Answering past exam questions and reading textbooks (also, not a popular habit these days) will allow you to assemble the things you learned and to reach some 'understanding' of the subject.
It is not 'just an old fashioned idea' that actually learning stuff off by heart can be useful. It represents the necessary pain before the gain of serious understanding. I wish more people could take this on board. They are not doing students any favours by ignoring the (self driven) 'learning' half of 'teaching and learning'.
Most young people are more than capable of learning the words of songs, the names of sports teams etc. etc., most of which parcels of information are totally arbitrary and just have to be learned. So it is a nonsense to say that they couldn't 'just learn' a handful of formulae and statements. Perhaps the reason that many teachers are not doing more high level and better paid work is because they, themselves never took the trouble to 'just learn stuff'. (I will probably need to duck now, to avoid flying brickbats. :wink:)

I agree with you about working hard to learn stuff, but I think that doing nothing but memorizing techniques and formulae is not a great way to succeed in math/physics/engineering. When you seek to understand why, then all the techniques and formulas actually make sense, and so they're much easier to remember. Not only that, but when you really understand stuff, you can come up with new methods/formulas, so you're not restricted to solving problems that are in the exact same form as the ones you did in class.

Of course, I should reinforce that focusing on understanding rather than memorizing does not mean you get to slack off. You still spend a LOT of time reading the textbook and doing tons practice problems, it's just that your focus is on understanding why rather than memorizing how.
 
  • #7
jimmyly
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I agree with you about working hard to learn stuff, but I think that doing nothing but memorizing techniques and formulae is not a great way to succeed in math/physics/engineering. When you seek to understand why, then all the techniques and formulas actually make sense, and so they're much easier to remember. Not only that, but when you really understand stuff, you can come up with new methods/formulas, so you're not restricted to solving problems that are in the exact same form as the ones you did in class.

Of course, I should reinforce that focusing on understanding rather than memorizing does not mean you get to slack off. You still spend a LOT of time reading the textbook and doing tons practice problems, it's just that your focus is on understanding why rather than memorizing how.

agreed. My physics teacher does not believe in memorizing. i don't either. like Richard Feynman said "you can know all the names of the bird in every single language, by the end of it, you will know nothing about the bird, only what people from different areas call the bird" ( not an exact quote, just from what i remember ).

From past experiences, once i understand something i can remember everything about it.

i used to be a C student from grade 9-12, i always skipped class, partied and got drunk on the weekend, went out with girls all the time.

Now i have A+'s and A's because i realized i WANT to LEARN and UNDERSTAND. i have a sticky note on my homescreen of my phone that says READ AND ANALYSE so every time i check what time it is when i am studying i will see it and make sure i analyse everything i read and understand it. if i don't, i read it over and over and look stuff up on the internet until i fully understand it.

Another thing that i found really helpful is i would give myself a little "preview" the night before or a few days before the class for what we will be learning.

i am not an 100% kinda student( i know that is the people you want to answer your question but i think i know a little something about getting there) . i keep aiming for it and it IS very very hard. i keep getting mid - high 90s and at that point i realized that its the LITTLE mistakes on exams. so for ME getting mid - high 90s what I will have to do is check all my calculations to make sure i didn't make anything errors because i have realized going from 95% - 100% is small errors. it isn't that i don't understand the material, it's that double checking and triple checking.

but first you have to get to that 90's range!
i look back now and i always catch myself saying " wow how did i get C's back in highschool... " then i realize that i was doing everything wrong.

find a studying technique that works for YOU. my approach may not be a fit for you, you can give it a try, but at the end of the day you have to find the right plan for you.

** a little funny thing i do before a test(i am sure everyone will think its weird) is i go find a mirror and pump myself up haha
now don't laugh hahaha its because i was a hardcore athlete all my life so now that i don't play sports i have carried the tradition to academics. it gives me that confidence and cockyness i always had when i played sports into tests and exams. Also, another thing i learned to do is create a " game plan ". when i used to play sports we always had game plans and talked about it before our games. so i always have a "game plan" before an exam.

like sports, i look at exams as MY chance to SHOW OFF what i can do. Because thats what an exam really is. its not made to make you suffer.

its your chance to show off your knowledge.

thats just my mindset and my way of doing things. bottom line, if you don't like what your doing, change it, if it still doesn't work, change it again. until you find something that works
 
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  • #8
Choppy
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OK, this question is for those who is genuinely amongst the group to which I am referring to. I just got my physics exam back (college) and I got a 39%. Don't ask me how it happen. The teacher displayed our grades on the black board....there was...and it IS always...ALWAYS, that 100% in the midst of failures...Who is that person? Once and for all I want to use the internet to issue a request...Please can That SPECIFIC category respond to this ONLY..HOW DO YOU GET 100% on a physics examination?I appreciate all genuine responses from this group of people...No ad-homeniems...as i does not develop the yaddah yaddah ya....

HOW DO YOU GET 100% on a physics examination?
You answer every question correctly, or at least, in a manner consistent with what your marker is expecting.

One immediate, and perhaps obvious approach to improving your ability to do this is to go to the student who is getting 100% on the exams and figure out what he or she does differently from you. There is no guarantee that particular student's methods will work best for you, but since you're not happy with your current results, you don't have much to lose by changing your approach to studying.

Another great source for suggestions is your teacher. If this person has taught the course several times before he or she will likely have made some observations about which habits lead to successful results.

One thing that I've noticed about those students who score incredibly well is that they aren't just trying to get the good grade. They immerse themselves in the material, often pushing their studies beyond the assigned problems. They come up with their own problems and try to solve them. They think about real-world applications of the material.

Also, they quickly identify ideas that they don't understand and correct this, either though additional reading or by seeking help. This means realizing that you don't understand something perhaps even before it's covered in class because you've read ahead. Realizing that you don't get something the night before an exam isn't going to help you too much if you have no manner of recourse to correct it. Start early.

Learn to predict the types of questions that could be asked. The most successful students I've known had an aility to guess the general types of questions that were asked on exams. I'm not saying they knew the answers ahead of time. Just that they got to a level of understanding where they could place themselves in the instructor's shoes and make pretty reasonable guesses at what kinds of questions they might encounter.

There's a bit of an art to taking exams. Learing how to properly alot your time for example is a skill that, if you haven't mastered, can cost you a lot of marks. Learning how to quickly read a question and isolate what specifically is being asked for is also as skill.

I might also add that you shouldn't always expect to get 100% anyway. If you get perfect marks in every class you attend, it brings up the question: are you really challenging youself?
 
  • #9
sophiecentaur
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I agree with you about working hard to learn stuff, but I think that doing nothing but memorizing techniques and formulae is not a great way to succeed in math/physics/engineering. When you seek to understand why, then all the techniques and formulas actually make sense, and so they're much easier to remember. Not only that, but when you really understand stuff, you can come up with new methods/formulas, so you're not restricted to solving problems that are in the exact same form as the ones you did in class.

Of course, I should reinforce that focusing on understanding rather than memorizing does not mean you get to slack off. You still spend a LOT of time reading the textbook and doing tons practice problems, it's just that your focus is on understanding why rather than memorizing how.

That goes without saying and is not what I wrote. The fact is that kids are given formula sheets in exams and seem seldom to be prepared to learn even the simplest formulae. When I go to my Doctor, I don't want to see him dive into his computer to find an answer. I want him to have enough facts at his finger tips to be able to come up with a solution to my problem. Anyone who is incapable of learning a substantial amount will just not be capable of proper analysis of a situation and neither will they be able to approach the 'why' question because they will not have enough actual knowledge at their instant disposal to synthesise an answer.
Any assessment process that is not demanding is just not worth submitting yourself to and will give no indication about what you are capable of. It's a matter of 'being bothered' to learn the stuff and to be strict about following the rules of arguments and the actual mechanics of the Maths. Inspiration and 'a feel for Physics' are not enough - and they weren't how the top Scientists ever got to the top.
 
  • #10
twofish-quant
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The teacher displayed our grades on the black board....there was...and it IS always...ALWAYS, that 100% in the midst of failures...Who is that person?

If you are getting 39% this could be good/bad depending on class average.

Also the person that is getting 100% could well be someone that failed the course last semester, and is retaking the course, and is getting 100%'s because they've seen the test questions before.
 
  • #11
sophiecentaur
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If you are getting 39% this could be good/bad depending on class average.

Also the person that is getting 100% could well be someone that failed the course last semester, and is retaking the course, and is getting 100%'s because they've seen the test questions before.


What sort of a system uses the same questions for subsequent tests? Frankly, I don't think I'd want to be a part of it. For all that people say about the UK system, it's better than that!

I might also say that anyone who needs a re-sit is hardly likely to be bright enough for a couple of hours test experience to make that much difference. People who score 100% on worthwhile tests (other than short, interim tests) are usually just damn good and probably work at it.

Otoh, that post may have been a joke :smile:
 
  • #12
twofish-quant
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What sort of a system uses the same questions for subsequent tests?

Not the same, but there are only so many ways of doing a calculus problem, and I have seen situations where professors will use exactly the same test question from year to year.

I might also say that anyone who needs a re-sit is hardly likely to be bright enough for a couple of hours test experience to make that much difference.

It's not uncommon in the US for someone to totally mess up freshmen year, and then unmess themselves.
 
  • #13
twofish-quant
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The fact is that kids are given formula sheets in exams and seem seldom to be prepared to learn even the simplest formulae.

I was taught that memorization is pointless, and my physics undergraduate program very strongly discouraged memorization. What it did encourage was "problem solving" (i.e. we give you all the formula and you have X minutes to figure out how to apply them).

One problem with formula memorization is that you are often hosed if the formula changes. One way of see if someone really understands Newtonian mechanics is to ask them what they world would look like if F=ma^2.

When I go to my Doctor, I don't want to see him dive into his computer to find an answer. I want him to have enough facts at his finger tips to be able to come up with a solution to my problem.

That's what doctors often do. The reason that doctors are doctors is that they have enough experience to make sense of the data that they are getting. Also a lot of the reason that people have doctors is that you the critical thing isn't knowledge. Doctors have doctors and lawyers have lawyers. The reason why is that when you are ill, you want someone else to do the thinking since you aren't in the mood.

Anyone who is incapable of learning a substantial amount will just not be capable of proper analysis of a situation and neither will they be able to approach the 'why' question because they will not have enough actual knowledge at their instant disposal to synthesise an answer.

The interesting questions in physics and those that I was taught to deal with are those in which no one has the right actual knowledge of a situation.

Any assessment process that is not demanding is just not worth submitting yourself to and will give no indication about what you are capable of. It's a matter of 'being bothered' to learn the stuff and to be strict about following the rules of arguments and the actual mechanics of the Maths. Inspiration and 'a feel for Physics' are not enough - and they weren't how the top Scientists ever got to the top.

That seems like an odd and categorical statement. My undergraduate education put a great deal of emphasis on feeling and intuition. The mathematics were a means to get to the intuition, and but people were very strongly against memorization. This actually hurt a lot of people that were used to passing tests through facts and memorization.

There are probably different ways of teaching physics, so I'm not going to say that the way that I was taught is the only way or the best way. But it works pretty well.
 
  • #14
twofish-quant
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Also don't try to get 100%.

If class average is 60%, you should try to get 70%. If class average is 20% and you are getting 40% you might consider switching to a harder class. If you are failing, then you need to consider dropping the class.

The danger here is that if you try to stress yourself too hard, you run the real risk of burning yourself out.
 
  • #15
twofish-quant
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Rote learning is actually, not a bad way of getting some of this stuff into your head.

Depends on the nature of the tests. One of the things that I liked about my undergraduate tests is that they were designed so that you just couldn't do well if you memorized stuff.

Most young people are more than capable of learning the words of songs, the names of sports teams etc. etc., most of which parcels of information are totally arbitrary and just have to be learned. So it is a nonsense to say that they couldn't 'just learn' a handful of formulae and statements.

But it's interesting *how* people learn songs, sports teams, and other arbitrary information. Most people do not stare at lists of songs or sports teams. The way that people memorize these sorts of things involves putting them into some sort of context. One problem is that without context, people will forget information as quickly as they memorize it.

If I make you memorize F=ma, then that's a formula that will be forgotten as soon as the test is done. If I ask you to think about how the world would be different if F=ma was something else, then you'll put that information in context, and then whatever memorization you have is going to stick.

There's also "muscle memory." If I toss a ball at you, you are going to know where that ball is going to end up. Your brain is doing some very complicate calculations, and your muscle knows where to put your hand. A lot of physics is to imprint equations at a "deep" level.

There's also motivation. People memorize what they want to memorize.

Perhaps the reason that many teachers are not doing more high level and better paid work is because they, themselves never took the trouble to 'just learn stuff'. (I will probably need to duck now, to avoid flying brickbats. :wink:)

It actually works the other way. One good thing about rote memorization and rote testing is that it really doesn't require very skilled teachers, and so you can rapidly deploy lots of teachers very, very quickly and cheaply. If you have a situation in which you have to teach very large numbers of people very cheaply, then rote memorization is a good way of doing it.

Also rote memorization can be very useful in "math therapy." When I taught Algebra I at the University of Phoenix, I was faced with lots of students that were terrified of math, and I felt more like a therapist than a math teacher. So what I ended up doing was to "package" the math formulas into some very simple rote memorization steps that they could repeat on an exam. The other thing that I did was create problems that were *relevant* (i.e. here are some math tricks that you can take back to the office and make money from.)
 
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  • #16
sophiecentaur
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Not the same, but there are only so many ways of doing a calculus problem, and I have seen situations where professors will use exactly the same test question from year to year.



It's not uncommon in the US for someone to totally mess up freshmen year, and then unmess themselves.

I'd agree that short tests to establish skill / knowledge in one particular area can be very useful - just like homework questions. Those test questions are more like what you find in textbooks and, of course, you don't need to have new ones every year. My comment was more about tests where the marks contribute to an overall grade. In those cases, the questions really should be different each year (of course, there are stock topics that need to be dealt with every time).
I was interested in the notion of results being posted up on a board. In the UK, there would be uproar about that sort of thing; results tend to be kept 'private' because of the culture against 'excellence' and in favour of 'no-blame' for bad results. Things have changed, in that respect, since I was at Uni - all exam results were posted on the faculty notice board and your mates would sometimes know what you'd got before you knew yourself. Never did me no 'arm.

It's very true that some people can seriously turn themselves around after an initial failure but, otoh, many students are so re-assured by the possibility of a re-sit that they really don't work very hard the first time through - ignoring the fact that, in addition to the extra revision for the re-sit, they have still the main course to work at.

Many of these discussions suffer from the fact that we all have such widely disparate experiences and our reactions are coloured differently, according to where we live. (Similar cross-purpose arguments are frequent when we discuss the Electricity Supply Industry.)
 
  • #17
sophiecentaur
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Depends on the nature of the tests. One of the things that I liked about my undergraduate tests is that they were designed so that you just couldn't do well if you memorized stuff.

etc.
You make some interesting points here an I think we may be arguing at cross purposes about some of this. As an example, formulae are absolutely essential in order to solve problems - otherwise why have a 'formula sheet' on exam questions? My point is that learning formulae off by heart represents (or at least it should) a very small part of a subject like Physics so why not just get down and learn them. Having to trawl through a list of vaguely familiar formulae in an exam (or in future life) will just waste time. Brains are very good at storing stuff like that; they just need a bit of training / motivation. If a student just can't be bothered to learn the small number of formulae involved in, say, what we used to call statics and dynamics, in A level - or the very few formulae used in simple circuit theory - then I would say they haven't shown much commitment. It's along the lines of a concert pianist needing the names of the notes to be marked on the keyboard.

I'm wonder whether you just missed out the word "just" in this passage??? I can't think of an instance when actually knowing something would not help in solving a problem. When would using a printed list help you better?

I really don't know why people think that rote learning should exclude any other form of intellectual process. The two go together and the whole is a lot greater than the sum of the parts. Just read the huge number of questions that we read on this forum, clearly written by actual Physics students, which show that they just have no recall of some of the most basic relationships - or they have possibly even rejected the importance of them. Are they ever going to get a grasp with that approach? Formulae are only concise statements of models, after all, and isn't that what Science is all about?
 
  • #18
twofish-quant
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My comment was more about tests where the marks contribute to an overall grade. In those cases, the questions really should be different each year (of course, there are stock topics that need to be dealt with every time).

They really should be, but if the professor that administrates the course doesn't want them to be, then he has tenure.

It's very true that some people can seriously turn themselves around after an initial failure but, otoh, many students are so re-assured by the possibility of a re-sit that they really don't work very hard the first time through - ignoring the fact that, in addition to the extra revision for the re-sit, they have still the main course to work at.

The US tends to be more flexible. If you retake a course, then you can take an extra year. Also for the US, often freshman year is the first time that the student has been away from home, so there are often a lot of personal issues. One thing that does happen a lot is that you end up with freshmen that burn themselves out because they are working too much rather than too little.

Many of these discussions suffer from the fact that we all have such widely disparate experiences and our reactions are coloured differently, according to where we live. (Similar cross-purpose arguments are frequent when we discuss the Electricity Supply Industry.)

There are also terminology issues. What exactly constitutes "rote learning"? For example, if you go through the Physics Problem Solver and then work though each of the problems, I wouldn't consider that rote learning. "Rote learning" and "memorization" consists of asking someone to write down the definition of Newton's Second Law which is pretty useless.

There is also what the students want. One of the first courses I taught at University of Phoenix is one in which I ended up with scathing teacher feedback because I was dealing with an audience that weren't interested in being physicists.
 
  • #19
sophiecentaur
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To me, rote learning means learning things like formulae and the wording of 'laws' (which is usually a verbal version of a mathematical expression. Going through example problems wouldn't be included in that because it involves 'synthesis' and I don't think anyone would object to that.
Even learning good phrases and sentences which put across ideas well can be a good thing. I often say to students "just run that by in your head and see how it applies to a new situation". All these nuggets of knowledge are so useful when a 'real' problem presents itself. I just can't understand how, as a matter of principle, such learning is considered to be bad.
I recently had surgery and the guy who did it had done something like 5000 similar ops. He knew that part of me upside down and inside out and, before anyone else would be let loose on a patient, they would also be expected to 'know' the layout, to be aware of variations and to have learned (by sitting down for hours with the information) all the different angles of the procedure. In the case of surgery, they can't just screw their mistakes up into a ball and chuck them in the wastebin, so it may be a slightly different situation but the surgeon can't have a book open or a web browser there to help him through step by step. It all has to come from within. Decisions need to be made there and then. But, when sitting at a desk, with an Engineering or theoretical Physics problem to solve, you still need stuff 'just there'. You can't hold enough balls up in the air at a time if the information is not all already there in your brain.
Is this present fashion (in the UK, at least) just there because subjects like Physics would appear too scary for students to risk approaching them?
 
  • #20
PKDfan
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... but the surgeon can't have a book open or a web browser there to help him through step by step. It all has to come from within.

Actually, there was a study recently that showed having a simple checklist significantly reduces death rates from surgery:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/health/20surgery.html?_r=0

Granted, this was for everyone in the operating room and might not be what you were talking about, but it's still interesting. Apparently, even professionals benefit from cheat sheets!
 
  • #21
throwWiffle
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At least at my college, most people who fail the exam are the ones who don't focus on their class work. Their main focus is playing computer games or board games, or anything but physics/classwork. This causes them to screw up on the tests, and then they feel bad. So they then try to make themselves feel better by playing more games/drinking/etc - avoiding the problem of getting the work done, focusing, and putting in a lot of practice. Like this one person was saying to me how he was going to be playing some RPG's all this Saturday, after taking Friday night off. He just screwed up a physics test or two, and have a couple of other tests the following week. What I'd do is instead say "No. I am going to stop, get back on track, get organized, and make this a study weekend."

To study for physics tests, the best thing I've found is just to be able to do (and understand!) all of the HW problems. Just set aside time to do them, and if you get stuck, reread the section, then go back and check over your work. If you're still stuck, *go talk to a good tutor* - look around and find one that explains things the best (not the same as one you're great friends with).

This one person I know failed an intro physics class once or twice and then she finally passed (two of them!) after she started seeing a tutor. What she did was work through her homework, and after every homework assignment went to the tutor that explained things really well. They went through all of the problems, until she could do them all. Then, before every test, she'd meet with the tutor and review with him, doing problems.
 
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  • #22
AlephZero
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Actually, there was a study recently that showed having a simple checklist significantly reduces death rates from surgery:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/health/20surgery.html?_r=0

Granted, this was for everyone in the operating room and might not be what you were talking about, but it's still interesting. Apparently, even professionals benefit from cheat sheets!

I'ts good to see that the health "industry" has caught up with what the aircraft industry figured out more than 75 years ago. http://www.atchistory.org/History/checklst.htm

Just so long as you remember that the most important checklists and safety drills are not read off cheat sheets, but memorized. It's perfectly sensible to use written checklists for procedures when a plane is stil on the ground with the brakes on. Once you are flying, you might not have time to find the right piece of paper (and it's quite hard to read a piece of paper when the plane is in an inverted spin).

The same time pressure applies to exams, of course, though not in quite such a life and death manner.
 
  • #23
sophiecentaur
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Happily, we seem to be arriving at a consensus here. We've had contributions from both sides of the fence and it seems that a bit of hard work will usually help to produce your best results. I think I was told this in the mid 1950s.

AlephZero's comment about memorising cheat sheets was reassuring. Belt and braces is always a good idea.
 
  • #24
Simon Bridge
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Foregone conclusion - comes of asking the wrong questions of the wrong people.
me said:
You won't get anywhere by asking the A+ students how they got their grades: they don't understand how people can fail. They will just tell you to work harder and smarter.
--- from post #2.

I've seen people do all these things and more and still get mediocre grades.
OTOH: it's hard to actually fail if you do all this.
 
  • #25
sophiecentaur
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. . . . . .

I've seen people do all these things and more and still get mediocre grades.
OTOH: it's hard to actually fail if you do all this.

I always find it strange when people are actually surprised about the spread of ability in students and who seem to expect everyone to get A+. All we can do is to work as hard as we can bring ourselves to and ensure that we avoid failure. The mouse that kept on swimming in the milk churn found himself floating on a lump of butter but the one who didn't try drowned.

Funny that, even before computer games were around, we all found plenty to distract us if we wanted to be distracted.
 
  • #26
Simon Bridge
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The only way to make sure our students get high grades is to rig the assessments ... which, I seem to recall, is one of the NCLB lessons.

No matter what, some people will have to work harder to achieve as well, there is an element of chance in all achievement, and an element of filtering in all education systems. In principle, anyone can learn to do anything competently ... there's just diminishing returns involved. Usually there's something else they'd be better off doing - the trick is to find it early.

We get a lot of people asking "which course should I take? which career path?"
I always say: do what you love - and look around you: if there is something you find easy and everyone else seems to struggle, do that.... it's called a "talent".

And that's probably the best for getting good grades too - start by doing what you enjoy ... if you are in a system where you can't pick (pre-college for eg): find something to enjoy about it. This is why the A+ people get those grades: it's not such a chore for them.
 
  • #27
sophiecentaur
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Rigging assessments is the only way to deal with the political pressure. Politicians would lose votes if they admitted that many people's kids are not going to end up doing the job of their dreams. "Everyone can win." Hah!
It's such a rude shock when so many poor students finally realises that a 'degree' may be no more use to them than their grandad's School Leaving Certificate for reading and writing was for getting a job. The jobs have to be available, for a start.
The system is so cynical.
 
  • #28
twofish-quant
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My point is that learning formulae off by heart represents (or at least it should) a very small part of a subject like Physics so why not just get down and learn them.

It depends on the educational process, but I was taught with the "fire hose" theory of physics, in which they take a fire hose and blast you with data and see what you can pick up.

A typical problem in a physics test would require you to use a dozen formulae. You were allowed to have one letter sized "cheat sheet" and typically people wrote all of the formula in extremely tiny font so that you could pack as much information onto that one sheet as possible. And you needed it.

The important things that they were trying to teach were

1) process knowledge - i.e. writing down the chain rule wasn't useful. The question was whether you could use it, and

2) selection knowledge - If I give you 100 formula, can you very, very quickly figure out which are the 10 that you need

Also, putting together the cheat sheet was educational. For example, when I did rotational acceleration, velocity, and distance, the formulas are all the linear one times r. Now you can waste space by writing each formula separately or you use shorthand to write down that they were part of the same concept.

Part of the rationale for the firehose theory of physics education is that if they blast you with data, your brain will start to absorb the equations at a deep and subconscious level. For example, today, if you give me a picture of a box on an inclined hill, I'll immediately see the vector components, because those things have been imprinted at a subconscious level. I don't even have to think about it.

If a student just can't be bothered to learn the small number of formulae involved in, say, what we used to call statics and dynamics, in A level - or the very few formulae used in simple circuit theory - then I would say they haven't shown much commitment. It's along the lines of a concert pianist needing the names of the notes to be marked on the keyboard.

But the way that I was taught, it wasn't a small number of formula. For example, you have a dynamics problem. But *ha*. we put into parabolic coordinates so you have to figure out how all of the formula work in the new coordinate system

As far as simple circuits. I remember that one exam problem that I had about twenty different circuit elements with transistors. Your job was to very rapidly analyze the circuit so that you could break things down to where your formula was useful.

Or you have a simple circuit. V=IR great!!! Except that the wire was 3000 miles long, and you had to figure out how the speed of light would effect your calculations. At this point you had to pull in Maxwell's equations.

The problems I had were *deliberately* set up so that you couldn't get anywhere with rote memory.

Also, there was a masochistic element to this. I ended up loving getting beat up by test problems.

I can't think of an instance when actually knowing something would not help in solving a problem. When would using a printed list help you better?

It depends on the aspect of "knowing". Here is something to try. Try reading this paragraph. Only for each word, say out each letter. Hard. Now for each word, read every *other* letter backwards. Your mind will be so taxed, that you aren't going to notice what I'm actually saying.

The way that I was taught physics, the idea was to make the formula disappear. Trying to memorize the formula was adding a mental tax that got in the way of what was actually being taught.

The two go together and the whole is a lot greater than the sum of the parts. Just read the huge number of questions that we read on this forum, clearly written by actual Physics students, which show that they just have no recall of some of the most basic relationships - or they have possibly even rejected the importance of them.

It's very hard to figure out what is going on here. Also, I should point out that the firehose theory of physics works pretty well for me. It would be a disaster for a lot of people.

Also forums are hard because I don't think that you can teach physics with one question / one answer, which is one of the issues with online education.

The other thing is that a lot of people are able to be fluent speakers of a language without consciously knowing the grammar of said language. Memorizing grammar is one way of learning a language, but it's not the only way, and it's not hard to find examples of people that whiz through TOEFL without being able to carry on a conversation in English.

Are they ever going to get a grasp with that approach? Formulae are only concise statements of models, after all, and isn't that what Science is all about?

Don't know. One thing that makes this difficult is what is the point of a physics class? If it's to teach physics to people that want to be physicists, then you have a totally different approach than if there is some other goal.
 
  • #29
twofish-quant
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Actually, there was a study recently that showed having a simple checklist significantly reduces death rates from surgery

Yes. Also the tests that I had had other "hidden curriculum" aspects. Part of it was psychological training. How not to freeze when under a high stress situation. Cheat sheets were extremely useful even as "psychological reassurance tools." Even if I knew a formula by heart, having it written down was a nice security blanket which reduced stress.
 
  • #30
twofish-quant
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At least at my college, most people who fail the exam are the ones who don't focus on their class work. Their main focus is playing computer games or board games, or anything but physics/classwork.

Right, and we didn't have that problem at my college because if you weren't "serious", you just didn't get admitted.

However, it turned out that the problem wasn't too little focus. It was too *MUCH* focus. The hard part wasn't trying to get people to do school work. The hard part was to get people to *relax* so that they didn't burn out and end up in the hospital from over work. This was a particularly hard thing to do because the professors were "type A overachievers" themselves.

When I was there at an alumni event, I remember going over to the physics department, and there was a big sign over the homework boxes ****GET SOME SLEEP****. One other thing is that physics was a requirement for graduation. At most schools, if you fail physics, you have to do something else. Where I went to school, if you failed physics, you had to leave the school.
 
  • #31
Simon Bridge
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When everyone wins, it is no longer winning.

When someone undertakes a degree for profit they are gambling the the future will include a situation where their degree will be a marketable asset. But the future is uncertain - there's the chance element.

Though I'd maintain that the discipline of having undertaken and obtained a degree will help even for busking and cleaning lavatories that is not much consolation. Living in a country with a robust welfare system is probably a good strategy too.

I don't think very many people starting out in life see their future as a gamble though.
 
  • #32
Harrisonized
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Head down to your university library, and find the section where they store all the old editions of physics textbooks. Sit down, and read through the section you're learning, and pick out two that you think explains that section best. This is important. First, this teaches you how to judge the quality of the material you're receiving. You shouldn't always believe that textbooks are completely correct. Second, if you like the textbook, you're more likely to respect the author who wrote it, and as they say, "people follow people."

Once you have accomplished this, check them out, and go home and read through the sections that are taught in your class. Judge the level of content being given, and ask yourself if information is lacking. If not, then it is a good textbook. Then, go and consult reviews so that you are wary of the drawbacks of the book. (No author can get everything the way you want it.)

Find a good professor. It really makes a big difference. if you want to be successful, find a man you respect, and make sure you take good notes. What your professor says in class should be the main source of information from which you learn material.

However, you don't have to assume the professor is correct. After class, as soon as you have time, go home, flip open both textbooks, and verify if what the teacher told you in class that day is correct. This is not only a good review, it is also a search for an alternate explanation, which may be useful to you.

Lastly, do your homework, and don't listen to anyone telling you "you have to try and really want to blah blah blah". Emotions can't be issued as orders. You either feel it or you don't, but don't intentionally try to bring about feelings that you don't already feel.
 
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  • #33
twofish-quant
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When everyone wins, it is no longer winning.

I really don't think that we should be deciding people into winners and losers. People want to be winners when they think that they'll be winners, but things look different once you find yourself in the loser category.
 
  • #34
sophiecentaur
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@Harrisonized
Find a good professor.
Where can you find an establishment where the same lecture course is taught by a range of teachers - giving one any choice in the matter? Sounds like real luxury world to me.

I agree with the rest, though!
 
  • #35
sophiecentaur
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I really don't think that we should be deciding people into winners and losers. People want to be winners when they think that they'll be winners, but things look different once you find yourself in the loser category.

What sort of a world makes everyone a winner? Whatever happens during education - however egalitarian it happens to be - in the end there is competition for jobs and status. There will always be winners and losers. What we need to ensure is that the 'non-winners' don't have horrible and unsatisfying lives and that's related not to their test performance but to their 'education'.
 

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