How to get 100% in Physics course?

  • Thread starter MathINTJ
  • Start date
  • #26
Simon Bridge
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
17,857
1,654
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
Science Advisor
Gold Member
25,069
4,759
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
6,814
13
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
6,814
13
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
6,814
13
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
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
17,857
1,654
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
209
0
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.
 
Last edited:
  • #33
6,814
13
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
Science Advisor
Gold Member
25,069
4,759
@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
Science Advisor
Gold Member
25,069
4,759
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'.
 
  • #36
12
0
Hey, thanks everyone for the responses. I hate to bring up a dead thread but I didn't want anybody's' opinion to go unnoticed. As of right now I have a 77% in the class. I continue to fail exams but my lab, quiz and homework grades keep me a float.
 
  • #37
Simon Bridge
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
17,857
1,654
Hah! I used to have the opposite problem - failing in class and passing exams. My teachers thought I was cheating but never caught me at it. It got so I never attended class at all and just followed the course at my own pace - study guides were very helpful.
 
  • #38
7
0
The only people I know who got 100% on most/all tests were those who were retaking the class or learned the material in their home country and for whatever reason couldn't skip the course.

The best advice I can give is to GO OVER YOUR TEST WITH YOUR PROFESSOR. Most of the time you end up with a few bonus points. They don't always pick up on your thought process and conclude you were writing down a bunch of nonsense. Also try to write everything in the order you would like to see it if you were grading your test. If you're constantly moving from the top of the page to the bottom, to the right, to the top, it's hard for the grader to follow. If time permits, I write a little paragraph explaining the process I used to attempt a solution. For example, if you believe the sum of forces in the y direction is 0, explain why (i.e. acceleration is 0 => ma = 0). Basically show absolutely everything. They appreciate that.
 
  • #39
Simon Bridge
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
17,857
1,654
If time permits, I write a little paragraph explaining the process I used to attempt a solution. For example, if you believe the sum of forces in the y direction is 0, explain why (i.e. acceleration is 0 => ma = 0). Basically show absolutely everything. They appreciate that.
Amen. If time is short - arrows are good for showing work-flow.
Putting a box around your final answer and writing "ans/" next to it is good too.
 
  • #40
327
1
Everyone is different, but there is one thing that everyone who gets As have in common. They try to know EVERYTHING.

Seriously, physics exams are around 1-5 chapters at most. What I do is

1. Read the chapter before class and do the book examples.

2. During lecture I absorb everything the teacher says rarely take notes, and if I do take notes it will be hints that will be on the exam.

3. After class I read the powerpoint.

4. Do every single problem in the book, even the challenging problems. While working the problems, write the definition of the style of problem you are solving, and or rules.

5. I like to put a small red mark on questions that I could not solve or that were pretty hard.

6. redo those problems when studying for the exam.

This is pretty much what I do when I want to get an A
 
  • #41
member 392791
Reading this, I really think you can train yourself to learn physics. You may not be the next Albert Einstein, but I think a good chunk of the population could learn an intro physics sequence sufficiently if they put in a lot of effort.

Point in case, I am doing an engineering major and the majority of my classmates are asian. There is no way all of those people are naturally gifted in science/math, they just work hard.
 
  • #42
327
1
I agree Woopy, Asian cultures are conditioned at a very young age to study hard. I think they do have an advantage though, I mean they start calculus in 3rd grade...lol
 
  • #43
member 392791
I agree Woopy, Asian cultures are conditioned at a very young age to study hard. I think they do have an advantage though, I mean they start calculus in 3rd grade...lol
Perhaps it's not that extreme...but nonetheless, you definitely don't need to be naturally gifted to get through a physics/math sequence that a typical engineer major would need to go through, it's just that the vast majority of people aren't willing to put in the work.

It's the same thing with the Piano or whatever, lots of asian people are good at it, not because they have the natural talent of Mozart, but because they just practice a lot.

And to get back to the OP...you don't need 100% to get an A in the class, just a 90%+

But funny you mention it, I did get 100% on my first physics exam this semester, and I really tried to understand the concepts more deeply. It was about mechanical waves/simple harmonic motion, if you look up my previous posts you'll see I was very confused about the topic, but other posters (thx simon bridge) helped clear up my misconceptions and I understood it at the level that my professor wanted me to understand it apparently.
 
  • #44
It's not uncommon in the US for someone to totally mess up freshmen year, and then unmess themselves.
Quite. I'm in this boat myself. It's possible. . .
 
  • #45
866
37
Simple answer: sometimes, you can't.

I don't see the problem with failing an exam unless you're the only one that fails it in a sufficiently large class.

At my university, like many in Spain, we have two dates to choose from for the final exam, usually on separate weeks. For the first round of QM1, everybody failed (8/13 students) and on the second round there were 2 near-perfect scores, one moderately decent pass, and another 2 F's. Mind you the people that failed were extremely hard workers that toiled much to stay on top of classes, but there's not much you can do when you get thrown an original problem that is completely different/leaps and bounds higher in difficulty than anything seen in class and are expected to complete it to near-perfection under tight time constraints (even 4-5 hours is tight).

2nd year geometric optics and analytical mechanics (Goldstein & Landau) had somewhat similar outcomes (very low class average with the same 2 anomalous students, lots of F's and only one person passed any of the (2) mechanics resits (me!).

FWIW, I am now an exchange student at a top 10 UK institution taking QM2 and I am almost feeling insulted with the homework problem sheets and exam questions, they are essentially far simpler versions of the problems I had to toil with in QM1. (that being said, lecturers are leaps and bounds better).

The problem is your own if the class average is cleanly above a pass and you aren't passing.
 
Last edited:
  • #46
382
4
The only way I can get 100% on exams is if I am a class that is far too easy for me and/or I already knew the material before taking the class. If you could get 100% you'd probably be better off in a different class.
 
  • #47
Not to be glib, but if you want an algorithm for doing well on any kind of problem-solving test, I have a method that works.

A) Go to class (and pay attention)
B) Do your assignments in a timely manner (i.e. don't wait until the last minute; see below)
C) Check your work, and redo problems similar to the ones you get wrong until you 'get it'.
D) DON'T STRESS OUT ON TEST DAY!!!! By then, you either know it or you don't; worrying about it is going to make things much harder on you than they need to be.
 
  • #48
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....
Introductory physics is fairly simple. You will learn concepts, and formulas, that will adhere those concepts into mathematical language.
Then... You will be given a word problem or some sort of fixed diagram with a word problem. All you need to do is decipher how to appropriately obtain what is required from what is given, then its basically plug and chug.
 
  • #49
member 392791
That is basically intro physics, but it's a lot easier said than done

Deciphering a word problem is not so trivial.
 
  • #50
That is basically intro physics, but it's a lot easier said than done

Deciphering a word problem is not so trivial.
I don't know what to tell you. The OP asked for someone who receives 100's and high marks in physics, which I've done. I'm just stating it how I look at it. This is my thought process and I find the vast majority of intro physics problems very easy to comprehend.
 

Related Threads on How to get 100% in Physics course?

Replies
9
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
836
Replies
10
Views
767
Replies
10
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
8
Views
2K
Replies
11
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
Top