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Studying How to study physics?

  1. Mar 17, 2017 #1
    I have taken a new course in physics I am interested in knowing things and facts.
    I know one thing about the mathematical interpretations of physics. Other is the philosophy part.
    So, please elaborate me about it and if there are any ways concerning the study of physics .i.e.At very advanced level which undergraduates do not know because of lack of experience. Also tell me about it.
    Concluding, I will say that just tell me everything about the study of physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2017 #2
    I think to summarize the way I've studied physics so far, I'd say there's two main things to take into account:
    1. Read a lot
    2. Do a lot of problems
  4. Mar 19, 2017 #3


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    Ask a Nobel prize winner ....

    To be sure: there's a lot more physics in the world than theoretical physics !
  5. Mar 19, 2017 #4
    1) Learn as much math as you can. It should be like a native language to you.

    2) Read textbooks. Not those designed for laymen, but mathematically based ones that have problems to solve. Start with the classical basics (thermodynamics, classical mechanics, classical electromagnetism).

    2b) Solve the problems in those textbooks. As many as possible until you understand the concepts of the relevant material and how to apply them inherently.

    3) Continue on to more advanced topics that build on the prior foundations.

    4) Branch out. Don't stay within your physics bubble, get a broad understanding of a lot of fields both scientific and otherwise. People who stay razor focused on one thing tend to think too narrowly as well.

    5) Have an inquisitive mind that asks the right questions and wants to find out the answers.
  6. Mar 19, 2017 #5
    I graduated first in my class at LSU in 1989, summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics.

    It is normal to forget without constant use or some kind of reminder. Our minds are fallen, and without constant use and reminding, skills and information quickly become rusty and decay.

    In my college days, I used layered techniques to help put things more reliably into long term memory. The curriculum and assessment methods of my professors were also structured to help that.

    I took careful notes in every class. Since these notes tended to be messy and disorganized, I recopied a more organized and neat version of the notes shortly after every lecture while the lecture was fresh in my mind. Every day, every class, every year. Writing things down and then recopying them is a great memory tool.

    I worked every assigned homework problem. Since my original written solution was often messy and disorganized with erasures and less than a linear progression (blind alleys and so on), I recopied my solution very neatly before turning in the problem set. Preparing a neat copy of every problem before turning them in had the effect of better cementing the solutions in my memory.

    As each test neared, I re-read the material in the book, reviewed my notes, and selected a subset of the assigned homework to re-work in preparation for the test. About half my time in test preparation was dedicated to reworking homework problems (without looking at original solutions) as practice to recall how to do them.

    As the final exam neared, I began my preparation about a week or two beforehand. I would re-read the most challenging chapters, re-work all the test problems I had missed, pick new problems from the test to work, and prepare for myself a “practice final exam” from which I drew about twice as many book problems as problems on most tests, put myself under time pressure and the authorized resources of the real exam, and did the best I could. After the allotted time was over, I spent as much time as needed to work each problem correctly (visiting professors during office hours as needed), and assessed how prepared I was by how I did under pressure of time and authorized resources.

    On the whole, my preparation required 2-3 hours of real hard work for each hour I spent in class. Most of that time was spent with my pencil moving and my mind fully engaged. No mind wandering. No distractions. No Facebook, phone, or TV. In total, college was a 60 hour per week full time job for a 14-16 credit hour course load. The reward: I graduated first in my class, summa cum laude, with a 3.95 GPA and admission and fellowship offers to MIT, Standford, Princeton, and Stonybrook for graduate school. I was done washing dishes in seedy New Orleans restaurants and flipping burgers in fast food joints.

    Subsequent courses tended to reinforce pre-requisite material from earlier courses through practice and repetition in the assigned homework. It was my Calc 1 course where I practiced enough algebra to finally have those techniques cemented into long term memory along with really understanding what a function is. Calc 3 finally cemented many ideas and techniques of Calc 1 and Calc 2. The upper level E&M sequence cemented many ideas from 2nd semester freshman Physics, and so on.

    Still, when I got to MIT (graduate school) I spent most of my first year re-taking key undergraduate courses, including Mechanics, E&M, Statistical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics. Forgetting is normal. Mastery and longer term learning requires repetition.
  7. Mar 19, 2017 #6
    Very important, these ones.
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