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Is physics really *This* hard?

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  1. Apr 2, 2015 #1
    Hi. I'm a third year student at university and double majoring in physics and math. Currently, I don't have the struggle with math that I do with physics. Although I took my first physics class, I did horribly on it and got a D+! I'm sure I am not unintelligent, but for some reason I'm just not cutting it in physics. Is this normal when starting out with physics? I've heard from my advisors that usually students should get between Cs and Bs at the lowest, but typically earn As on average. How true is this? This makes me feel like I should just give up on physics altogether, a subject that I've been so passionate about. What should I do at this point? Should I continue with E&M (second-year) or should I just forget about physics and choose another major? Is there any way to come back in this?
     
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  3. Apr 2, 2015 #2
    I think the thing to do is figure out exactly why you got the low grade.
    Is there no individual teacher you could talk to (respectfully), who can explain?
    It sounds like maths is not a problem, so it might be some fundamental misunderstanding of something simple.
    Could be just that your style of writing is unclear.
    These are things that can be worked on, not insurmountable difficulties.
     
  4. Apr 2, 2015 #3

    Matternot

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    If the Physics class was on a specific topic (e.g. Statistical Mechanics as opposed to Physics in general) I wouldn't worry too much. It could have just been an uncomfortable topic for you. Physics certainly requires a different way of thinking to Maths which can take Mathematicians a while to get used to. Did you find the paper particularly difficult or was the mark a shock for you? It's always possible to come back from bad marks. Something as drastic as switching major from one bad results sounds very rash.
     
  5. Apr 2, 2015 #4

    SteamKing

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    If physics were really easy, then everyone would be a physicist. :wink:
     
  6. Apr 2, 2015 #5
    Ah yes. I have been thinking about this: that I didn't do the homework and, therefore, didn't get enough practice. I think if I did the homework my grade would more likely be a C+ or a B-.
     
  7. Apr 2, 2015 #6

    vela

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    I can't tell if you're trolling here. Were you seriously wondering why you bombed a class in which you didn't do the homework?
     
  8. Apr 2, 2015 #7
    Vela, me remembering a factor in contributing to me not doing good in class is not exactly trolling. It might seem obvious to you, but I am trying to gain as much information as possible. You don't have to answer if you found this thread unimportant. By the way, I did most of the homework, but again, I am trying to gain as much info. as possible.
     
  9. Apr 2, 2015 #8

    symbolipoint

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    Just what are you talking about?
     
  10. Apr 2, 2015 #9

    vela

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    So which is it? Did you do most of the homework, or did you not do the homework?

    Sorry, but it's very hard to accept that it's not obvious to you that you won't do well in a course if you don't do the work. I might believe that if you were fresh out of high school, but you said you're in your third year at the university.
     
  11. Apr 2, 2015 #10
    I find it odd your doing your first physios class as a third year physics major.

    If you were passionate about it you would have done all the HW and enjoyed the challenge. Its not easy for anyone but if you really enjoy it you will put in the work required to be successful.

    The general physics series can be a weeder class and you may not be cut out for it i you can't take the time to put in the work. I would agree with your adviser that most physics majors would be doing pretty well in their general physics courses. It only gets harder also.
     
  12. Apr 2, 2015 #11
    To make things clear, I did most of the homework (That is, 60%). Vela, if you're looking for an argument, I am really not interested in one. Hope this clears all ambiguity. My question still remains: Is physics really this hard? Please, I'm looking for constructive opinions, not whether I'm 'trolling' or not!
     
  13. Apr 2, 2015 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    What people are trying to tell you is that 60% is too small. That needs to be 100% (or maybe 95%) or you'll run into exactly the problems you are running into.
     
  14. Apr 2, 2015 #13

    Choppy

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    Yes physics is that hard.

    If you intend on going into graduate studies in physics you will need to be earning a 3.0 average as a bare minimum, but realistically if you're not into the mid 3's at least, you're going to have a very tough go of it. Getting into graduate school is a competitive process; there are more applicants than positions (I don't have exact numbers but I'd expect it be roughly 2x as many applicants as there are positions - the popular schools are even more competitive).

    Most of the successful undergraduates I knew spent a considerable amount of time on their studies. They completed every homework assignment and then took on additional problems in their own studies to make sure they understood the material. They read about subjects that interested them well beyond what was assigned. They stayed late in the labs (when they could). They volunteered for research opportunities when they came up. They attended departmental colloquia.

    You can go on to be successful if you've struggled with a first year class, but as has already been pointed out, you need to seriously assess the source of your poor performance. You won't get into graduate school with Ds or Cs. So it seems obvious to those of us reading this thread that one contributing factor is that you're not completing all of the homework assignments. But why is that? Did you think you understood the material? Did you have too many other demands on your time? Did you have issues with procrastination? You can also look at you studying techniques. How much time did you devote to studying? How were you studying? If after a serious look at yourself, you still believe that you can do well in your future courses, then go on. But if you really feel like you'll be wrestling with Ds and Cs over the course of your degree then perhaps another path is a better choice.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2015
  15. Apr 3, 2015 #14
    Let's put it this way. 60% of the homework corresponds to a D. There's your problem. Whether or not the homework was worth that much credit is irrelevant. Neglecting 40% of the homework is like neglecting the practice of 40% of the course.
     
  16. Apr 3, 2015 #15

    ZapperZ

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    It is almost impossible to give you any "constructive opinions" when your posts have been confusing and downright contradictory! When you stated that you didn't do your homework in one post, and then later on said that you did, and then later still said that you did only 60% of the HW, put yourself in OUR shoes and see why we are scratching our heads!!

    In my case, I will start to question "What ELSE is he not telling us, or have described incorrectly?"

    Based on what I can gather, you crashed in physics because you didn't put in the necessary level of effort.

    Next time, when you post more question like this, please put in some thought in what you write, so that people won't have to spend time and effort to PRY the information out of you like trying to squeeze water out of a rock.

    Zz.
     
  17. Apr 3, 2015 #16

    micromass

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    Note that doing all the homework is merely the bare minimum you need to do to succeed. To truly master the material, you must additionally search for tough exercises to solve on your own, read additional texts, etc. You may of course argue that that is too much work. But then you need to question if you really enjoy physics enough.

    Other things you migh want to do:
    - Go to all the lectures
    - Read the relevant chapter before the lectures
    - Go to office hours regularly
    - Form a study group (not only to solve questions, but to discuss theory and things beyond what is expected of you)
     
  18. Apr 3, 2015 #17

    vela

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    I'm not looking for an argument. It's just that what you wrote didn't really make sense to me at all and not in just a "hmm, that's weird" sort of way but in a "is he serious?" sort of way. And then you contradicted what you wrote earlier. It was confusing to say the least.

    Physics is a subject that tends to expose weaknesses in a student's learning abilities. Strategies that might work in other subjects, like cramming the night before a test, memorizing without understanding, tend to backfire in physics. Those methods may get you past one exam, but it sets you up for failure in the future. I think the average person can, in fact, do well in intro physics. You don't need to be a genius or have seen the material before. The course isn't trivial, but succeeding in it doesn't require an outrageous amount of work either. (When I hear people talking about spending 30+ hours per week on the one course, I can't help but think it's probably a lot of wasted time and effort.) Your school probably has resources to help you learn how to study more effectively. You should look into those and commit to trying some new methods out.
     
  19. Apr 3, 2015 #18

    micromass

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    Related to studying methods, I have an entire thread on how to study mathematics, including study methods. I imagine that my methods would work for physics as well https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/how-to-self-study-mathematics.804404/ [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  20. Apr 3, 2015 #19

    Matternot

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    I think a suitable closing statement would be:

    Physics is really that hard such that people aren't able to just cruise through. Don't listen to people saying on this forum about whether or not you "deserve a bad grade". I think you have now realised whether or not you deserved that grade.

    Don't give it up though. Give it a bit more attention and study much harder (Do more than just the homework [which shouldn't be hard if it's such a passion]) for your next exam and hopefully you'll do better. :smile:
     
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