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New to Physics! I need some advice?

  1. Jun 12, 2012 #1
    Hey everybody! This is my first post on the forum. I am excited to have found this community and hope to contribute to it as well. I'm currently a student studying for a BS in chemistry. But I'm taking college physics 2 right now. Even though I am struggling, I am enjoying it a lot. That sounds weird doesn't it? I like the material, but wish I was able to comprehend it better. Sad to say, the class I had for part 1 of college physics was not too effective, and therefore, I am having a hard time in this class. I am thinking of double majoring in physics now. My goal is to go into medicine.

    I need advice because of the situation I am in. I am currently working 19 hours a week and simultaneously taking college physics 2 this summer session. The class is already in it's second week and as a matter of fact, we are having our first exam tomorrow. The class will end in another two weeks after this one. The summation of the total class is one month. We only have 3 exams in the class.

    Tomorrow's test is test #1. The professor assigned a lot of homework (around 34 questions in 3 days), and I was unfortunately not able to complete all of them. I successfully completed about 16 of them (only solving 5 or 6 on my own and using the solutions for the rest) and have run out of time. We are being tested on 3 chapters. Chapter 1 had around 7 questions, chapter 2 had 17, and chapter 3 had 10 questions. The questions are very long in concept and mathematical computation. It's approximately 10:30pm and my exam begins at 1:00pm tomorrow. I have not looked at all at the last chapter's 10 questions. The professor said he will give 7 questions on the exam. I am feeling extremely overwhelmed.In class, while he is lecturing, he is explaining very abstract concepts verbally and it is hard to comprehend sometimes without seeing it visually.

    I am contemplating purchasing "Schaum's Outline of College Physics 10e" as a study reference. I am wondering if any of you all have experience with this, and if you suggest it?

    The class breakdown of grading criteria is as follows: •2 exams (40%) •Attendance/Participation (5%) • Lab Participation and Reports (25%) •Research Paper/Project (10%) •Comprehensive Final Exam (20%).

    I really do not want to drop the class, and I really need to ace this class, to show that my academic performance has improved since the past, but I am still struggling a lot. Please advise me on study techniques, plans, and any other suggestions you may have that will help me ace the course, if still possible. Should I remain in the class or drop? Thank you in advance for your response.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 13, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Welcome to PF.
    Not really - if it wasn't difficult then you wouldn't get the payoff from learning it.

    Cannot say I have but you should try to preview resources before you buy to see if they mesh well with your learning style.

    To stay in the class you need to join a study group (start one if there aren't any) and/or get a tutor. See if the department has assistance for students - eg. University of Auckland has undergrad assistance rooms where post-grads help students with assignments and explain the coursework.

    You need this because the lecturing style is a poor fit to your learning style ... so it is like the prof is speaking a different language. You need someone who understands that language who can interpret for you. Discussing the coursework with other people can help with this and an experienced tutor can be invaluable.

    Once you learn how to speak in math, it should get easier.
    Don't give up after the first exam though - use it as your first real chance to figure out how different aspects of the course are emphasized.
  4. Jun 14, 2012 #3
    First exam grade was a 49%
    And we do partner labs. There were two of them due. The one I turned in got a 90%. My partner turned in one and got a 60%. Both grades count for the two of us. I'm really bummed about my chances of getting an A and am considering dropping and retaking in summer 2. The drop date isn't until after the second exam though. And we still have like four or five more reports to turn in, so I don't know what I should do. I'm studying hard for this next exam.
  5. Jun 14, 2012 #4
    I also took your advice and am seeking tutoring from a physics tutor. We also formed a study group in class of about five of us. I hope people stick firm to their word and decide to make it effective this weekend. Please let me know what you think I should do. Thanks for your feedback.
  6. Jun 15, 2012 #5

    Simon Bridge

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    Well done - note: in NZ getting low grades in physics is not like getting low grades in other courses. You can still advance... provided you don't have to keep you gpa up for stuff like scholarships (NZ taxpayer subsidizes college education.) I've never scored above a B+ in my life. I failed my first year at college flat - nothing but Fs.

    It is very common for students to struggle through the earlier course and pick up the grades in later years down here.

    So you are scraping under ... keep the exam questions and redo them more slowly. In labs you usually get much more feedback - though, as you've seen, your ability to work in a team is part of the test. This is often unfair but welcome to real life right? If you and your partner are getting very different scores, there's something wrong.

    Postgrads are usually short of money and enjoy helping undergrads - and they will be able to explain the meta-problems to you: exam and assignment performance is more than just knowing the physics, you have to know how the assessments work irl too, how different parts of the course get emphasized, and how to translate a lecturing style into something that meshes better with your learning style. You may need to adjust your learning style.

    You'll find out quite fast if you should drop the course or not... bear in mind that dropping a course can be just as damaging as keeping one which you are weak in. I usually advise students to pursue courses that (a) they enjoy doing and (b) that they can pay for. I'll add: "look at your fellow students" - anything they seem to struggle with that you find easy, especially if it is so easy you have a hard time valuing it, you should do that more because that will be where your talent lies.

    Remember: misery should be short term - happiness trumps everything.
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