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B Peeking at the answer of an unsolved problem.

  1. Dec 21, 2016 #1


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    Should peeking at the answer of an unsolved problem be avoided at any cost?
    I'm self studying at the moment and have a document with the solutions. It doesn't happen frequently, but I have had to peek at answers a couple of times. I really hate doing it though.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    You are self studying. This is allowed but be aware that the solution sheet answer may not be right.

    Schaums Outlines are based on this predicate. They provide complete solutions for you to follow and then later problems provide only final answers with no step by step.

    One thing you could do is make a list of the ones you had to peek at and go back later and try to solve them again from scratch. Also try to develop useful check strategies.

    As an example, a problem asks you to identify two vectors and from them create a third which is perpendicular to both. The check would be to test that your computed vector hen dotted with the first two is indeed perpendicular to them.

    Eventually you won't need to peek which becomes really useful when you start solving original problems that no one has solved.
  4. Dec 21, 2016 #3


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    Hmm, making a list of the cheated ones is a good idea. And indeed, I have come across at least one mistake before.
  5. Dec 21, 2016 #4


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    There's nothing wrong with looking at the answers as long as you are still solving most of the problems yourself before looking. It can save you wasting weeks trying to solve a single problem on which you have a simple cognitive or memory block.

    Looking at the answer to a problem that has blocked you, after you've made a worthwhile effort, is a good way to learn, because the effort will have awoken you to various different possible avenues to a solution, and you're more likely to remember the path used - and befeit from it in future problems - if you've already tried several and it's different from all of them.
  6. Dec 21, 2016 #5
    Just make sure after peeking that you can solve without peeking, possibly during a separate study session later on, next day, before test, etc.
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