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Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change?

  1. Nov 3, 2011 #1
    I'm a current sophomore, with a 3.8 GPA. Doing exceptionally well in all my courses, very good at math with A's. I knew coming into the semester Physics would be the 500-lb gorilla and have spent all hours of the day practicing as many problems and understanding the content throughly.

    My peers see me for advice and I do provide. It is the exams that are killing me. 68, 70, and 62 respectively so far with one exam dropped, one more to go and the final. At this point I need to score an 80 on the remaining two exams to acquire a B and maintain my GPA to transfer.

    My study regimen consists of the homework assignments, additional problems in the text and a review of the chapters from scratch to prepare for the exams. This process exhausts all the time that I have leaving no room for my other courses (Calc III, Linear Algebra, and C++). I'm very proficient in math and C++ I seem to be getting by so the sparse amount of time is not a problem.

    Don't know how to pinpoint this problem I'm having, as mentioned the issue is with the exams (fine with HW and labs). I know this is very broad and varies between students but what is going on? I've been in this situation before with Chemistry I and have pulled myself out of the hole very early on to recover with an A. But being halfway through the semester I am very much panicing.

    Interested in hearing any comments or advice pertaining to my situation at this time. Appreciate that you've read my rant/plea for help.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2011 #2

    lisab

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    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    Is the class graded on a curve? If so, 68, 70, and 62 may not be as bad as you think.

    Do you have a test-taking strategy?

    For example, realize that physics professors are typically generous with partial credit, especially on exams. So a test strategy might be: look at each problem, state how to solve it, and write down relevant equations. Then move on to the next and do the same thing. When you're done, go back and finish as much as you can on each problem.

    This way, you at least get a good chunk of partial credit for each problem.

    If you're short on time, don't waste it by grinding out calculations.
     
  4. Nov 3, 2011 #3

    jk

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    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    Are the exam problems similar to the homework ones? Some professors will give the easier drill type problems for homework and give more subtle or tricky problems on the exam. In addition to the homework problems, do as many of the more difficult problems from the book as you can.
    Also, you should talk to the most important person who can help you with this: your professor
     
  5. Nov 4, 2011 #4
    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    Are you having test panic, brain freeze, or are the problems unlike the homework you seem to do fine with? "I knew coming into the semester Physics would be the 500-lb gorilla" <-- too much doom and gloom in your attitude. With a skilled math background, the intro Physics should be a breeze. Have you sat down with the professor to talk about where he/she thinks you're missing points?

    As lisab stated, partial credit can be huge. Show your work and don't skip steps. You won't see where you went wrong if the professor can't mark it on paper. Don't do stuff in your head and not write it down. I had issues with my son doing this. When you do stuff in your head, it makes finding your mistakes harder.

    Lastly, if you're not in a study group, find one or make one with others. Perhaps through discussion some of the things you are missing will become clear.
     
  6. Nov 4, 2011 #5
    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    There is no curve considering a the lowest test and lab grade is dropped. I do believe my prof is very good with partial credit and I am writing all my steps down. I've completely bombed the exam the partial credit is what's keeping me alive. I do not have a particular strategy for exams just play as you go.

    Exam problems are definitely a tab bit difficult than the problems seen before. This is not an excuse for me though because I have done so many examples and seen it different ways.

    My professor is not really personable, seems like a very socially awkward guy. Which is why I'm turning to you guys for any $0.02.

    Yes, I am absolutely nervous as soon as I receive the exam. Have been studying non stop throughout the weekend, up until minutes before the exam.

    Have gotten back my exam and I seemed to have crumbled from the inside. Small errors, algebraic, unit conversions off, and uncharacteristic mistakes. The problems I didn't seem to know at all are the ones where I'm telling myself you knew this and ****ed it up.
     
  7. Nov 4, 2011 #6
    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    You are not alone. This is pretty common. IMO, if you know the material, what are you studying? Really. Given the tone of your post, I suspect you don't get much sleep (between study and worry), you probably don't eat worth a darn, not enough fresh air, etc., etc. Studying until you are numb is useless and counterproductive. Once you know the material, you need to work on error reduction. Analyze your homework and know where you usually mess up, e.g. forget to switch the +/-, use SIN and not COS, etc. When you take a test, look for your usual errors and take them out, and when you go over your test, look for your usual errors.

    Lastly.... or firstly, clear your mind. Unless there is something you really don't get, take the night off (and no caffeine), see a movie, relax your mind, eat well, get sleep, and eat breakfast in the morning. Skip the caffeine, you don't need the caffeine jitters. You don't seem to have as much of a knowledge gap as a confidence gap. Clear your mind. You will be fine.
     
  8. Nov 4, 2011 #7
    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    Can you post a scan of the exam?
     
  9. Nov 4, 2011 #8
    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    ThinkToday wrote exactly what I was going to write. Physics exam are very intensive and a high level of focus is necessary. I've personally never had a problem coming to exams with my A game but I know that nervousness combined with fatigue and stress is the worst state of mind to try and focus in. I think you need to let your mind breathe, not just during exams, but all the while up to them.

    This might not be of importance to you but before all of my exams I put my big headphones on and blast some music. It helps me not think about the exam in the minutes leading up to it and keeps me from focusing on my standard exam anxiety that we've all experienced. I'm not saying the same thing will help you, but a little ritual similar to that might. Good luck!!
     
  10. Nov 4, 2011 #9

    Dembadon

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    Re: Semester in Physics I is turning into an utter disaster. What do I need to change

    I think it is very important for you to take your exam to your professor during office hours and go over what you did incorrectly. Your professor will be able to find issues that you might overlook, and can provide valuable insight into how and where you can improve.

    I know you said your professor isn't "personable", but neither is my Calculus III teacher. She's extremely awkward and difficult to talk to, but she's brilliant and has been teaching the subject for a long time. This is what makes her so valuable to my improvement. I can look at a problem and figure out what I did wrong, but it isn't always clear why.

    Give office hours a shot. It might be just the thing you need. If not, we can go from there. :smile:
     
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