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Should I drop Physics?

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm currently taking introductory physics along with a few other classes, and doing well in all of them except physics.

We just received our second tests graded, and it's not looking good for me. I did terrible, and I talked with my professor after class about my chances if I stayed. I would have to do pretty well on the last test and the final in order to pass at most with a B. However, he points out that the most likely scenario is that I will pass with a C.

I'm feeling pretty down about this, mostly because most of the class is doing well, so the problem is me. I'll be the first to admit that I suck at studying for science classes, but I guess I just didn't put that much effort into it like I do with calculus 2 right now. Should I just retake the class, or stick it out and try to push myself to just get a B? The deadline for dropping classes is tomorrow.
 
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WWGD
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Maybe if you tell us more about your background, goals, etc. , we can give you better advice.
 
Maybe if you tell us more about your background, goals, etc. , we can give you better advice.
I'm majoring in electrical engineering, currently attending a community college where I've been studying for almost 2 years now. I plan on transferring eventually.
 
WWGD
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Dr. Courtney
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The approach to Physics is not so much "studying for a science class" as it is working all the homework problems and lots of other practice problems in preparation for the graded events.

If the prof's prognistication is that you would likely earn a "C" then raise your game, visit office hours for help early and often, and put in an honest 3 hours outside of class for every class hour, and I'd say a "B" is likely.

If you only plan on putting in 1 hour outside of class for every hour in class, go ahead and drop it, and while you're at it change your major to something that does not require Physics.
 
berkeman
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I'm majoring in electrical engineering, currently attending a community college where I've been studying for almost 2 years now. I plan on transferring eventually.
I agree with @Dr. Courtney -- you may want to reconsider your study habits, especially as you transition from Community College to University.

Check out my Mentor Biography at the top of the General Discussion forum. I went to University from a small high school where I could get top grades without studying very much. I got hammered in my harder University classes at first, and then resolved to put in the hours and study much harder to reach my goals. My revised game plan worked very well, and the rest is history :smile:

Anyway, the point is that there is a difference between studying and really *studying* and working lots of problems.

In one of my undergraduate physics classes, the instructor handed out written copies of about 1`50 practice problems at the start of the class. He said that some of those problems would be on the midterms and the final, and we should be sure to figure out all of them if we wanted to do well in the class. By the end of the class, I had been able to solve all of them except for about 2 or 3, and sure enough one of those was on the final. But because I'd put in all of that work on the homework and problem sets, I was able to figure out that problem on the final, and ended up acing the class.

Put in the extra work now -- it will serve you well going forward, IMO. Oh, and enjoy the ride.
 
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symbolipoint
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I'm currently taking introductory physics along with a few other classes, and doing well in all of them except physics.

We just received our second tests graded, and it's not looking good for me. I did terrible, and I talked with my professor after class about my chances if I stayed. I would have to do pretty well on the last test and the final in order to pass at most with a B. However, he points out that the most likely scenario is that I will pass with a C.

I'm feeling pretty down about this, mostly because most of the class is doing well, so the problem is me. I'll be the first to admit that I suck at studying for science classes, but I guess I just didn't put that much effort into it like I do with calculus 2 right now. Should I just retake the class, or stick it out and try to push myself to just get a B? The deadline for dropping classes is tomorrow.
Hard to say. At this time, you must make your decision and stay with that decision because your time is up. Your professor is probably correct in possibly your earning a C but to do this still requires very tough effort. Any lightening of effort - grade goes to D or F.

Professor I had for Physics Fundamental Mechanics, part of the series for the sci & engrng students, used a few devices to help struggling students to get through: One make-up exam to substitute for lowest course score exam, one review exam to substitute for another lowest course score exam, a bit high percentage of course grade dependent on homework assignments.
 
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I'll be the first to admit that I suck at studying for science classes, but I guess I just didn't put that much effort into it like I do with calculus 2 right now.
Both of which are likely causes for not doing well in the physics class.
I'm majoring in electrical engineering
A grade of C in physics doesn't bode well for pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. Classes in that discipline are sort of applied physics.

I think if it were me, I would strongly consider dropping the class while you are able to do so, and retake the class when of if you're more amenable to putting in the effort needed to do well in the class.
 
symbolipoint
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Mark44 caught some of the quality about the O.P. that I missed. Your professor would be correct IFFF you put in your full effort from start to finish. Mark44 would be correct if you are not putting in full effort to learn your Physics course material.
 
Choppy
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Not a lot else to add here.

The bottom line is that if you're current approach to studying isn't getting you the results that you want, you're going to have to change it. And that's quite likely going to involve a lot of work.

One thing that can happen to a lot of students, particularly those that are maybe naturally a little brighter than average, is that they can get through high school and maybe even first year university without putting in a lot of work to do well. But eventually they reach that first really challenging course and the old fallbacks of cramming the night before and relying on their own intellectual horsepower to get them out of trouble no longer cut it.

When you reach this point, you either adapt and develop better approaches to your studies, or you find something else to do.

The fact that you may not get a great mark in this single course shouldn't be too much of a problem, if it ends up being your only blemish. That wouldn't be reason enough for me to consider dropping the course. And of course, the hard part about the decision is that simply deciding to work harder may not even work out as well as you might like. Some students have to take a few cracks at it to figure out how best they study.

But one final thing to consider is that if you don't figure a way around this particular hurdle, it's going to come back to haunt you. If you're in electrical engineering, there will be other challenging courses. And even if you change majors, you'll still likely end up facing a beast of a course somewhere along the road.
 
StatGuy2000
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To the OP:

I know my response is late, but if I were you, I would drop the class now and retake it at a later time, instead of trying to push toward that B right now.

My reason is simple -- you have clearly found out that you need to work harder and put in more effort in the physics class than you had realized. As you are trying to figure out how to do that, you may end up putting less effort on classes you are currently doing well (e.g. calculus 2). Dropping that course won't cost you all that much, whereas getting a C (or lower) will hurt you down the line.

One further advice: if you are able to do so, drop the physics course, but continue to audit (i.e. sit in on) that class and take notes. Then use those notes to help you when you do retake the course. This would give you additional info for you to review before retaking the course.

Just my 2 cents worth.
 
StatGuy2000
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The approach to Physics is not so much "studying for a science class" as it is working all the homework problems and lots of other practice problems in preparation for the graded events.

If the prof's prognistication is that you would likely earn a "C" then raise your game, visit office hours for help early and often, and put in an honest 3 hours outside of class for every class hour, and I'd say a "B" is likely.

If you only plan on putting in 1 hour outside of class for every hour in class, go ahead and drop it, and while you're at it change your major to something that does not require Physics.
@Dr. Courtney, while I agree with your advice about putting in those extra hours studying and visiting office hours for help, at this stage, if the best the OP can hope for is a "B" (at the expense of putting less effort on other classes), dropping the Physics course and retaking it at a later time may be a better use of their time.
 
symbolipoint
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One further advice: if you are able to do so, drop the physics course, but continue to audit (i.e. sit in on) that class and take notes. Then use those notes to help you when you do retake the course. This would give you additional info for you to review before retaking the course.
Yah!
Yah!!
 
WWGD
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I agree with StatGuy2000. Physics is particularly important for your major , so it is arguably best to be conservative about this and make sure you get it right.
 
Not a lot else to add here.

The bottom line is that if you're current approach to studying isn't getting you the results that you want, you're going to have to change it. And that's quite likely going to involve a lot of work.

One thing that can happen to a lot of students, particularly those that are maybe naturally a little brighter than average, is that they can get through high school and maybe even first year university without putting in a lot of work to do well. But eventually they reach that first really challenging course and the old fallbacks of cramming the night before and relying on their own intellectual horsepower to get them out of trouble no longer cut it.

When you reach this point, you either adapt and develop better approaches to your studies, or you find something else to do.

The fact that you may not get a great mark in this single course shouldn't be too much of a problem, if it ends up being your only blemish. That wouldn't be reason enough for me to consider dropping the course. And of course, the hard part about the decision is that simply deciding to work harder may not even work out as well as you might like. Some students have to take a few cracks at it to figure out how best they study.

But one final thing to consider is that if you don't figure a way around this particular hurdle, it's going to come back to haunt you. If you're in electrical engineering, there will be other challenging courses. And even if you change majors, you'll still likely end up facing a beast of a course somewhere along the road.
I don't cram, I know it hardly works and I would be so tired when I go to class to take a test that morning that I would feel terrible and not be able to focus very well. I did struggle with calculus 1 back when I took it, and it didn't help that I had a professor that was not so great. I worked really hard though and managed to get an A, despite the massive effort it took. I'm in calculus 2 now and somehow doing far better than with calculus 1. I've come too far to consider changing majors, it's just a matter of me not applying myself well enough.
 
To the OP:

I know my response is late, but if I were you, I would drop the class now and retake it at a later time, instead of trying to push toward that B right now.

My reason is simple -- you have clearly found out that you need to work harder and put in more effort in the physics class than you had realized. As you are trying to figure out how to do that, you may end up putting less effort on classes you are currently doing well (e.g. calculus 2). Dropping that course won't cost you all that much, whereas getting a C (or lower) will hurt you down the line.

One further advice: if you are able to do so, drop the physics course, but continue to audit (i.e. sit in on) that class and take notes. Then use those notes to help you when you do retake the course. This would give you additional info for you to review before retaking the course.

Just my 2 cents worth.
Yeah I've been thinking hard on it lately. A part of me wants to just get it over with and work like hell to get a B, but that's a huge change and I personally don't think that's going to magically happen. Not realistic at the moment. I'm going to wait until summer to take it again so that's all I can focus on. After next semester I'll be done with calculus 3, and I won't have too much math to focus on until I transfer to my preferred university.

I don't know how much a "good professor" matters, but my college has another campus with amazing physics teachers, and I'm willing to go over there to take physics the next time I take it. As beneficial as it would be for me to stay in the lecture, students who drop courses are not allowed to stay in that class. I still have all my notes thus far though and my tests and practice tests, so I'll be equipped for next time.
 
Hard to say. At this time, you must make your decision and stay with that decision because your time is up. Your professor is probably correct in possibly your earning a C but to do this still requires very tough effort. Any lightening of effort - grade goes to D or F.

Professor I had for Physics Fundamental Mechanics, part of the series for the sci & engrng students, used a few devices to help struggling students to get through: One make-up exam to substitute for lowest course score exam, one review exam to substitute for another lowest course score exam, a bit high percentage of course grade dependent on homework assignments.
Unfortunately, our professor is the only physics teacher who doesn't drop the lowest test grade.
 
Dr. Courtney
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Unfortunately, our professor is the only physics teacher who doesn't drop the lowest test grade.
Boo hoo. I went 4 years without any test grades dropped. Step up and handle it. Own every grade you EARNED.

Look at your long term plan. What courses have this class as a pre-req? Do you need to pass it to keep your planned schedule next semester? Now stop whining and get ready for real life.
 
WWGD
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Hey, when I was a T.A , I would drop one grade -- the highest one-- so you're lucky ;).
 
symbolipoint
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Hey, when I was a T.A , I would drop one grade -- the highest one-- so you're lucky ;).
The idea is that students may improve as they progress (or struggle) through the semester; later tests or examinations could have higher scores than earlier ones, so the optimistic approach is to drop one of the lower-score tests (usually being one or two of the earlier ones).
 
WWGD
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The idea is that students may improve as they progress (or struggle) through the semester; later tests or examinations could have higher scores than earlier ones, so the optimistic approach is to drop one of the lower-score tests (usually being one or two of the earlier ones).
Yes, I agree, just trying to lighten things up a bit :).
 
symbolipoint
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Yes, I agree, just trying to lighten things up a bit :).
Okay I understand.

The Physics "1" course for the physical science and engineering students is one of the barrier courses so many students are learning to adapt to a bunch of things. Some departments or instructors find ways to help students improve academically, to adjust themselves to the ways they need to think and handle information. In the next, Physics "2" course, the students there now HAVE done at least some of the necessary self-improvements ; and as I remember, some of those previous methods of helping the students get through were not used to the same extent as in Physics "1". The forgiveness grade-scoring-exchange leniencies were distinctly fewer.
 
Dr. Courtney
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My experience has been that policies like dropping the lowest test worked against students even in Physics 1. Knowing they had a "Mulligan" would prevent students from building good study habits at the beginning of the semester. Further, many would consider the first "bad" test that counted (second test overall) as the first real sign of trouble before applying the needed adjustments in their preparation. The problem with that approach is that so much of the early material (vector analysis, separation of variables, unit analysis, etc.) is pre-requisite for the later material, that few students have any reasonable chance of success on the later graded events after two poor tests. They don't just have to keep up with the new material, they need to make up lacking knowledge in all the pre-requisite material from the early tests. I had better success as a professor convincing students to work hard from the first day of class and dispelling the myth that a weak start can be overcome with a strong finish. "Dropping the lowest test score" reinforces that myth.
 
vela
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My reason is simple -- you have clearly found out that you need to work harder and put in more effort in the physics class than you had realized. As you are trying to figure out how to do that, you may end up putting less effort on classes you are currently doing well (e.g. calculus 2). Dropping that course won't cost you all that much, whereas getting a C (or lower) will hurt you down the line.
I'd add that physics is probably the worst subject to fall behind in. Students who decide that they didn't really need to apply themselves when learning about vectors, for example, end up regretting it when they find learning to do F=ma problems is a lot harder because they don't know how to work with vectors. Or students who don't learn how to solve F=ma problems find themselves at a disadvantage when they discover they can't calculate the work done by a friction because they still don't know how to calculate the normal force correctly. Once you fall behind in physics, it's not just a matter of working harder going forward but catching up on everything you didn't understand previously.
 
WWGD
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I'd add that physics is probably the worst subject to fall behind in. Students who decide that they didn't really need to apply themselves when learning about vectors, for example, end up regretting it when they find learning to do F=ma problems is a lot harder because they don't know how to work with vectors. Or students who don't learn how to solve F=ma problems find themselves at a disadvantage when they discover they can't calculate the work done by a friction because they still don't know how to calculate the normal force correctly. Once you fall behind in physics, it's not just a matter of working harder going forward but catching up on everything you didn't understand previously.
I think there are similar issues with "Stand Alone" Math as well as the Math needed for Physics.
 

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