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Should I Forget About Being A Physicist?

  1. May 26, 2010 #1
    Ok I know you must've heard this many times but I don't know what to do, we had a really big physics exam a few days ago and I got a 51% I'm really bummed out because I want to be a physicist and the mark kind of crushed my hopes, and my teacher doesn't think I'm that good at physics. So should I forget about being a physicist? Please I want the truth.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2010 #2


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    The truth is, it would be a bad idea to decide your future based on the result of one exam. You should determine why you did poorly, and remedy that.

    It's not good to base your decision on the opinion of one teacher, either.

    Also, every physicist isn't going to excel at every subject. You might do well in quantum but really struggle with statistical mechanics, for example.
  4. May 26, 2010 #3
    You might just be bad at test but great in practice there are people like that. I was at a conference and one of speaker was talking about one her mentees who was like B/C student but had "Hands of Gold" in the lab and now has a PhD.

    As long as you love it go for it
  5. May 26, 2010 #4
    ok thanks for the advice
  6. May 26, 2010 #5


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    Failures in science and maths are quite common, successes are rare.

    But everyone who had some success, had before and after that multitude of failures, the trick is to keep going on despite them and not to be too depressed over it.

    Good Luck in your way!
  7. May 26, 2010 #6
    There was a famous remark made by Thomas Edison when asked about his light bulb failures: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

    Even when you perceive to have failed there is still valuable information to be obtained. For instance you just found one method for studying that doesn't work for you. The only true failure is to not see what could potentially be learned.
  8. May 26, 2010 #7


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    Look at the exam. Yes, you received a 51% mark. What does that mean to you? Do you only know half of the material? Did you run out of time? Did you study effectively?

    When I see low scores, I take it as another reason to adapt my study sessions. Do I need to do more problems? Review concepts? Sleep more?

    I've found that the majority of failed tests are either from poorly prepared students or poorly written tests. At this level, I'm assuming Undergrad, you should be able to understand the material to at least a sufficient level. Perhaps not mastery, but high enough to pass.

    Overall, I would take this as an indicator that you must study more effectively and learn the material more deeply.

  9. May 26, 2010 #8
    Also what was class average? One thing that takes some getting used to is the college grading system which is very different from the high school one.
  10. May 27, 2010 #9
    I'm in high school
  11. May 27, 2010 #10
    I overestimated my knowledge of the material and decided not to study ... That plan backfired, but I'm really good at Physics, and my classmates who have a lower Physics average didn't study for that exam and got decent marks.
  12. May 27, 2010 #11
    Physics does tend to lull you into a sense of, "gee I am really smart", only to find out the universe is much more complicated than you think. If you enjoy studying physics, then you may have a future in physics. After all, even the brightest physicists are still studying physics. If you ever think you truly understand physics enough that you don't need to study, you are washed up an should consider a law degree.

    Study why you failed the test, talk with the teacher about your mistakes, learn the way they are supposed to be done. Not because you want the grade, but because you want to know the right way.
  13. May 27, 2010 #12


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    That made me laugh. Yes indeed, nothing like a physics class to learn how to enjoy a big ol' slice of humble pie :wink:.
  14. May 27, 2010 #13
    Especially in the higher level physics courses. I got a 43% on a Quantum mechanics exam last semester.....which was the high score by nearly 10%.

    If you aren't expecting that kind of thing going in, you can let yourself get really freaked out...

    You said the professor doesn't seem to think you're very good at physics. Have you talked with him about that, or do you get the feeling that he thinks that about you?
  15. May 27, 2010 #14


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    As others have already said, the greatest failure in this situation would be letting this one test make such an enormous decision for your future.

    Consider the following:

    • It could have been a poorly written test
    • Failures are an opportunity
    • Think of this as training - it is painful now, but it will be beneficial to you in the long run
    • Treat it like a physics problem! Analyze it from every angle - your first method didn't work, so find another!

    Please, please, please do not give up. It grieves me to think of all of the brilliant young minds who have let a few poor marks discourage them from pursuing their dreams.
  16. May 27, 2010 #15
    Enough said. My high school physics teacher thought I was some sort of brilliant student, but it turns out I was doing poorly in my other classes, and I ended up transferring to a high school with lower graduation requirements so I could graduate on time...

    As far as I can tell, most of the work you'll run into prior to upper level courses in college will be computational, i.e., they will focus on formulaic problem solving rather than intuition, proofs, and understanding. The only way to learn from mistakes, is by making them. But, keep in mind that mistakes do not necessitate a permanent failure, but rather a temporary one. True success is ill-defined without a succession of failures.
  17. May 27, 2010 #16
    I think you should forget about it. People here will tell you that a 51 doesn't matter, but how many of them have Nobel prizes or even perfectly symmetrical faces for that matter (physics=symmetry, so this is important)? Give it up. The dream is over.

    If you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic. You're right about us seeing this question many times, and the answer is always the same. RELAX! FIGURE OUT YOUR MISTAKES AND THEN LEARN FROM THEM! And yes, I'm yelling at you because you're being silly, as high school students tend to do. If you dedicate yourself to becoming a physicist it'll happen and then you'll look at this thread 10 years from now and get a good laugh out of it.
  18. May 27, 2010 #17
    Thanks everyone for the replies and advice. I have one last physics exam on monday before my official government exam, hopefully I'll do well.
  19. May 27, 2010 #18
    I would add that you should always study and review well for your tests. Get used to it because it will get a lot harder as you go on and you will need that dedication and perseverance to keep getting those good grades. If Physics is what you enjoy and want to do, then put in the work needed.

    I got excellent grades in high school without really studying anything beyond the homework. I have had to learn how to study in college, which has not been the most enjoyable process but I have made it with excellent grades after a lot of hard work and hours. Please, don't make the same mistake I did of not developing study skills in high school. The stuff you are learning now is building the foundation that will make your college career successful. Learn this stuff well and don't B.S. your way through it!

    Good luck!
  20. May 31, 2010 #19
    Hey I just came back from school and I did really wellon my exam, but there was a mistake in the given on a question, and I told my teacher about it, he ssaid he had to check with the coordinator if he should stick to the marking scheme or check the answer that are right according to the wrong given. I'll have my marks by thursday.
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