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Should I reconsider my study of physics

  1. Sep 12, 2012 #1
    I was planning to get a bachelor in physics, minor mathematics. The situation is complicated. this year I have completed my bachelor in psychology, but I have also done some courses in math, and one in physics. in math: I had 60% on calculus I, 55% on calculus II, and in first instance a 45%, later a 50% on an analysis like course. my physics however was very bad (15%); something I didn't quite expect, as I did not find it difficult material to grasp.
    Is this a bad sign? Should I even consider studying physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 12, 2012 #2
    Why did you get such a bad grades? What did you do wrong? What could you do better?
  4. Sep 12, 2012 #3
    I don't think you should reconsider on those grounds alone. As you said, "the situation is complicated." Depends on how distracted you were, how much effort you put into your work, the teacher, the class, your learning style etc. If you really want to do it, do it. Good thing is that now you know that it won't be easy.
  5. Sep 12, 2012 #4
    thanks for the responses.
    I will be able to look into the exam, after which I can say what exactly went wrong.
  6. Sep 13, 2012 #5
    turns out my score was wrong. I have a 35%. still not good, but after seeing my mistakes, I definitely see that I could easily do better.
  7. Sep 13, 2012 #6
    Be careful with that kind of thinking. I've taken tests where I was like "oh yeah I was just being stupid that day," and then wound up not studying for the next test. I'd think more along the lines of "oh yeah I'll study this time," or "if I had just focused more before and during the test I could've aced that test."
  8. Sep 13, 2012 #7
    you're right! I'm not always focused. for instance, I didn't know I was up for oral exam, 10-20 minutes before, resulting in bad preparation. maybe I should try to give myself some adrenaline kick before doing exam. coffee perhaps.
  9. Sep 13, 2012 #8
    One thing I have learned is that controlling all of the factors leading up to the test is actually part of the test. You have to be at your optimal level physically and mentally, you also have to structure your time so that you are well prepared -- no matter the course-load or circumstances.

    There is so much more to acing a test. Think about it -- not all of the "smart" people are the ones that get the highest grades. There is so much more to tests than one notices, one being the way you study for example.


    Your grades are very bad, are there curves to these tests? If so, to what magnitude are the grades curved? You have to do a serious evaluation of everything that has led up to this situation. If you don't find a way to fix 90% of the problems then you need to reconsider your choice of study.

    One thing that comes to mind is that you were a psychology major. That could have been an indication of not liking math/physics and not have put a lot of time and effort into it. If that was the case, and your sure that you can switch that around this time, then you ought to start self-studying as much as the math and physics that you have missed and be prepared for the next set of classes to turn that around. Reason being is that once you get yourself to think in a certain manner -- whether it is mathematically or physically -- it sticks with you and goes wherever you go.

    By the way, what option of physics are you planning to pursue?
  10. Sep 13, 2012 #9
    I'm not sure what you mean with 'curved grades', can you explain?

    About having bad grades, do you mean 50-60% is bad as well?

    I'm actually kind of proud to have done so much courses in one year, with success. the fact that my bad grade was corrected to a more reasonable mark, changed a lot psychologically, and I feel comfortable again.

    I am aware to self-study to fill some existing gaps. I heard about people saying school material isn't enough. is this true? should one read (or better 'practice') various books on mathematics and physics?

    about my choice: for bachelors I'm considering primary physics minor mathematics. for masters I'm considering theoretical physics.
  11. Sep 13, 2012 #10
    What I mean by "Will the grade be curved" is if the your grade will be inflated at the end of the semester. For example, if almost everyone in the class has a C as their final grade some professors will curve to a B. So if someone had a B in that class, it would be inflated to an A.

    I don't think you necessarily have to read a lot of outside materials - in fact I think that would be counterproductive. The best thing you can do is to do the hard problems in your book. What ends up happening is that the skills you develop from solving these problems actually give you the logical train of thought you need to solve other problems in other classes. I don't mean to a thousand derivative problems, what I mean is to do the harder problems that challenge your intuition and problem solving skills.

    If you are considering theoretical physics then you should also be aware that it is an extremely competitive field. Getting less than a 700 in the GRE, less than 3.6ish as a GPA, with not a lot of research experience is simply not an option -- unless maybe you plan to work outside of academia then I don't know what are the absolute minimal requirements. I don't work for HR so I am just giving what I think is a minimum, not necessarily an accurate one either.

    You will have to completely overhaul your study habits and get all As from this point on.
  12. Sep 13, 2012 #11
    I have no knowledge on the curvedness.

    If my grades are too low, I am not saying no to a non-research job. I'm guessing there's the possibility of teaching, or some statistical job.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  13. Sep 13, 2012 #12
    Well if you feel that way then study physics, but make sure you take courses that will make you more employable in other fields.

    However, there is still the problem of increasing your grades. Caffeine before your class won't change your grades too much. You have to dig deep inside and realize why you got the grades that you got, then correct everything.
  14. Sep 14, 2012 #13
    I am of the impression that more mathematical subjects would do better for getting a job than, say, complexity theory. Do you know of courses that are absolutely 'useless' in this respect?

    Also, I've always wondered if one is more likely to apply for a PhD in math, vs a PhD in theoretical physics. I mean, there are more applicants to theoretical physics I would guess, but also more positions.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
  15. Sep 14, 2012 #14
    Someone else can better help you with this respect.
  16. Sep 14, 2012 #15
    I had the same problem in community college. Well my grades weren't QUITE that bad but still.... you've probably gone brain-dead from not being challenged enough and sitting through lectures.
    That's why I quit community college to study physics and math on my own.
  17. Sep 14, 2012 #16
    I have transferred out of my community college and went to a major research university -- I have not noticed any difference (for math and physics at least). Be careful not to generalize too much -- you tend to instigate the stigma.
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