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Tips for a slow worker?

  1. Aug 20, 2014 #1

    Is there a solution that can eliminate the slowness of an invidual to a certain degree? I've currently worked in 1 month or so with an introductionary physics text book and I'm almost done with it, but at this pace I think that it is a bit too slow.

    It can take me 12-30 hours to finish a chapter which is unbelievable slowly in my opinion, especially as this text book is on an introductionary scale containing around 2-4 pages of assignements.

    Can I solve this problem? I'm very ambitious when it comes to physics and I can work several hours a day on it for fun, but this might be problematic on the more advanced levels, I don't think that a professor cares if I'm slow or not in univ/college.

    By the way, I'm about to start in the second grade of high school (out of 3).

    Do I just keep on working and hopefully become faster?

    Last question:

    How do you solve A-levels questions? I keep on having no idea what to do or how to solve the problem, care to give a few tips to cease these problems? Otherwise I can solve the rest.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    You have to analyze your studying methods, where are you spending the most time?

    a) reading the chapter
    b) researching the chapter info online (reading more into a topic)
    c) doing/understanding the examples in the chapter
    d) doing the problem sets at the end of the chapter
    e) checking your problems against the answer key
    f) something else...

    When teachers teach a course, they select topics from a chapter. They don't always teach everything inside a chapter and they don't teach all chapters. Many books are geared for a one year course and so teachers may only teach the first N chapters for a semester course which could be one third to one half of the book.

    Can you go back to earlier chapters and easily solve the problems?

    What is your math level and does it match the book you're studying from?
  4. Aug 20, 2014 #3
    Yes I can quickly recap what I've learned and instantly solve them (if solved properly).

    I'm very analytical when it comes to the question itself, I tend to take every detail very seriously which makes me waste time on something that I shouldn't bother with. I also often do not know some words which is problematic, but that I know how to solve. Also I've noticed that I will need to create my own method in order to solve a problem, which is something I need to work on. Do I simply use for example the math formula I created in my head and apply it? Do I criticialy reread everything? I usually don't know this. But on A levels they haven't explained how to solve a similiar problem which makes it harder for me to work with.

    My MAIN problem with the questions is very often that I either know how to solve the problem, or I don't. It's very difficult for me to find a solution in case I have trouble with the question, as if something in my brain prevents me from concentrating on the task, I literally cannot think.

    My math level is on high school levels, not really A-levels right now.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  5. Aug 20, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    So are you running into this fear while taking a test?

    I've had this problem in the past. To alleviate it, I would collect together the key formulas or theorems needed and upon starting the test would write them down in the margin or at the top. For a trig test, I drew little mnemonic pictures of triangles (more conceptual and faster than writing a formula).

    As an example, I might draw the three squares for a the pythagorean theorem instead of a^2 + b^2 = c^2
    or one time I drew little triangles with the base and height connected and the two sides connected for the base*height formula. Well, you get the idea...

    Sometimes, I'd get stumped on a problem so then I started reading each problem looking for the easy ones. Sometimes, I could work one problem against another ie one problem would help me remember what I needed for the other one.

    Another time, I remembered the geometric nature of the 6th root of a complex number and used my geometric sense to solve it nstead of using DeMoivre's theorem (I just couldn't remember it at the time):


    With respect to the A-Level questions, find some presolved problems and resolve them by writing down and annotating each step. Think to yourself that you want to document how the problem was solved. Over time, you will create a style for your solutions rather like a geometric theorem proof.

    Try not to skip steps as you work through the problem. Make it concise but effective enough that a brief scan will be sufficient to check your solution. This avoids test anxiety. Remember, writing takes time so write enough but no more, enough that if you come back to it a half hour later you'll be able to pick up where you left off.

    Since this is Physics, would the Physics for the IB Diploma book be good? Its basically first year college physics that is taught to students in high school with a calculus background.
  6. Aug 20, 2014 #5
    Thank you for the help, I don't really know where to get that book, I will just search for one where I live then or ask a person.

    Also, I'm very tempted to only learn about physics and mathematics, should I let this interfere with my school grades by only studying physics or should I cut down on it? All other subjects does seem pointless. Can still make it a university that accepts low grades if I focus on physics & maths, but not a top university.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  7. Aug 20, 2014 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    Don't play that game, it leads nowhere. try to maintain all your grades. You cannot predict the future and you don't know if you'll tire of physics or math in a couple of years. The other classes you are taking are far from pointless. They give you the tools to live in the world as an adult.

    So many times, I hear of someone who has done this and they regret not reading the book the English teacher said to read. Not all the books but certain ones which they've since discovered have special meaning in their lives. Its the same in other courses. I took Latin and it has helped me learn new words and construct some fake ones too.

    Look at your courses more carefully and ask yourself why you think they are so boring and then fix that feeling. Live in the NOW and prepare yourself for your great college adventure. Just don't rush things, your interest in Physics and Math should be more of a hobby and your main focus should be your grades.

    Many career physicists I know have other interests besides physics some read extensively, some enjoy music and some even do martial arts.

    You don't want to be a one-trick pony.
  8. Aug 20, 2014 #7
    Ok I will try that then. I'm probably craving too much of physics... :devil:
  9. Aug 20, 2014 #8


    Staff: Mentor

  10. Aug 20, 2014 #9
    Finishing any physics textbook in a month sounds fine, unless it's a really thin textbook! On solving A level problems - get hold of past exam papers (from your exam board) and attempt all questions; if you can't do one, stick it on here and get help.

    I'm not sure about that IB book, surely the OP would be better getting the A level physics books geared to his exam board, e.g., if he's doing AQA physics than do a search for "AQA Physics A level" on amazon.co.uk - and Google, there's bound to be lots of free stuff on the web! IB is unlikely to cover exactly the same material, and the question style might be different & off-putting.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  11. Aug 20, 2014 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    I thought the IB and A-levels were somehow equivalent:


    If so then the book may still be useful to the OP but a book geared for his syllabus is definitely better.
  12. Aug 20, 2014 #11
    To be honest, I don't think it matters much if you fail a few subjects! If you hate doing a subject & think it's pointless then why put yourself through hell. I failed French through doing zero work, and it didn't do me any harm. In fact it probably did me some good, a nice sleep at the back of the class meant I was fresh for physics...

    But if you are doing GCSE, than try to get at least five at A-C, less than that would look embarrassing. "English Language" is certainly not pointless! You need to be able to read :) Can you not drum up interest in chemistry and biology? You need to not sound totally stupid when your colleagues at university start talking about "Darwinian evolution" or the "Periodic Table". That's five - and at A level you can do Maths, Further Maths, and Physics! (it's not like IB where you have to do all that other stuff...) If you get A*A*A* grades at A level then Cambridge (or similar!) will take you, and will not care about your GCSE grades. If you can show you've done extra serious Maths in your spare time then they'll take you above the kid with five extra GCSEs in arty & shop stuff.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  13. Aug 21, 2014 #12


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    Science Advisor

    OP, the key to getting ideas about solutions of new problems is to have solved similar problems before. By doing that you gradually build an intuition regarding techniques which might be applicable to a given problem, and approaches which will likely get you ahead. Additionally, it may allow you to mentally recast problems into more familiar forms and/or to break down large problems into smaller ones. (The idea here is: If you see a large problem, you mentally try different ways of breaking it down into other problems of which your intuition tells you that you *can* solve them. At that point you make no attempt to actually act on this---it is only for getting an idea of how to break down the big problem into chewable chunks.)

    So, how do you get this mysterious intuition, and how do you solve lots of related problems if you cannot already solve the problems at the current point in time? The trick is to start with very simple problems and to make them more complicated gradually. You should look out for dedicated exercise books (not textbooks) in your local library. Some are very good at incrementally increasing the difficulty of problems in the same area.
  14. Aug 21, 2014 #13
    Maybe that is the problem with my text book, I can solve all tasks but not the A-level ones, and when I do look for the solution it's always a "complicated" method that I've never tried before, not even mentioned in the book. Is it supposed to be like that?

    My mental intuition does build up, maybe I'm not using a correct way of thinking about the problem. Right now I'm starting to create my own math fomulas and ways of solving the A-levels but it's still difficult, but I'm getting there and It makes it all easier. Am I supposed to think like this on these levels or just recap what I learned previously on the other tasks? Doing so is usually no good when looking at my solved tasks...
  15. Aug 21, 2014 #14
    many textbooks are not very good, looks like you have one of them.

    I'm sure it is! Get help! Find better textbooks to supplement the inadequate one you have been given. Start by looking at every likely book in your public library, ask a librarian for assistance. Get your teacher to help you solve the tough A level problems.

    I really got tripped up on my A level Maths exam, and I blame my textbook (and teacher!) All the questions in my textbook were easy, the teacher seemed good, and I got complacent. I didn't dig out past exam papers for myself - a big mistake! Come the exam, the actual A level questions were a lot harder! I passed, but the grade wasn't great.

    Check out all the books you can in the library and bookshop, and Amazon "Look Inside!" to find actual solved A level questions from your exam board (or other exam boards if you think the questions are of a similar standard.) MOST IMPORTANTLY get past exam papers from your exam board, or from your teacher, and make sure you can answer the questions. Ask your teacher to help you if you can't solve them.
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