USAPhO test -- When should I be able to answer these questions?

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In summary, the speaker is seeking advice on how to prepare for the USA physics olympiad, specifically the semi-final and USAPhO exams. They are currently comfortable with fnet=ma exams, but struggle with these more advanced exams. They ask about the stage in physics education when most of the material on these exams is learned, if a theoretical physicist should be able to easily answer these questions by high school graduation, and how to go about learning the materials. The person responding suggests that university is the stage where most of this material is learned, and that it is not expected for high school students to be able to easily answer these questions. They recommend getting a strong foundation in high school physics and practicing a variety of problems.
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Isaac0427
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Hi,

I wasn't too sure what forum to put this question in, so I apologize if it is in the wrong one.

I have been looking at the past exams for the USA physics olympiad ( https://www.aapt.org/physicsteam/2016/exams.cfm ). I have been pretty good with the fnet=ma exams, but when it comes to the semi-final exam/USAPhO exam, I can barely answer a single question. I can figure some stuff out here and there, but for the most part I'm stuck the entire time. I am taking AP Physics C next year (although I do know some calculus-based physics), which will help with some of that, but from what I know about the curriculum in C, it doesn't begin to cover some of the quantum and relativity in there. So, my questions are:

1. At what stage in physics education is most of the material on those exams learned?

2. As someone who wants to be a theoretical physicist, by the time I graduate from high school, should I be able to answer those questions easily? And, on a related note, would any theoretical physicist be able to look at those problems and immediately know how to solve them?

3. How should I go about learning the materials on those exams?

I'd love to try and get on the US team (which I will try to do anyways, because it doesn't hurt to try), so any other tips would be appreciated.

Thank you very much in advance.
 
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Isaac0427 said:
Hi,

I wasn't too sure what forum to put this question in, so I apologize if it is in the wrong one.

I have been looking at the past exams for the USA physics olympiad ( https://www.aapt.org/physicsteam/2016/exams.cfm ). I have been pretty good with the fnet=ma exams, but when it comes to the semi-final exam/USAPhO exam, I can barely answer a single question. I can figure some stuff out here and there, but for the most part I'm stuck the entire time. I am taking AP Physics C next year (although I do know some calculus-based physics), which will help with some of that, but from what I know about the curriculum in C, it doesn't begin to cover some of the quantum and relativity in there. So, my questions are:

1. At what stage in physics education is most of the material on those exams learned?

2. As someone who wants to be a theoretical physicist, by the time I graduate from high school, should I be able to answer those questions easily? And, on a related note, would any theoretical physicist be able to look at those problems and immediately know how to solve them?

3. How should I go about learning the materials on those exams?

I'd love to try and get on the US team (which I will try to do anyways, because it doesn't hurt to try), so any other tips would be appreciated.

Thank you very much in advance.

In Australia at least, the exam is designed to be extremely difficult, and it's not expected that anyone does extremely well - the people who get on the team are just the ones who do the least poorly. The point is to test your problem solving skills, not necessarily your knowledge of physics. So:

1. University.
2. (a) No. (b) No. But they could probably figure it out.
3. I'd be getting a good foundation in high school physics, then moving onto undergrad textbooks later. Do many and diverse practise problems.
 
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e.bar.goum said:
In Australia at least, the exam is designed to be extremely difficult, and it's not expected that anyone does extremely well - the people who get on the team are just the ones who do the least poorly. The point is to test your problem solving skills, not necessarily your knowledge of physics. So:

1. University.
2. (a) No. (b) No. But they could probably figure it out.
3. I'd be getting a good foundation in high school physics, then moving onto undergrad textbooks later. Do many and diverse practise problems.
Thank you very much. Do you know of any good textbooks for something like this?
 

Related to USAPhO test -- When should I be able to answer these questions?

1. What is the USAPhO test?

The USAPhO (United States of America Physics Olympiad) test is a national physics competition for high school students. It is used to select students to represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad.

2. When is the USAPhO test held?

The USAPhO test is usually held in April of each year. However, the exact date may vary from year to year. It is important to check the official USAPhO website for the most up-to-date information.

3. What topics are covered in the USAPhO test?

The USAPhO test covers a wide range of topics in physics, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, waves and optics, and modern physics. It also includes conceptual questions and problems that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

4. How can I prepare for the USAPhO test?

To prepare for the USAPhO test, it is important to have a strong understanding of the fundamental concepts in physics. You can also practice by solving past USAPhO problems and participating in physics competitions or study groups. It is also helpful to have a solid foundation in mathematics, as many problems on the test will require mathematical calculations.

5. When should I be able to answer these questions?

The USAPhO test is designed for high school students who have a strong background in physics and mathematics. Typically, students who have completed or are currently taking AP Physics C or a similar advanced physics course are well-prepared for the USAPhO test. However, with dedicated studying and practice, students from all levels can improve their skills and potentially qualify for the USAPhO.

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