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What is the trick to properly understanding Physics?

  1. Jan 6, 2016 #1
    I am currently in my last year of community college before I transfer to University. Physics held me back! For my major, I am required to enroll in Physics with College Algebra and Trigonometry I & II! I took the initiative to withdraw after completing the second exam because it was extremely difficult and the professor made it impossible to understand, along with being considerably intimidating. I will be taking it again starting next week and will like to ace it this time, along with learning techniques taught by the new professor! What is the trick to passing Physics? I hired a tutor utilizing money given from a scholarship, along with using Chegg/Youtube to help with Homework and Test Reviews. What is the next best bet for a student attempting to pass the course once more?!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 6, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Khan Academy has videos on various introductory physics concepts that you could pre-study.


    Find out what book the professor will use.

    Alternatively, this book on conceptual physics has good reviews (read the reviews):


    Another one that I like is the Tsokos book on IB Physics which has short chapters on each topic:


    I would also caution you not to be intimidated or fearful of physics and not to hunker down and memorize every formula you see instead try to understand things at a deeper level. Don't think I'm never going to use this stuff again and blow it off after all it may pop up again at the oddest moment and save your life.

    My suggestion is to select the one book that speaks to you the best (a method my niece uses to select good books) as a backup to your normal textbook and to use PF here to help when you don't understand something.

    One caveat though is that you may not get an answer from PF in a timely fashion so I'd also collaborate with other students and start thinking physics all the time.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  4. Jan 6, 2016 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Also can you tell us what specific areas you had trouble with?

    Was it in remembering what formula to apply when?

    Was it in deriving the formulas using calculus and knowledge of the problem?

    Was it units of measure issues?

    What areas of physics? working with projectile motion? momentum? energy? or something else...?
  5. Jan 6, 2016 #4


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    Staff Emeritus
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    There's not really a trick to learning physics. I think one reason many students find physics difficult is because to do well truly requires learning the material. You can't really fake your way through the class like you often can in other subjects. If you haven't developed effective learning techniques, that weakness is exposed when you take physics and other science classes.

    One common problem is students don't know how to read the textbook. One suggestion is to read a paragraph at a time. Before moving on to the next paragraph, paraphrase what you just read. If you can't, you're missing something and should correct that before moving on. This might sound time consuming, but it's as fast as or faster than reading a few pages, realizing your attention has wandered because you're not understanding the text, and then going back to reread the same stuff over and over again.

    Check out http://students.lsu.edu/academicsuccess/studying/strategies/tests/studying. Check out any resources your college offers.

    I would also suggest trying to find others in class to work with. Discussing and explaining concepts and problems to others will definitely help your understanding. Also, difficult courses can be a lot more bearable and much less frustrating when you're working with others.
  6. Jan 6, 2016 #5


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    What're you actually having trouble with? Are you reading with pencil and paper and working all the problem sets?

    There's no trick, but there are techniques that help with solving problems. These need to be learned....by doing a lot of problems.
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