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As I've mentioned in a previous post a while ago, I've started studying Calculus from "Calculus, a complete course" by R.A. Adams & C. Essex. I've managed to get through a good part of it already, and I plan to continue to more physics related textbooks afterwards. The end-goal I have in mind is to apply to a graduate physics program somewhere in the future, when my personal finances stabilize. So I want to use the time I have now to prepare. Note that I have a BSc in Physics already.

However, I noticed one thing I cannot seem to find a good strategy in one aspect of self-study. When do I look at the solutions? I have a solutions manual for the above mentioned book, with thorough explanation of the solutions. I like to check the solutions after I've finished a set of problems on a particular chapter, to see whether I made any mistakes. However, when I get stuck on a problem, I get the urge to look at the solutions. Of course I won't look immediately the second I get stuck, and will check the chapter text before giving up, but what is the cut-off point to this? Is there a rule-of-thumb that you use to see when to stop trying at a problem? I can imagine begin stuck at a problem for 20h over multiple days won't be the most productive use of time. Yet on the other hand I think it will help you develop the ability to approach tough questions from various angles. I've tried various things, from looking at the solutions rather quickly, to not looking until I feel like I've solved the problem. However, I don't feel like I found what works for me yet.

What are your opinions on this? When do you start looking at the solutions? While I was studying at Uni, I would usually work on problems with other students, and we could figure out various ways to tackle problems together, which was often very effective. However, now that I'm self-studying, I don't really have that luxury. Thank you!