Worried About Physics

  • Thread starter mcdowellmg
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  • #1
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I have a BA in English and I am currently going back to school to pursue a completely different path--engineering (preferably geophysical/petroleum, but maybe electrical/computer).

I have taken Calculus I (B), Calculus II (B), Discrete Math (B+), and General Chemistry (A) since graduating with my BA in English. My only problem so far is in Physics, which unfortunately is the basis of engineering.

I tried to take it last semester, but dropped before the deadline after a 60 and a 45 on my first two tests. I had problems understanding how to set-up the problems, and often went about plugging-and-chugging my way to results with the help of the internet/text book, which are not available at test time.

I am taking the class again now (it is the whole summer, so it is not accelerated too much), and I just received a 75 on the first test (9 out of 12 points, which means I essentially missed 1 problem out of 4). I was striving for 100--I want an A in this class, and I will not settle for anything less than a B-, which is what I now currently have.

I know this sounds like one of those whining posts about someone who got a C in a class and wants to go to grad school. However, I really am starting to get discouraged. At this moment, grades are everything to me, as I am trying to transfer into engineering schools for spring 2012. It is just frustrating that one simple mistake on a test can take me from 100 to a 75 (went the wrong direction with a vector), and there is no partial credit, but I guess there isn't partial credit when building a bridge either.
 

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  • #2
phyzguy
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...but I guess there isn't partial credit when building a bridge either.

Exactly! If you're going to be a petroleum engineer, you could end up being responsible for an undersea drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico, in which case doing something in the wrong direction could be a catastrophe. Hang in there - attention to detail can be learned, you just have to discipline yourself to do it.
 
  • #3
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With respect to making simple mistakes, don't leave the test early. Redo as many problems as you have the time to. Also, while doing homework, I make a list of mistakes I make over and over (recent example from Calc was forgetting + C or forgetting about a constant moved outside the integral). When I'm taking a test, instead of just blindly staring at the problem and looking for any mistake, I have a short list of things I'm specifically looking for.

Edit:
One more thing that applies to physics is to ask yourself if your answer actually makes sense. You should be able to come up with a reasonable estimate of the answer before beginning the math. If your calculated answer is much different than the estimate than you should try to answer why.
 
  • #4
cjl
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Exactly! If you're going to be a petroleum engineer, you could end up being responsible for an undersea drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico, in which case doing something in the wrong direction could be a catastrophe. Hang in there - attention to detail can be learned, you just have to discipline yourself to do it.

That having been said, a 4 question test with no partial credit seems to be problematic. It doesn't really have the necessary resolution to distinguish students' knowledge, and it (IMO) excessively penalizes small mistakes.

As for what to do? I agree with everything said so far - redo questions if you have time, and also try to see if the answer makes sense. A lot of times, you can spot when an answer is wrong, even though you may not know exactly what the right answer is.
 
  • #5
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and I just received a 75 on the first test (9 out of 12 points, which means I essentially missed 1 problem out of 4). I was striving for 100--I want an A in this class, and I will not settle for anything less than a B-, which is what I now currently have.
It's good... keep for aiming for A. But please also lower your expectation. It's always good to have a goal, but sometime reality just doesn't .....

WILL NOT SETTLE can turn against you later. The right way is probably "I will not stop aiming for A"

I know this sounds like one of those whining posts about someone who got a C in a class
Me.. But it is never too late to do the right thing.

It is just frustrating that one simple mistake on a test can take me from 100 to a 75 (went the wrong direction with a vector), and there is no partial credit, but I guess there isn't partial credit when building a bridge either.
I had a professor who said "no. you can't memorize everything. I don't give partial credits because in real life a miscalculation can cause you life in prison." I was whining, and I was glad that I had him. I actually got A in that class.. one of the few. While some professors are easier than others, more laid back and friendly than others, in your situation there isn't much to do but to be careful. Have you speak to your instructor about your concern?

So what did you get wrong? Conceptually wrong, or numerical mistakes, or wrong signs?
 
  • #6
Pengwuino
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but I guess there isn't partial credit when building a bridge either.

God I wish this wasn't the first time I've heard a student say this.

I wish more people had your mindset.
 

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