Here some suggestion:
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HOW TO SUCCEED IN PHYSICS COURSES
With finals recently behind us, this probably isn’t the best time to write a blog post about how to do well in physics courses. On the other hand, success isn’t achieved overnight, so providing this advice the night before your final exam probably wouldn’t have helped either. I hope it is helpful to students in the future, though.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to frame this in the context of introductory physics courses, although everything I say is relevant for upper level courses as well.
First of all, let’s acknowledge that physics is different than most other subjects you encounter in school because it is so heavily based upon problem solving. (For those who want to argue this point, I have a bit more detail on what I mean as an addendum to the post.) That means physics relies less on memory and more on applying ideas and concepts to solve problems. It also means that the question you see on the physics exam won’t be a homework problem with different numbers. So if you want to do well in physics, you need to understand *how* to approach problems, organize the information you’re given, apply concepts and utilize math to solve problems.
Students often tell me, “I understand the concepts; I just can’t solve the problems.” I always interpret that to mean that the material and ideas presented in class make sense, but they are struggling with the application of those ideas in solving problems. And this is where many students get derailed. They think that understanding the concepts is enough. It probably is enough in a history class, but not in physics.
So here are my suggestions for studying physics:
Study every day. Studying one hour per day for seven days is worth a lot more than studying seven hours in one day. It takes time for your brain to absorb and process the concepts, you give it time by st