Tips for College Physics Success

1)    Learning physics is not about memorizing facts and equations. It’s about developing problem solving skills that will be a part of your thought processes long after facts like the kinematic equations of motion fade away.

2)    Attend all lectures and read the material BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER it is covered in class. You are wasting a lot of energy in class if you are coming unprepared.

3)    Cramming and pulling all-nighters are horrible ways to study physics. It is best to do a little physics every day. Schedule time to study or work problems during the hours of the day you are most acute mentally.

4)    Try verbalizing the ways you solve problems with friends, relatives, pets, or your bedroom wall. Putting thoughts into words is a great way to gain clarity. If you are verbalizing to people like classmates who can give you feedback, this is even better.

5)    Watching people solve problems is not enough. You have to be able to do it all by yourself. When stuck, seek help and then try to advance a little further. Eventually you will break through a wall.

6)    Think positively. Don’t let intimidated or discouragement be your default mode of thought. Instead, know that problem solving can be an intrinsically rewarding and pleasurable experience for humans. The reward is often greater the harder the problem solving effort becomes.

7)    Miscellaneous Problems Solving Strategies: Visualize problems by drawing diagrams; break problems into manageable parts, often these parts can be identified by considering natural temporal or spatial divisions.

8)    Don’t panic during an exam. Start by getting a grasp of the exam’s scope by looking over the entire exam. Start with problem one. If you get stuck, put it aside and calmly move on to problem two. If you get stuck on problem two, calmly move on to problem 3. Your brain will “buffer” problems one and two and something you see somewhere else on the test may inspire solutions.

9)    When you get homework and exams back, carefully review the questions of parts of questions that you got wrong. Learn from your mistakes.

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