How to Ace Physics

I compiled the following tips based on my experience in Physics 205 and 208. By following these steps, I was an able to get an A in both classes. I believe you can too!

Tl;dr: Skim the book, make summaries, and do practice tests.

Skim the Book

Physics 205 and 208 are classes that focus on fundamental concepts. Skim the textbook before class to get a grasp of the concepts.

As you skim, work out the examples on paper; write them out yourself. The examples are most important because they help you understand problem-solving techniques you need to do HW problems and test questions. If you are short on time, focus on copying one or two examples in depth, then skim the others.

It is likely that you will not fully understand the examples when you first read them. That is expected. When you don’t understand an example, formulate a question(s). Your professor might answer these through his/her lecture, but if he/she doesn’t, ask during class.

Pro tip: If you find you are short on time for reading the textbook, read during lunch. Buy lunch, go to the library, check out the textbook from the AskUs desk (it is on reserve) and spend 45min-1 hr reading while you eat. I promise you, it’s not that bad.

Go to class!

This should be obvious, but go to class! They take attendance and ask clicker questions, which can give you the extra points you need at the end of the semester.

The front row is best because you don’t get distracted by the people in front of you watching Netflix. Also, the people in the front row tend to be pretty studious, so you might be able to form a study group with the people sitting beside you (that was true for me in both 205 & 208)

On Clicker questions: Usually you can discuss these with your neighbor. If you sit in the front row, you are more likely to find people who have also read the textbook and have good ideas about what might be the right answer if you’re not sure (and vice versa). This happened to me a number of times. In fact, sometimes my neighbor explained concepts better than my professor, and other times, when I knew the answer, I mastered the concept by explaining it to others.

Review Immediately After Class

Find a consistent time after class to review notes and begin the homework immediately. This could be 20 or 30 min.

The key is to get started on your homework the day it was lectured on in class. Therefore, if you have trouble you will have time to ask for help.

When (not if) you have questions, use the office hours, study groups, tutoring and the online forum.

On office hours: At the beginning of the semester, figure out a consistent time when you can go to your professor’s office hours. If you can’t, contact them within the first week asking if they could meet at another time. Either way, make sure to show your face office hours in the first two weeks even if you have no questions. Say, “I want to excel in your class. How do you suggest I do that?”

Next, the forum. The forum for my PY208 class was really helpful, and I often found my mistakes on my own as I wrote my forum post explaining my method for solving a problem.

Friends/study groups can be helpful, but make sure they only are looking at your work and saying where you went wrong, instead of telling you how to do it. This will help both you and your friend develop the problem-solving skills you will need on the test (instead of just getting an answer).

Finally, you can also try the tutoring center in Riddick (room #?) or your personal tutor from UTC.

Make Summaries

Summaries are a place to put all of your knowledge on particular topic. Creating summaries condenses everything you have to know for the test into one place. It always feels a lot better on test day when you have one or two sheets to review, instead of 100.

Cornell Notes format from Template.net

I prefer the Cornell notes format because it:

  • Has a structure that makes it easy to skim the notes later or find something quickly (heading in left column, details on right)
  • Gives you room to add info in margins if you forget something
  • Allows you to quiz yourself by folding over the dividing line

Study like its Test Day

6 days before test, make a 5 day study plan. You should focus on doing the practice tests provided by your professor in a test environment (90 min). That means no looking at the answers. You should turn off your phone just as you would during a test.

After each practice test, correct wrong answers and review the corresponding section.

You’ve got this!

I believe in you! With these tips, I believe you can ace your physics class. Feel free to message me @marcos_felt on Twitter if you have any questions.