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Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class Part 2

Irvine Physics Tutoring: Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class Part 2

These final three tips now pertain to solving physics problems themselves. Every chapter in your physics class will include word problems. Sometimes the questions will be exclusively word problems. You need to know how to tackle the confusing ones if you’re going to succeed – book your private Irvine physics tutor today.

4. Draw pictures

Draw your vectors. Draw your free-body diagrams. Draw your circuits. When they tell you that a ball is thrown off a building at a 45-degree angle, draw the ball, draw the building, and draw the angle. Draw your triangles, label everything, and give yourself enough space to make it clear. This will help you avoid mistakes, understand what’s going on, and also help your teacher grade your work or help you.

Many students get lazy with their pictures or try to skip them as a short-cut. Don’t do this. Just draw your picture. Everyone makes mistakes — especially with physics word problems — but a carefully made picture can help you prevent them.

5. Write down your variables

An extremely common issue students have with solving physics problems is not knowing where to begin. Physics classes tend to include a very high number of word problems with multiple sentences, variables, and details. This can feel overwhelming, especially if the problem does not feel familiar, and can lead to giving up before you even get started.

To combat this, you want to pull the details and numbers from the problem and write them down in a list. If they tell you the mass of a ball is 10 kilograms, then write down mball = 10 kg. If they tell that ball is initially moving at 15 meters per second, then write down vball initial = 15 m/s. Listing your variables can help make complex problems generic.

6. When you’re stuck, just try your equations

Once you have all of your variables written down, then you write down any equations you know that might be relevant. Did they mention friction? Write down any equations you have with friction. Is something going in a circle? Write down your centripetal equations. You can also just look at what variables you have and check your equation sheet for equations that use those variables. If you’re confused don’t be afraid to just guess an equation that might be helpful. See where it takes you and if you can solve for anything important. Worst case scenario is you still get the question wrong. But at least you got some work on the page and opened yourself up to partial credit and a chance for success.
The biggest hurdle students have with physics problems is not knowing how to start and giving up. Your equations can help you. Get used to them, even if your class doesn’t make you memorize them. And if you are in an AP class you should get a copy of the AP equation sheet and start using it since it’s the one you’ll have for the test.

If you keep these tips in mind you will have a better chance of doing well in your first physics class. You already know that you should go to class, do your homework, take notes, and study. I don’t need to tell you that again. If you are still struggling with the class and your teacher can’t help you, consider hiring a private Irvine physics tutor to explain the material better and help you overcome your difficulties. Physics tutors are experienced in presenting the lessons in multiple ways to make sure their students understand. They are also familiar with physics and what you need to do to get a good grade.

Read part one here!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

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