Studying for Physics

Why Study Physics

Physics is a fascinating subject that studies the fundamental principles governing the behavior of the universe, from the tiniest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies. However, studying physics can also be quite challenging, as it involves complex mathematical concepts and abstract theories. To succeed in physics, it is essential to develop effective study strategies that allow you to understand and apply these concepts.

I’d like to share a few of these strategies to help you do better in your physics courses.

An atom atop a galaxy.  All things you'll be experiencing while studying for physics.
Galaxy and Atom produced by using a prompt by Trevor Johnson-Steigelman

Mindset – Physics as a Game

Introductory physics can be compared to a puzzle or game, where the objective is to solve problems by applying fundamental principles and concepts. Like a puzzle, physics problems can be challenging and require creative problem-solving skills. Read more about mindset.

Studying for Physics

One of the most important aspects of studying physics is to start early and consistently practice the material. Physics builds upon itself, and concepts learned early on in the course will become the foundation for more advanced topics later on. As such, it is crucial to stay on top of the material and not fall behind. Consistently reviewing and practicing concepts, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day, can help cement the ideas in your mind and make it easier to recall them later.

The key concepts of physics are stated through variables, units, and equations. Here’s a quick definition of each, and links to more information.

Variables are used to represent physical quantities.

Units quantify the variables, giving us scales of measurement.

Equations show us the relationship between the variables.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Another key strategy for studying physics is to work through practice problems. Physics is a highly mathematical subject, and solving problems is an excellent way to reinforce the concepts you’ve learned and develop your problem-solving skills. Practice problems also give you a sense of what types of questions you can expect on exams, which can help you better prepare for them.

Ask for Help

It’s also essential to seek help when you need it. Physics can be challenging, and it’s not uncommon to feel stuck or confused. However, there are many resources available to help you, including your professor or TA, tutoring services, and online forums. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – it can make a big difference in your understanding of the material.

Stay Curious

Finally, it’s essential to stay engaged and curious when studying physics. Physics is a subject that seeks to explain the world around us, and there are always new discoveries being made. Try to stay up to date with current research and news in the field – not only will it help you better understand the concepts you’re studying, but it can also help you develop a deeper appreciation for the subject. With the right mindset and study strategies, studying physics can be both challenging and rewarding.