Most science subjects, including physics, can be highly challenging and complicated – what with the endless formulas to memorise. Compared to other subjects, describing this world is not always fun and intuitive, as it sometimes requires mathematical and conceptual understanding that can be categorised as very advanced. Picture this: a student is about to take a physics exam and confidently solves the problems, only to find out later that a wrong variable or formula was used! This only goes to show that coming up with the correct answer is as vital as knowing how to solve the problem.
Physics seems to have this aura that could scare people before even trying to solve a problem – starting from the fundamentals to higher-level materials, which requires some students to engage in a physics tutor. While having worked through a long physics problem only to find out that you have the wrong answer can be frustrating, how do you know if your answer is correct so that you do not waste all of your precious time and work done?
To give you an idea, here are 5 effective ways to check your answer in any physics problem.
1. Go through the problem using variables
An easy trick that you can try to approach the problem is using variables instead of the given values. This makes reviewing your solution and checking for algebra errors with variables easier, and it also helps with pinpointing and correcting the wrong ones efficiently. Additionally, the computed values are easier to check since all the numerical calculations can be found at the end. This essentially means that the actual computation only needs to be verified at the end rather than worrying about it throughout the problem.
2. Order of magnitude
Once you have calculated your answer, you should always double-check and see whether the answer would make sense. To do this, it is imperative that you get a sense of the values of different quantities in SI units. For instance, if a baseball pitcher throws a ball at 1 m/s or 1000 m/s, it is safe to say that these rates are unreasonably slow and fast. Thus, you might want to use approximate conversions between SI and units if you find it more manageable.
Here is a tip to remember: always opt for a more reasonable value.
3. Check significant figures
Checking significant figures is crucial in ensuring that you have the correct answer. Some questions require you to round your answer to a specific significant figure, and points would be deducted for the wrong number of significant figures or if you forgot about it altogether; hence, it would be best to make sure you do not take this risk, but rather be on the safe side of not losing points by re-reading the question and double-checking the significant figures. To refresh your mind, it would be good to review your mathematics lessons regarding significant figures and how to do them correctly.
4. Include units of measurement
Including units in the solution should never be taken for granted! A problem is easy to solve with the help of SI units, although this is not always true. However, whichever units you use, ensure that you are consistent throughout solving the entire problem. For instance, if you choose to use litres for volume instead of cubic metres, ensure to use this for every quantity in said problem.
5. Dimensional analysis
Dimensional analysis is one of the most powerful tools needed for checking your answer; this method relies on verifying that the units used are correct. For example, we know that solving for acceleration requires the units of m/s^2 if SI units are used. To use this trick, it would be best if you could ensure that you convert all units to SI base units in metres, kilograms, and seconds.
Solving any physics problem requires patience and knowledge. While it could take a long time, it is essential to make sure that your answer is reasonable. To help you avoid computational errors, you can take advantage of the techniques listed above. In addition, it would be best to keep in mind that implementing an organised approach to problem-solving helps you solve problems correctly and with more consistency.
Getting a physics problem correct is more than just simply checking your work; to excel in physics, it would be beneficial to know how to study for it efficiently as well. If you wish to learn more in-depth about how to solve and check your answers effectively, do not hesitate to enrol in our H2 Physics tuition classes at Best Physics Tuition™ Centre! Contact us today, and you are already a step closer to improving your problem-solving and checking skills.