Physics is a fascinating subject that has provided us with great insights into how our world works, but there is no denying it can be a challenging subject to master. Given the numerous formulas and principles to memorise, it can get overwhelming for many students learning physics for the first time. As a physics student, if you share this same feeling, know that you are not alone.
This pressure can even intensify during an exam scenario, where the stress to score well for your test may cause you to feel lost and confused when presented with a challenging physics problem. However, the most important thing to do in such a scenario is to calm down and avoid panicking. If you have studied diligently and approached the question with the right mindset, you should be well-prepared to tackle even the toughest question. Let us share four tips you should keep in mind to tackle a physics problem effectively.
1. What is the topic about?
Every physics question in an exam is designed to test your knowledge on a specific topic. Therefore, the first thing you need to do when tackling the question is to ask yourself: what is the question about? Is this physics problem testing your knowledge of forces and motion, heat and temperature, or inertia and momentum? Once you can identify the relevant subject matter, you are better placed to answer the question since your mind is now focused on recalling information about the specific topic.
2. What are you looking for?
When you have figured out the topic that the question pertains to, it is easy to get overexcited and start jotting down the formula to try and solve it quickly. However, doing so can often lead to a careless mistake, especially for calculation questions.
It is imperative for you to read the question a few times to understand the unit of measurement before tackling the problem. Using the wrong unit of measurement will throw your entire calculation off-course, leading to the wrong answer.
3. What terms do you recognise?
Occasionally, during a physics exam, it is possible to encounter a problem that will leave you feeling stumped even after cramming the night before. When this scenario occurs, the first thing you should do is identify which terms you can recognise in the physics problem. Often, the question will contain the exact information you need to identify and solve the problem.
However, the information may be phrased differently, which may explain why you are thrown off guard by the problem. For example, a question along the lines of, “If a plane can only take off after achieving X speed, and it is currently accelerating at Ym/sec. How long does the runway need to be for the plane to take off?” may be asking you to calculate the distance.
4. What is the correct equation(s) to use?
You will likely encounter multiple calculation questions when you are taking your physics exam. Knowing which equation(s) to use and correctly applying them are critical to scoring well for your test. So whenever you encounter a calculation question, start listing down the equations you know and determine which one(s) you require to solve the problem.
If you have the constant speed (v) of an object and the time t over which the motion occurred, and you’re trying to find the displacement, then you should use the following equation: s = vt. If you have the acceleration (a), and you’re trying to solve the velocity, use v = u + at.
It is not uncommon to find new students struggling with physics when they take on this subject for the first time, especially for students transitioning to Secondary One. As such, if you find yourself struggling with physics, rest assured that you are not alone. With due diligence and the proper guidance, you may soon find yourself acing this subject.
At Best Physics TuitionTM Centre, we offer both O Level and JC physics tuition. So if you feel you require the help of an experienced physics tutor, do not hesitate to sign up for our tuition classes! Under the guidance of our experienced tutor, Mr Tony Chee, rest assured that your knowledge and grades will improve significantly.