Do you eventually GET Physics?

I have only a few courses left before I can take the MCAT and apply, and I am finding physic to be different than anything Ive taken so far. I had no problem with Org1 and 2, Micro, Cell, Trig, A&P, all A’s. I am freaking out with how difficult it is for me to do physics problems, and its only 4 weeks into the semester. I will count myself lucky if I get a B at this point once the semester is over. Does it get better? I have no prior course work in physics other than the trig and algebra it requires. I hope I can start to think through these problems as time goes by.

Hang in there. It does seem to work its way into your brain and become simpler. I think there’s some “Eureka!” moment that a lot of people have with Physics. Just keep working the problems, and consider practicing problems from other textbooks as well. There’s also a few “Physics for Dummies” kind of books that several of my classmates found useful to gain a better understanding of Physics.
Good luck.

I’m also taking physics right now. So far I like the class quite a bit (at least more than Gen Chem, and I think I get it more)…but a lot depends on the teacher and how the class is being taught. Don’t get discouraged. I heard from people that second semester of physics is much easier. Have you ever looked into some MCAT materials for physics? they tend to simplify some stuff, so if you use one of theirs review books together with your course manual it may work better. I don’t know what bood you guyz use, but we use Giancoli and I love this book (so far - we only got to chapter 4).
Good luck,

I’ve been tutoring physics this semester, so I have a hint that may or may not translate well to the forum. Let’s try it.
Problem-solving steps:

  • 1. Identify the object (what’s being moved or acted on?)
  • 2. Draw a picture featuring the object.

  • 2a. Make a dot to represent the object.
  • 2b. Pick one force or motion or other vector related to the object, pick a direction, and draw it.
  • 2c. Draw the other forces or vectors in relation to the first one. (if the object is slowing down, the acceleration goes the other way from the velocity)
  • 2d. Assign positive and negative values to the vectors based on your picture.

  • 3. Read through the problem and list all the variables whose values you know. Bring in the positive or negative values from your picture.
  • 4. Read through the problem and list the variables whose values you need. This is your shopping list.
  • 5. Look at the equations you know and go shopping for one that gets you the variables you need. Note that sometimes you’ll have to use two equations: the one that gets the variable you need requires you to get some other variable from some other equation. You can do these equations one at a time or do algebraic substitutions, whatever floats your boat.
  • 6. Do some algebra and plug and chug.
  • 7. Go back to your picture and equation and make sure your answer makes sense.
  • Ta-dah!

The other thing I’d suggest is to write down units all the time. If you cancel out units to get where you want, you can make sure you haven’t made a mistake and can sometimes figure out the answer to a problem without going shopping in the equation store.
Let me know if this helps!

Oh yeah, I remember this feeling! I thought physics was worse than a foreign language and I wasn’t very good in Spanish, either. Hang in there. On my first physics test - which was an open-book, take home test I got a pathetic 80% which was well below the class mean. I wanted to chuck it all; I was sooooo depressed. I mean, all you had to do was solve the problems using the resources in your book, right? I felt really really stupid.
So I got the Schaum’s book of physics problems and I worked my butt off doing problems. For me, the only way it made sense was if I could work through it over and over and over again. And yes, there was a “Eureka!” moment that I have likened to learning a foreign language: somewhere along the way I stopped trying to translate physics into English and just “spoke in Physics.” It worked and I pulled my below-average grade up to finish with an A.
So you can do it too. Keep plugging away.

A side note -
Mary, I did not realize that your avatar was NOT a picture of you until someone asked me if I had seen “The Matrix”! All this time I thought that was a picture of you!


A side note -
Mary, I did not realize that your avatar was NOT a picture of you until someone asked me if I had seen “The Matrix”! All this time I thought that was a picture of you!

Hey The Oracle kicked a$$ in The Matrix but with all due respect to her, I hope I look a little better! She was a great character, a light-skinned African American woman in her 60s with attitude. Smoker. I can’t remember the actress’s name now. She died before the third Matrix film was released, if I recall, of complications of diabetes
Thanks for the laugh!

Though I’m brand new to this board, I might have some insight to offer here. I was a grad student in physics and taught it as a TA for five years.
When I took my first-ever physics class as an undergrad, I was failing the course after only six weeks. I pulled out of the course when my grandmother died, over the professor’s objection that I was “riding the coattails of her funeral” out of the class. (Shamefully, he was right.) Since I was good at math and I loved science, I totally didn’t understand why I hated physics so much and why I was doing so badly (which was largely because I hated it). A few years later, while still a premed student, I had to tackle the physics class, so I decided to abandon the “medical/business physics” class and just take the two-semester course offered to engineers and physics majors. For me, that made ALL the difference.
You see, in the business/med physics course I first took, we were presented with a whole bunch of material and equations that we were to “learn” (read: memorize and regurgitate) without any in-depth understanding of how and why it all worked. In the “real” physics class (my term, but I believe it), we learned physics on a foundation of how and why. I not only understood the physics, I found it so delightful that when I pulled out of premed as a junior, I decided to major in physics instead.
The moral of this story: For me, it was important to get a physics class that taught the subject in a way I found useful, relevant, and interesting. Don’t know if that will help you or not, but it sure worked for me. When I take the MCAT in April, the one section I won’t be worried about is the PS, thanks to my decision to take the “real” physics course.
Fwiw. Good luck.

Thanks everyone for the encouraging words. I have my first test Monday. Scared to death, but thats what tackling something new will do to ya. Kasia, I too am using the Giancolo text for the full year. I do like physics and the unique problems. I think my prof moves to quickly through the problems. The past 3 classes we have worked problems with little explanation of why? how? where? and so on. I learn best by understanding whats going on, what PHYSICS are happening, not just what equations to use. Excellent tips Denise, I’m going to print your list out and use it on some problems. I have started to THINK physics when possible. Although not really physics, today I taught my 9 year old a bit about conversions. He found a penny in the parking lot of the grocery store. I asked him if he wanted to know how much he would have if he picked up a line of pennies end for end from the store to home. We measured the distance on the odometer, once at home did the conversions and WOW $1,118 dollars would have been his take! :slight_smile: He will be looking at the ground forever now. Thanks again. I’ll let you know what happens after the test.

He He HE - I was there too, megboo…
until my husband pointed out to me that it was Oracle

I had some experiences with physics and I can share it here to you. Physics requires logical thinking and intense practices. To be able to understand physics, you must train your mind to metally picturing events and applying physics to explain them. You can relate your everyday experiences to improve your problem solving in physics. For instance, When I was stopping at the red light and started to move as the light about to turn green. As I was looking to my friend’s car which was also stopping nearby parallel to mine, I suddenly felt that my car was moving forward although my foot was firmly on the break pedal. A moment later, I realized that I wasn’t moving forward but instead my friend played a joke on me by backing up his car. It’s funny how I see things differently from my friend.

Ooh, and watch the movie, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Full of classic physics experiments.

I feel your pain with physics! I, too, am struggling with physics which I’m taking now. I’m taking the algebra/trig-based physics (general physics). Fortunately, my school has an interesting approach to physics. Unlike my bio/chem classes that have a seperate lab and lecture, my physics class is 3-days of lab and it’s all “teach yourself, group work” physics. We do a lot of experiments, and I spend a lot of time outside of class doing physics. I can’t believe the ridiculous amount of time I’ve spent on physics! An example: my group and I spent 4 hours on Labor Day in the lab doing physics! Tests are open book and open notes but challenging. Our prof. is very big on concept questions–most of our quiz/test questions do not have numbers in them–simply graphs of lines going down or up on a graph and we have to know whether something is speeding up, slowing down, going at constant velocity or acceleration, etc. It’s not as easy as it looks!
I am very lucky to be in excellent group–all of us work hard and pull the weight and 3 out of 4 of us are pre-med, and the fourth student is simply gifted. Two out of 4 of our tests are “group tests” which works out for me b/c I’m clueless about physics, but then I falter on my own. My quiz grades are taken as an individual and awful, and the next test I take will be as an individual. My problem is that I’m so damn drained after doing all of the experiments that I rarely study on my own. It takes me hours just to do a few HW problems and that’s with me working with some of the others too! I like the class but I’m easily frustrated/discouraged at my total lack of understanding. Oh well. I hope it gets better and will eventually click in my brain.
P.S. I like Denise’s suggestions. I’ll have to try that.

If it makes you feel any better, I don’t believe that one mind can “get” both Physics and Anatomy. I “got” Physics. I’m hating anatomy.

OK - little update…
I had my first test in Physics today. So the guy that teaches this class has an opinion of being really hard, and giving impossible tests. And I guess that’s true…I went over his old tests (each of them was copletely different, but doable)…and the test we got yesterday was like nothing I’ve ever seen. And our class period is only 50. It’s really not enough to do 15 multiple choice questions and 3 open form requiring longer calcualtions…so I’m really disappointed, and bitter, because I felt so comfortable with this material. And I know it’s going to be the lowest score I’ve ever gotten in college…I was so sad last night. Now I got over it and I guess ‘next time will be better’…(it always is in my case).

Don’t let it get you down too much. Think of the test of a deeper preparation for the MCAT, where the questions can come out of nowhere. Is there a tutor you could get for the class who has actually had the same professor? That tutor may be able to give you additional insights into preparing for the exams and other “tricks” that might help make the class a little more comfortable for you.
I saw your quote on the message was from Eleanor Roosevelt–“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor would be proud of you on that test day!

Thank you Larry,it’s really comforting. Today I strated a new day with a much better attitude. We have a free tutoring center in our physics department. But I don’t really think it’s something I need. I really have a quite good understanding of the subject. I guess I just need more practice. I have a really good study group…the same one I got through Organic and GenChem. I guess we just have to solve more problems…and even more of them (in the fromat that is similar to our tests!).
And I think next time I’ll start from open questions, and do multiple chocie latter. this time I exhausted myself on multiple choice, and by the time I got ‘show your work’ type of questions, I just couldn’t think clearly any more…
Oh life…

This was exactly my experience with my first physics exam–I understood the material just fine but couldn’t work quickly enough. Doing more problems generally takes care of that. It’s like playing the piano–you need practice as well as understanding to be effective. So I’d say you’ve successfully identified your problem and you’re on your way to kicking butt! Go, Kasia!

My test is back, in 3 years I’ve never gotten a score this low (70). I felt a little better when 3 other pre-med study buddies also were in the 70’s. I know they studied as hard as I did and had Physics in high school. The class average was 59. I realize comparing my score to others is not going to help a thing. I need to have it all make sense pretty soon! :slight_smile: I made so many silly mistakes. I do feel one part was kind of sneeky by the prof. He put a velocity graph worth 12 points on the test and then asked 4 questions I thought were simple…wrong! I missed 3 of them. They were easy once he explained the graph. The problem I have is that he never discussed a graph in class. If I would have had 5 minutes of discussion about it I would have seen there was more to it than finding an X and Y coordinate, big SILLY mistake on my part. I know its simple stuff, but wish he would have shown one first. The bulk of the test was story problems with heavy calculations, I think there were 7 questions like that. I’m not jumping ship, but I imagine a C in physics is not acceptable. I guess if there is a strong possibility of getting a C the last week I will drop and take it again. Kasia, we are now finishing chapter 4 and moving into 5… Circular Motion. I think we have the same text. Couldn’t that Newton guy have made this a bit easier. :slight_smile:

I guess 70 really doesn’t look bad in comparison to my accomplishments. I still didn’t get my test back, but I already know what to expect and…I think I won’t get much more than 50. . it will be my lowest score ever! But…in this guy’s class average is usually in the 40, and yesterday he told us that he started looking at it and it really looked very very bad (it may be actually lower than 40s)…and he encouraged people to drop the class - the last daly is tomorrow. He’s not the nicest person. When I went to talk to him after the test, and told him that it was really packed, and long, as for 50 minutes, he told me that maybe I had a learning disability, and I should be tested, so I can get a waiver for future tests. I just can’t believe he told me that. No comment…
well - we’ll see tomorrow…
ps. we’re starting on chapter 5 tomorrow…