Tears over Physics Need help

I started Physics yesterday and while I was not looking forward to it, I had done some videos on MIT and Khan Academy and felt I’d be okay. Not so. Class yesterday was lots of intro and not much material but what we covered was alright. I felt a bit slow on the uptake, though. I don’t know what it is about physics that stops me in my tracks. I’m strong in so many other areas! I was tears last night reading the book and then working on some problems. I got all of the first three I tried wrong (we have the answer key) and for the life of me I could not figure out why.

This is a fast paced summer course and it’s not even the more difficult physics that I actually will need as a premed requirement so I’m frankly scared! I don’t think we will have the time to go through problems very deeply in class so I feel like I’m totally on my own if I need more help. The learning center isn’t operating in summer either! Ugh. I have a 3.96 gpa and if Physics continues like this it is going to bomb that gpa.

Any advice? I won’t let my physics frustrations ruin my dream of med school. I am so strong in every other area. I don’t get what my issue with physics is. Any good online tutorials? MIT courseware is interesting, but I think need something that starts out really basic. Khan Academy is nice, too, but not enough practice problems. HELP! Thanks!

Can you go to your professor’s or TA’s office hours? Or maybe set up an appointment to see them outside class? That would be my first suggestion. If you’re that worried about the course, perhaps you could set up a standing appointment - once a week - with them to go over your questions. The thing with physics is that it’s a very cumulative course, so if you miss one concept (i.e., vectors, or forces) you’ll have a hard time with what comes next. So it’s crucial to keep up as things move along.

If meeting regularly with your prof isn’t feasible, I would suggest trying to find a good tutor. Online tutorials are one thing, and they have their place, but I don’t think there’s a substitute for a real, live person who can go over YOUR individual questions and issues. My school offered free physics tutoring, and I made use of it almost every week (in addition to office hours). That’s how I came out with strong A’s both semesters last year.

I hope that helps.

I don’t know when the withdraw day is for summer courses but I would definately consider it. I am not trying to be harsh but sometimes it is better to cut your losses and take the course over the regular semester.

Summer courses can be easy or they can be killer. I took cell and molec last summer and it was a beast. If you feel like this is your achilles then I would definately take it in the most beneficial way for you. The real problem with summer course is you have to be ready to bounce back as soon as a test is over. You can be bogged down by a bad grade for a day or two like in normal session, because in a week there is another test.

I know it is the first day of classes and I don’t want to psyche you out, but keep this in mind at all times. Better to walk away from it now with a W and ace it in the fall, than trying to replace a bad grade.


I feel for you! One thing I think you should know about Physics is that it’s not uncommon to get problems wrong. I did very well in Physics but let me tell you, every time I did problems, I would invariably get them all wrong the first (or second or third) time I did them. Please keep doing the same problem over and over again until you do it right. You just need to get used to the problems and I promise it will come more easily.

I have also watched the videos on http://www.freelance-teacher.com. He (Steven) posts a formula sheet as well a couple of problems. Watch the videos, then try the problems on your own. If you can afford it, I recommend you schedule a tutoring session with him to walk you through a couple of problems. I am reviewing for the MCAT and worked on optics and fluids problems with him and found him very helpful in understanding how to approach problems.


  • BaileyPup Said:
I don't know when the withdraw day is for summer courses but I would definately consider it. I am not trying to be harsh but sometimes it is better to cut your losses and take the course over the regular semester.

I agree with Bailey Pup and I always strongly advise people NOT take core premed courses in the summer unless you're repeating it from the previous semester.

Practice is the only method for doing math oriented subjects! Get the solutions manual that goes along with your book and do problems, problems, problems! Videos are fine to help you conceptually, but nothing will drive it home like practice problems! As someone once told me, “math is not a spectator sport!”



First of, don’t panic, although it is a bad idea to take science classes over the summer.

  1. Find a buddy in class who seem to be doing well and buy him a beer and a pizza asking for some help.

  2. Keep working at it and don’t get discouraged.

  3. if you still have troubles by the drop-off date you may consider protection your GPA, and taking a W (although I tend to argue against this).

  4. if you still want to try, you can always PM some exercises and I’d be happy to try, solve and give you some pointers (as my time would allow).

    Physics is not hard, but you have to have a process down and stick to it.

I’m going to be contrary and say physics is hard. Mind-numbing, brain bending hard. I failed it the first time, because I was always about a week behind in comprehension. The second round I got a B.

But I also agree with several things other people have said.

a) Seek out your professor - find out how helpful s/he will be. If they don’t enjoy teaching this could become a problem that makes doing well unlikely, and consideration of that W begins.

b) Pay for a tutor. You need the tutor on your time, willing to explain a concept in multiple ways. I did this, and fired the first one because they were not good at the teaching aspect. The second one I ended up meeting with every week for the last 5 or 6 weeks of class. I always emailed him the subjects we needed to cover, so he could brush up on topics and consider how to teach them to me when I didn’t get it. He saved my grade.

c) Practice, practice, practice. Buy the solutions manual, and if your book doesn’t have one buy another book that does. Do problems every day, and when you get them wrong diagram why - what doesn’t make sense, what does. Email them to your tutor, with the understanding that you will discuss it at your next session. You will be spending a few hours with him or her, it helps if you are both prepared.

Good luck Shannon. If you have the time to commit to this class you can do well, but if not (and you don’t have any Ws yet…) then a withdrawl and slower pace may be better for you.

I second the suggestions for Khan Academy, the solutions manual, and Schaum’s Outlines. Personally, I do better seeing a difficult problem (or similar problem) worked out. That’s why I liked Schaum’s Outlines because it usually had problems similar to my text (which had a terrible solutions manual). However, I had the luxury of a regular semester which allowed time for me to grasp concepts. I don’t think I would have done as well over the summer.

Practice is so important for Physics that it could be difficult to find the proper amount of practice time in a summer course.

Thanks to everyone for the fabulous advice. Day 2 was much better. I had to get a good nights rest in me before making any decisions. Day 3 (today) was also better. My fellow classmates were feeling the same overwhelming emotions as was I so it helps to know other’s are in the same boat. We had a quiz today and I studied hours upon hours last night doing problems, reading, etc. The quiz went quite well. I feel pretty confident now. Mind you, this may be a fast paced summer course, but it is a “less intense” physics than the one year I still need for premed. That is why I was doubly freaked on my first day figuring if I was upset over the “less intense” class how the heck was I was going to survive a year of premed physics and then the MCAT?

I have taken a lot of suggestions. I bought an additional book to work problems. Our text is sorely lacking and is just Greek to me when I read it, but other books, etc. are much more clear. So, I’m more skimming the text, but working a lot problems and reviewing concepts in other places. I have Physics as a Second Language out from the library, too. Haven’t cracked that much, but I can tell it will also be helpful.

I am not dropping the class and I think I will survive. First exam on chp 1-5 this Monday so we’ll see how that goes!

Thanks again for all the advice! I think I will be okay with all these tools this summer. I am fairly certain that I will go the tutor route during the more intense premed physics, though.

I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress and keep any advice coming if anyone sees fit to chime in!

  • shanport7300 Said:
I have Physics as a Second Language out from the library, too. Haven't cracked that much, but I can tell it will also be helpful.

I hear amazing things (of the 'only text you really need, including the text book' variety) about that book. If you use any secondary resources, I'd highly suggest starting there.
  • shanport7300 Said:
I'll keep everyone updated on my progress

Definitely do that!

Please let me know if you’re still having trouble in Physics after Exam 1 – I’ve got a degree in Optical Engineering and over 7 years worth of tutoring experience, so I might be able to help you out.

Besides, it’ll be a good refresher for the MCAT!

Good luck, I’m glad you’re feeling better about the class.

  • Anemos Said:
Please let me know if you're still having trouble in Physics after Exam 1 -- I've got a degree in Optical Engineering and over 7 years worth of tutoring experience, so I might be able to help you out.

Besides, it'll be a good refresher for the MCAT!

I will definetely let you know if I need some extra help. I got two wrong on our first quiz and they were stupid mistakes. I knew what I did the wrong the instant I reread them when we got them back. We finished the quiz and I was the only one saying that it wasn't that bad. Everyone else thought I was a bit nuts for that comment, but I really thought it wasn't too tough. It appears I may have received the best grade on the quiz or at least one of the tops. Needless to say, my confidence level is increased, but the first real hurdle-exam 1- is yet to come (early next week).

I keep finding myself forgetting to do a conversion or something, like trying to figure out centripetal force with a constant speed in kg/hr and forgetting I need m/s. I was tearing my hair out over a problem until I figured out I wasn't converting and once I converted properly, I had it! So, it's a lot of memorizing (I'm great at that) and getting used to the quirkiness of physics, the units, etc. I think this class will prepare me for the year of intensive physics I will be taking for premed, but I'm still scared of that!

Speaking of which, it seems it may be a good idea to take that year of physics close to the MCAT so it's fresh in my head. Any opinions/thought/advice on that from anyone? I'm working on my Bachelor's (Bio major), by the way, and I don't expect to have that completed (gotta work!) for 2 1/2-3 years so I have time, but it's all science from here on out as I have everything else satisfied (GER req's, etc).

Don’t forget your aim is to take the MCAT the spring after your Junior year, not after you finish your Bachelor’s degree (assuming you have the core prerequisites done then.


  • Kate429 Said:
Don't forget your aim is to take the MCAT the spring after your Junior year, not after you finish your Bachelor's degree (assuming you have the core prerequisites done then.


Good point. That helps! Thanks.

brightstorm.com is very helpful for physics, check it out…

Thanks for the new website to check out!

Thus far, I got a B on the first exam which to me is something to freak out about, so I was really, well, freaked! I got an A- on exam 2 and exam 3 was yesterday. I feel really good about it, but I don’t want to jinx myself. We’ll find out Monday our grades on Exam 3. So, it’s not awful, but I have to study way more for physics than any other subject ever. (I haven’t taken Orgo, yet, though!) I am determined to get an A in the class and I still can. At least an A- is possible, but I have to just kill the remaining exams. We do have an extra credit project that I signed up for, too, so that could raise my average, too. I’m hopeful and I’m no longer crying over physics! However, now I know when I take the year of more intense physics for premed req’s, I am going to have to really, really, really work hard, but at least I have some background in it to help me through.

Good for you! You can do it!

The hardest part of physics is cultivating a slow, step-by-step approach that lends itself well to creating well-organized thought patterns. In engineering school, we organized information into four sections, which helped to reduce the information overload.