Whether or not you go to Hopkins, there is a good chance you’ve taken or will have to take two semesters of physics. It’s a requirement for many majors and highly recommended for pre-medical students. However, if you’re reading this and you’re a high school student, I’d highly recommend taking (and of course doing well on) the AP exam in both Physics Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. Getting double 5’s just may come in handy once you’re in college. To those that did and placed out of both Physics 1 and 2 – I envy you.
In this blog post, I’m going to be talking about the three biggest tips I have for getting through and doing well in Physics 2. While Physics 2 is by no means one of the most difficult classes offered at Hopkins, the amount of work it takes is often underestimated by students – especially freshmen. So help me, help you, beat the system.
1) Actively watch pre-lectures
I say this with an emphasis on “ACTIVELY”. For those who don’t know, pre-lecture assignments are universities’ way of exposing students to physics subject matter before they come to class. It piggy backs on the reverse classroom initiative, where students are initially exposed to material at home and then their knowledge of that material is furthered during class. Most of the time the pre lecture is a set of videos – each explaining a particular concept. These assignments are helpful IF you actually take notes while watching the videos. During my first semester, when I was in Physics 1 and grades were covered, I found that I could get by by simply listening to the videos. However, when I tried doing that this semester for Physics 2, I realized that boy I was wrong. Not only is the material more difficult this semester, I also hold myself to a higher standard now that grades actually count now. Yipee!
2) Don’t sit next to your buddies during lecture
Even though it is extremely tempting to pop a squat next to your best buds in class, I’ve found that there is a negative correlation between how close you are with the people you are sitting next to and the amount of information you learn during a lecture. When I sit next to my friends, it doesn’t take much for me to lose my focus. In seconds I’ve gone from attentively listening to a lecture about electric fields and Gauss’s Law to having a Facebook Poke war with my friends sitting next to me. All of that is not to say that you can’t learn sitting next your friends. In fact, if you’re sitting next to someone you know, you can consult with them if you’re struggling with a concept. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll try to sit away from your friends for a couple of classes and then use the fact that you can ask them for help if you’re sitting next to them to justify to yourself why you’re sitting with them again.
3. Don’t fall behind
Unfortunately, falling behind is easier than catching up. This is true not only for physics, but also for any cumulative class. By cumulative I’m referring to any class where every new topic assumes your understanding of the previous material. Surprisingly, I’ve found that whenever I’ve fallen behind in a class it’s because I’d thought I was doing well. For instance, on my first midterm this semester in physics, I did pretty well (at least compared to the average lol). I had worked really hard for this, but shortly after I received my grade I stopped putting in nearly as much effort. Luckily, I caught myself and have been spending more time on the weekends trying to learn all the information I may have missed from passively watching pre lectures or by fooling around during class. Let me tell ya, catching up is not fun – especially when you’re in a bunch of other class that demand a certain time commitment every week. In fact, it may even be beneficial to get ahead of your class. However, this is better said than done.
I’d say that these are the three biggest tips I have for getting through a semester of physics. Obviously, there are other measures you can take to do well in the class – take good notes, highlight information in your textbook, maybe even go to your professors’ office hours. But I’m sure you already knew that. Even though it may seem that the people who do well in physics are geniuses, there is a good chance that they aren’t – they probably just know how to study (and have read this blog post ;)). These tips work for me, and trust me I’m no genius.