HOW TO STUDY
From my perspective Physics is a truly beautiful subject.
It is the most fascinating, stimulating, awe inspiring subject in the
world. However, when you are first learning Physics it can seem a very
difficult subject, even if you too really enjoy it or are fascinated by
The following are a few suggestions that may
help you to study Physics in an efficient, effective and productive
Acquire a quiet place to use as your
"Study". For high school students this will often be your
Set up a good study space - desk,
comfortable chair, good lighting & ventilation, storage space for
books & equipment. You must be comfortable before you can
Remove all distractions. No music,
TV, video or computer games or any other distractions can be allowed
to interfere with your study time. AND PLEASE - don't even
attempt to convince me that YOU can study better with the TV or
music turned on. This is a complete misconception. You
may believe that it is true but I can assure you, there are
many scientific studies that clearly show that not even the very top
students can study as productively with such distractions present as
when the distractions are removed. So, get rid of all
distractions while you study. You can listen to the music,
play games, watch TV in your breaks. In the end you are only
in senior school for a very brief period of time. Make the
most of it.
Organize a regular study routine that works
for you. Everyone is different and it may take a little bit of
mucking around to find the routine that works best for you, but once you
have it, stick with it. Consistency is the key. Study
must become a habit, especially if you are thinking of going onto
tertiary study. Note that you do not have to be as rigorous as
studying exactly the same subject or topic at exactly the same time
each day or week. What is important is that you give
everything its fair share of time. Things you find more
difficult should even be given slightly more time than things you
Get all daily homework done each day.
Plan and set time to work on homework that is due at some time in
the future. Study something each day. This may be for as
little as fifteen minutes if you have had a huge amount of homework
that day. You may be able to study for much longer than this
each day or on some days. BUT study something each day!
Does this mean 7 days per week? Totally up to you but I would
suggest that your study program should run on at least 6 days per
Set goals for yourself each week and each
term. Reward yourself when you achieve these goals.
Stay fit and healthy. Get plenty of
sleep, exercise and relaxation. You cannot study well if you
are worn out. It's all about balance. Try to balance
work with play.
POINTS SPECIFIC TO PHYSICS (and other
Use your copy of the Syllabus
as a Study Guide to help produce topic
summaries in your own words. You should produce summaries in
this way as you cover the material in class. Don't leave it
just before your exams to write all your summaries. If you do not
have a Syllabus, ask your Teacher for one or download a copy from the
Board of Studies Website - the URL is on my Links page in the
Links section. Make sure
you get the right version. It is the Stage 6 Physics Syllabus
approved June 1999 and amended October 2002.
Ensure you can answer all points mentioned
in the Syllabus to the level required by the verb used. You
must learn the meanings of the verbs as specified in the Glossary of
Terms published by the Board of Studies. Try the
Verb Practice exercises located at this link. Make sure
your teacher has supplied you with a Glossary of Terms.
Your teacher should be able to provide you
with scaffolds for each verb. Scaffolds are examples of words
and sentence structures that can be used to effectively answer each
You must practise writing answers to each
particular verb. Get some practice questions from your teacher
or from one of the many Physics summary
or question books around and write out the answers. Discuss
your answer with your teacher or with someone else who knows what
they are talking about. Ask how to improve your answers.
There is only one way to improve your skill
at solving mathematical problems. You must do as many problems
as possible. You must ask your teacher or again someone who
knows what they are doing for guidance when you strike trouble.
Force yourself to practise mathematical physics problems.
Write down what you know from the question and identify what you are
trying to find. Use the things you have been told about in the
question as a guide to the appropriate formula or method of
solution. Train yourself to ask the right questions to guide
you through the problem. You won't solve the problem by just
staring at it. You have to think it through and the best way
to do that is to ask yourself questions about the situation.
It takes practice but you will get the hang of it if you persist.
With formulas my advice is simple.
Even though you are given formula sheets in every exam, why waste
time having to look them up? Learn all formulas off by heart.
Yes, it's boring and painful but it will save time in exams.
When trying to learn formulas or anything
else off by heart repetition is the key. Say the thing you are
trying to remember out loud over and over again or write it down
over and over again. Do this until you can remember it. Then a
day later see how much of it you can remember. Test yourself
and if you cannot get it 100% accurate, repeat the process.
Repeat the process at regular intervals leading up to exams.
Psych yourself up for exams. Tell
yourself you have prepared well, that you know everything you need
to know and that you are going to do well. Of course, you must
have actually done the study & preparation for this to be of any use
Have all the necessary equipment & spares.
Know the details of the exam - venue, length of exam, topics being
examined, number of
sections, types of questions, special requirements etc. Also,
work out how long you should spend on each section in the exam.
Arrive at the venue in plenty of time for
the exam but do not stand around discussing what you or other people
may not have studied. Do not be worried by the "panic merchants".
Be confident in yourself and in what you have studied. Be
Don't try to cram 15 minutes of extra study
into your head just before you enter the exam room. If you
have studied, you already know it. If you haven't, 15 minutes
will make no difference at all.
Listen to & read all instructions
carefully. Answer the questions in whatever order best suits
you. I always found it best at high school to simply do the
paper from question 1 through to the end. If you cannot do a
in a reasonable time, leave it and come back at the end. Never
leave a multiple choice unanswered - if you still do not know the
answer at the end of the exam guess it. Stick to your times
for each section. There is no point spending an extra five
minutes getting an extra mark or two in one section and then not
finishing the exam.
Stay calm in the exam no matter what
happens. Panicking wastes time and achieves nothing. If
you have a mental block on something, move on and come back later.
Almost certainly you will remember whatever it was you were trying
to think of. If you think of something important that you
think you might forget before you get to use it, write it down
somewhere, so you can read it later when you actually need it.
Some people find it helpful, especially in
long exams to know some breathing or relaxation exercises that they
can do to control their stress. If you think this may help
you, speak to your teacher, Year Coordinator or School Counsellor to
find out who to see or where to go to learn these techniques.
If time permits, check over your answers.
Make sure your name or number is on all
answer sheets & hand everything up as requested by the supervisors.
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