PSC 1121
Study Suggestions

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Updated: 12/22/2010

The following advice appears in the syllabus, but it is worth repeating.

How to succeed in Physical Science:

  1. Attend class every day. Ask questions if something is not clear.

  2. Read the assigned chapter before class.
    (Read it in the book, See it in class, then Apply it to the homework.)

  3. Review notes daily. Do not wait until the night before the exam to study.

  4. Check with your instructor as soon as possible if you do not understand a concept.

  5. Set aside two hours per day for studying: 1 hour for homework and reviewing the previous class, plus 1 hour for reading the chapter for the next class. (Read it in the book, See it in class, then Apply it to the homework.)

  6. Form a study group. Teaching each other is an excellent way to learn, and group members can help fill in gaps in each other's notes from class. (You can use the physics area of the Learning Commons.)

Studying a lot does not always equal studying effectively. Like the title of the book says, this course is as much about learning concepts as it is about learning facts. This makes science different from a history or humanities class, and also different from a math class.


There are some skills you need to develop or refine to succeed in this class in addition to the facts you need to learn. You may have used some of these in other classes, but you might have to put more emphasis on them here.

Some study techniques you might need to work on:

  1. Organizing your knowledge.
    You should maintain a master list of concepts and equations in the form you normally use them, grouped by topic, and answer questions from this list rather than from something you dredge up in the textbook. (We will give you key equations on the front of the exam and list them in the study guide for each exam.) You should not have to open your book to find what is needed for a homework problem, because it should already be in this list. You might have one page for each chapter or unit test, and part of your study time should be spent fine tuning it. Use the exam study guide to be sure you have not forgotten anything.

    You should build this organization of your knowledge around the first three items in the suggestions above. Read the chapter before class and start your outline for that chapter. You might come to class with a list of the concept(s) you think are important from the chapter, or a question about how it fits with what has been done already. See it in class, which you can only do if you attend. You can expect to see a demonstration of each new concept, which means one every day. We will also work examples on worksheets. Then you need to go home and Apply it to the homework and make an new outline that summarizes what you need to know from this chapter.

  2. Classifying the situation being asked about in a question
    For each kind of problem, you need to know how to identify what physical concepts are involved and what equation(s) apply to it. This applies to multiple choice as well as free-response tests! One way to attack this is to start each homework solution with a statement of what physical concept is being used, then write down the equation you will use to work out the details. This will also help you learn the concepts and equations if you take the advice in the previous suggestion about how to organize your knowledge.

    This is where items 4 and 6 from the study suggestions come in. Talk with other members of your study group about how they interpret a concept, or how they could tell a certain question was about conservation of energy. Ask me a question if a concept, or how to apply it, is not clear.

  3. Reviewing and practicing algebra skills.
    We assume you can solve simple equations with a single unknown, but there is more to the math in this course than computation. You will need to develop a new skill, which is identifying whether a relationship is linear, quadratic, inverse, inverse square, etc. We emphasize predicting the ratio of two numbers rather than calculating a specific number as a way of addressing the key concept in each physical law.


 ?? Contact me if you have any questions.