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How to Get an “A” in Physics

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How to Get an “A” in Physics

How to get an "A" in Physics

 

By Andrew Kuhry-Haeuser, Carmenta Founder

Success in high school or basic college physics comes down to 3 factors:

1) Knowing your formulas.
2) Knowing how to determine which formula applies to the problem you’re trying to solve.
3) Knowing how to solve the equations produced when you apply a formula to a problem.

1) Knowing your formulas.

If your teacher doesn’t require that you memorize formulas for tests, then you’re set. (Some Physics teachers hand out or allow students to make a formula reference card to use during tests.) But if your teacher does make you memorize the formulas for tests, you’ll need to spend some time creating mnemonic devices that will make it impossible for you to forget the formulas.

Example:

An important formula used in most high school and college beginning Physics classes is:

v = v0 + at

Which stands for:

final velocity = initial velocity + (acceleration x time)

An effective way to memorize this and other formulas is to create a shared-acronym expression, the first letter of each word in a made-up sentence matching the letters of the variables and first letters of the signs in the formula in order:

v Very
= Early
v0 VOters
+ Pick
a A
t Ticket

Or, with even less effort, the student can create a straightforward acronym, which is just the variables and first letters of the signs turned into a word:

v V
= E
v0 VO
+ P
a A
t T

VEVOPAT (pronounced “vee-vo-pat””)

Obviously, most of the time you won’t end up with an existing English word, but the oddness of the acronym will in fact make it easier to remember, just so long as you always pronounce it as a single word.

2) Knowing how to determine which formula applies to the problem you’re trying to solve.

a) First identify the pieces of numerical information provided in the problem as well as the ones you need to find.

b) Write these pieces of information in a column.

c) Change words in the problem to their standard abbreviations or symbols as seen in the formulas.

d) Find the formula (or sometimes two formulas together) that contain all of the pieces of information (both the ones given and the ones you need to find) without any extras.

Example:

A race car accelerates at 3.20 m/s2 along a straight track from a dead stop for 32.8 s until it crosses the finish line. What is the total distance traveled?

a) First identify the given pieces of numerical information provided in the problem as well as the ones you need to find.

The problem gives us the acceleration:

(A race car accelerates at 3.20 m/s2 along a straight track from a dead stop for 32.8 s until it crosses the finish line. What is the total distance traveled?)

acceleration = 3.2 m/s2

It gives us the time:

(A race car accelerates at 3.20 m/s2 along a straight track from a dead stop for 32.8 s until it crosses the finish line. What is the total distance traveled?)

time = 32.8 s

And it gives us the initial velocity:

(A race car accelerates at 3.20 m/s2 along a straight track from a dead stop for 32.8 s until it crosses the finish line. What is the total distance traveled?)

initial velocity = 0 m/s

Note: We see here that numerical information won’t always be provided in the form of a clear number. Sometimes the student has to interpret the question and translate it into numerical information.

The problem tells us that we need to find the distance:

(A race car accelerates at 3.20 m/s2 along a straight track from a dead stop for 32.8 s until it crosses the finish line. What is the total distance traveled?)

distance = ?

b) Next, write these pieces of information in a column.

acceleration = 3.2 m/s2

time = 32.8 s

initial velocity = 0 m/s

distance = ?

c) Third, change the units in the problem to their standard abbreviations or symbols as seen in the formulas.

a = 3.2 m/s2

t = 32.8 s

vi = 0 m/s

d = ?

d) Fourth, find the formula (or sometimes two formulas together) that contain all of the pieces of information (both the ones given and the ones you need to find) without any extras.

The physics formula that contains all four of these variables, both known ones and those you’re trying to find is:

d = vi t + 0.5 a t2

You then just need to plug the numbers, with their units, into the formula:

d = (0 m/s) (32.8 s) + 0.5 (3.20 m/s2) (32.8 s)2

3) Knowing how to solve the equations produced when you apply the formula to the problem.

Fortunately, this just means applying algebra, and if you’re taking Physics, then you will have almost certainly already taken both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. Even if you didn’t get A’s in those classes but only passed, your algebra skills should still be sufficient to solve any equation you’ll encounter in Physics.

Take your equation that now has only one unknown variable:

d = (0 m/s) (32.8 s) + 0.5 (3.20 m/s2) (32.8 s)2

Then solve for it using algebra:

d = 1720 m

If you would like to increase your chances of getting an “A” in Physics, I also encourage you to consider hiring one of Carmenta Online PhD Tutors’ highly experienced Physics tutors. We have a large faculty of science, math, language, and SAT tutors as well. We go out of our way to provide each student with the individualized approach that he or she needs.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Kuhry-Haeuser
Magister Andrew Kuhry-Haeuser has a B.A. (Honors) in Latin from Gonzaga University. He is currently the Founder and Head of both Carmenta Online PhD Tutors and Grey Fox Tutors. Magister Andrew has taught a number of classes for Carmenta, including "Classical Literature" and all levels of Latin, Conversational Latin, and Ancient Greek. He has also tutored a wide range of subjects, including Latin, Ancient Greek, English, Writing, German, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Geology, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and History.

Click here to see Magister Andrew’s full profile on the Carmenta website.

 

 

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