Advice from an online AP Physics Student

The following response was received to a discussion prompt in AP Physics B midway through first semester content.

Prompt: Could You be Working Smarter?

Sometimes work is accomplished by brute force (knocking down a door for example) and sometimes it is accomplished by substituting distance for force (using a crow bar to pry the door open).  In your work in this class, what have you had to accomplish by force, and what tips do you have for making it easier (knowing that the same net work has to be done) for you and your classmates.  Hint: the question is really about strategies for getting your physics assignments done. In other words what works and doesn’t work for you so far?

Student Response

Clearly I’m not the guy to talk to about good strategies for getting my physics assignments done (not on time, at least). That being said, I’ll gladly share what has not worked for me.

  • Trying to power through something when you’re having trouble: I can honestly say that at least 60% of my mistakes come from doing assigments in one go, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. If you’re struggling with a concept, or just having an off-day, take a breather and focus on some other coursework for a bit, preferably something not science or math-related. For me, working on my AP macroeconomics assignments, writing college admissions essays, performing feats of school newspaper Editor-In-Chiefery, or sometimes even going for a walk with my dog gives my science muscles the break that they need, and when I come back, I’m able to attack the problem from an angle (sometimes literally) that I hadn’t thought of before. If that still doesn’t work, ask Mrs. G for help; she’s a resource that I definitely didn’t use enough (’twas pride that sealed my fate). Don’t just try to finish the assignment for the sake of finishing it, make sure you know how to do it properly.
  • Taking the tests/quizzes before finishing the other work: This was a biggie for me. Tests and quizzes are the only assignments that you cannot stop midway through and come back to, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you tackle them. The Free-Response Questions, readings, book problems, and labs are designed to give you a full understanding of the concepts at play; they are resources to prepare you for the tests. Use them as such.
  • Getting overwhelmed: Who has two thumbs and doesn’t handle stress well?Thisguy(therearenospacesbecausemythumbsarepointingatmyfaceinsteadofoperatingthespacebar). If you have a ton of stuff to do, divide it up into manageable portions. Have 7 assignments you need to get done today? No you don’t; you have 3 to get done this morning, 2 during homeroom, and then only 2 to get done after your sports practice/part time job/Pokemon Appreciation club meeting (I don’t know what you guys do in your free time). And make sure you don’t let the Physics coursework cut into your beddy-bye-time; that extra hour or so of work that you get done isn’t nearly worth being exhausted all the next day. And don’t do physics right before bed, else you’ll have nightmares of killer Atwood machines, and pits and pendulums. Take some time to relax. Maybe take a bath, that’s how Archimedes invented the word “Eureka!” after all. (Full disclosure: I don’t remember that story very well.)
  • Writing way too much in a discussion post when you should be working on other coursework: No? Just me? Oops.

So there you have it, guys (and girls). Learn by my words, not by my example, and you’ll fly high (and then come back down, because that’s how projectile motion works). Good luck, and may God have mercy on our GPAs.

This Post is being reprinted here with permission from the author. I am not printing his name for privacy purposes. The word girls in the last paragraph replaces another student name.

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