Many students dread having to take physics in college, especially non-physics and non-engineering students.
While every instructor is different, most want you to succeed in this subject.
In order to help the instructor, you must put something in the "show all work" word problems.
Here's a secret: relevant information aimed at solving the problem will probably get you more points than a blank page.
Below is a brief outline of how to organize your answer so you will get more points.
- Clearly state the question you are looking to answer. Yes, this may seem silly at first, but as you develop your problem-solving skills over the years, this will help you become efficient. You'll know the problem and you will not have to re-read the original text to verify what you need to resolve for to get total credit for your work.
- List the given information. If you know the problem type, write it down. If you are given numerical values and units, write it down. If there are known physical values you know are needed, write it down. Essentially you are creating an area where you are summarizing information you'll need later.
- Draw a diagram. Diagrams are critical for understanding the problem at hand. Physical directions for your variable (s) matter. Scale matters. Showing angles and the variables linked to the angles matter. A well drawn and labeled diagram speaks volumes about your understanding of the problem. As you progress from Linear Motion to Electricity and Waves, etc., this skill is invaluable in communicating your solution attempt.
- List the relevant equations. List the equations in long form, with no numerical substitutions. Here you are showcasing that equations needed to solve this problem. Share this before you solve or make errors. In general, you will need the same number of equations as there are unknowns in the problem.
- Simplify the equation (s) and solve for your unknown (s). This is where your algebra skills pay off. Yes, if some of the values in the equation are zero (0), draw an arrow through the variable and put a zero (0) at the arrowhead. Solve for your desired unknown (s) without inserting numeric values. The bulk of the work is here. You finish this step and the rest is easy.
- Insert your given numerical values with units into the solved equation (s). Yes, put the units in also. Many mistakes are made by only substituting the numbers and assuming the units will work themselves out. This is a mistake. You must do both numerical and unit analysis to arrive at the correct solution.
- Solve for the numeric answer with proper units. Plug and chug the numbers on you calculator.
- Answer the Question. Go back to the first step and give the answer to the problem.
While this list may seem long, remember, these types of problem are usually worth the most and are the difference between getting C's and A's.
Applying these 8 steps begin with your homework assignments.
You'll develop problem solving skills quickly with this technique and will fill the test page with relevant information that will increase your scores and your physics understanding.
Yes, you must practice, practice, practice.