Hot Tips for Success in Physical Sciences Classes

We have to give credit where credit is due. Most of these tips came from Professors, Tutors, and other students. Just remember...everyone learns a little bit differently...if you try one of these ideas and it does not work for you, don't give up completely, keep trying different methods until you succeed.

General Tips for All Classes

1. GO TO YOUR PROFESSORS' OFFICE HOURS - You will hear this a million times but it is absolutely true. The professors often sit through entire office hours without a single student coming to see them. Don't be shy or embarrassed to ask questions. It seems to help to have one or more specific questions to ask. This helps break the ice a little. Then you can relax and ask them more general questions or about their research, etc.. If you do this you will find that you end up understanding the class better and feeling more connected to the instructor.

2. WORK ON THE HOMEWORK, CONCEPTS, PROBLEM SOLVING A LITTLE EACH DAY - Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics are very different from other subjects. You should not wait till the end of the week and try to study all of it at once. You will do much better in the long run if you work out problems each day. If you run out of problems to solve or concepts to understand...go back over the ones you did a couple of days ago. The better you understand the problem solving / concepts / mechanisms, the better you will do on your exams.

3. DO ALL OF THE READING FOR THE WEEK BEFORE YOU GO TO LECTURE - You cannot learn Math and Physics and Chemistry by just hearing about it. You need to first read the information in your book, try to work some problems, then go to lecture. This will help you actually understand what the professor is saying rather than just taking notes on a concept you have never seen before. Memorizing everything that the professor says in class will not get you A's on the have to really understand the material and be able to draw conclusions, solve problems, etc.

Chemistry 51ABC Tips

1. STUDY MECHANISMS EVERYDAY - Organic Chemistry is difficult in that you have to KNOW the mechanisms by heart. This means memorizing them over and over again. If you work on it a little each day rather than trying to get them all the day before the exam, you will do much better.

2. GO TO CHEMISTRY DEPARTMENT TUTORING - Use the free Chemistry Department tutoring. You can go to as many sessions as you want. This is a good way to go over material and also meet other students to form study groups. They also hold special reviews before midterms and finals.

3. REMEMBER THAT YOU WILL NEED THIS MATERIAL LATER - It is easy to question the necessity of what you're learning when you don't see the connection to your other classes. Be assured that you WILL use the material from 51ABC later when you take Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Your grades in those classes will be the direct result of how well you understand organic chemistry.

Physics Tips

1. PHYSICS CONSISTS OF TWO PARTS: CONCEPTS AND EQUATIONS - You need to be able to understand both parts to do well in Physics. If you are having trouble with the concepts, buy or borrow a good conceptual physics book (Hewitt's Conceptual Physics). Reading a text like this will help you grasp the concepts better. If you are having trouble with the equations the only way to get better is to work more of them. You should work the equations out first by yourself. Seeing the solution to the problem or someone else work it WILL NOT help you learn the skills to solve it. After you have worked out all of the problems the best you can, get together with some other students in the class and compare results. This helps all of you see various approaches to the equation while learning the problem solving skills you need.

2. YOU CANNOT MEMORIZE PHYSICS AND EXPECT TO DO WELL - Memorizing a lot of physics history will not help you do well in Physics. You have to understand concepts and equations work and how to apply them to different situations in order to survive.

3. BRUSH UP ON YOUR CALCULUS - Physics has a lot of math in it. You will do much better if you review your calculus before and during the class.