Physics can be intimidating—all those pulleys, protons, laws and formulas. If you approach it with the right mindset, however, even the trickiest problems are not as scary as you think.
When you are faced with a tough question, keep a cool head and apply these tips to help you work through the problem. Here are four tips for solving any Physics problem.
1. Figure out what THE SUBJECT IS
Try to figure out the context first.
Every question is testing specific knowledge. When you read the question, look for keywords and phrases that reveal the topic. You don’t have to understand all the small details, but once you know what you’re dealing with in general, you will know how to formulate your answer.
2. Identify what you are TRYING TO FIND
This simple step can save a lot of time. Before starting to solve the problem, think about what the answer will look like.
What are the units? Is the final answer going to be in kilograms or litres? Determining restrictions on the answer early ensures you to answer the specific question instead of problem solving on the wrong thing.
3. Organize the INFORMATION you know
Think about what details the problem mentions. The information needed to solve is likely already there. It is good to remember that many physics problems have very crucial information in the wording. A car starting from rest, for instance, means your initial velocity is zero.
Read the question carefully, don’t miss crucial information and quickly organize and write down every quantity you know from the problem, then proceed to try to solve it.
4. Consider your FORMULAS
List and organize your formulas in front of you. Which formula can help you solve the question? What equations include the quantities you know and also the one you’re looking for? If you have the mass of an object and a force and you’re trying to find the acceleration, start with F=ma (Newton’s second law).
If you’re having trouble figuring out which equation to use, go back to the first tip. What equations are associated with the topic?
The way to know which equation to use depends on two main issues: the variables given to you in the equation and your experience. The more problems you solve, the more you will become familiar with strategies for picking the right formula.
Physics sounds complicated, but most of its basic level questions are similar – once you get the concept, you get the solution. It’s about experience, confidence and organization. Tackle the physics problems patiently and you may unexpectedly start to excel in them!