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If you’re looking to get into the STEM fields after completing Year 12, are keen to enhance your problem solving skills or simply have an interest in exploring the way in which matter moves within our natural environment you’re most likely studying the science of Physics.
It can be difficult to know how to study and plan ahead for such a complicated and in-depth subject. However, despite Physics having a content heavy curriculum, there are plenty of effective ways you can prepare yourself to ace that Physics exam.
We spoke with Jamie Saunders, Head of Science and Year 12 Physics teacher at Kardinia International College, about the best study tips and tricks to give yourself a leg up when it comes to crushing Physics.
This old chestnut is nothing you haven’t heard before, but when it comes to the for physics the key to success is starting your preparation early.
Throughout the entire year, Saunders suggests you take notes during class and highlight important equations and definitions as you go. This is a crucial first step in being able to put your knowledge into practice and apply it to questions, he adds.
Saunders says as a physics student it’s important to be able to clearly set out your solutions. ‘You not only need to refine your knowledge but also the way you set out your working and answers,’ he explains.
‘When answering some questions, it helps a lot to draw a simple diagram of the situation as you see it,’ Saunders says. This technique of drawing it up aids you in visualising the problem; ‘it may give you insight that you may not otherwise have had,’ he adds.
In order to differentiate yourself from the pack and finish among the best, you need to ‘understand the underlying physics in an exam question’.
‘Many students will be able to answer the “plug and chug” mathematical questions,’ but in order to distinguish yourself from the rest, ‘be able to find solutions to higher-order worded questions that cannot be answered with a stock phrase from a revision sheet,’ he explains.
'Understanding the underlying physics is the key to maximising your score.'
Head of Science and Year 12 Physics teacher, Kardinia International College
One of the best ways to check your knowledge is to answer the questions from that big old book you’ve been carrying to class all year – your Physics textbook.
‘Questions from textbooks and past exams are the best way to test your knowledge,’ Saunders recommends. ‘Do a few complete papers open book, then do some timed papers.’
As you progress through the papers continue to take notes of the areas you need to improve on and mark those on your list to revise again later on, as well as continually adding important material to your revision sheet.
The first port of call when it comes to your student resources are typically teachers or your peers. However, at times these immediate resources are not always available. In this case Saunders recommends searching the web.
‘YouTube contains millions of physics videos of many different styles, and this is one of the greatest resources. Animations and simulations such as will also help you understand key ideas.’
Science may typically be seen as a solo subject when it comes time to study, however Saunders explores the benefits of studying physics in a group dynamic.
‘Studying Physics in a group allows for teaching and learning opportunities,’ he explains. ‘If someone in the group can answer a question or understand a topic then they will benefit from teaching others in the group.’
Of course, as with most subjects, it’s always important to prepare a comprehensive revision sheet containing key concepts, definitions and equations. However, ‘a good student should not need this much by the time they come to the exam,’ Saunders asserts.
Once again it all comes back to the level of understanding of the underlying physics in a question. ‘If you put in the effort to properly understand the Physics then you will be able to answer the worded questions much more coherently and fully,’ Saunders explains.
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