Survival Kit for Premeds: Physics

Physics is notorious for being one of the most tough subjects, especially for life science majors. Going into my first class of the physics series (Physics 6A), I was really nervous. Since my high school didn’t offer AP Physics, the only physics class I had taken was a regular physics class during my junior year that was very conceptual with little math calculations involved. Here are a couple of things I learned from my first quarter of physics at UCLA.

1) Previewing the material beforehand is very helpful. If you can set aside some time before the start of the quarter to preview the chapters that will be covered in class, you will definitely be able to understand the concepts more easily when the professor goes over them in class. Also, preview the material covered by the lecture before going to lecture. It will keep you from getting lost during lecture, especially if your professor is not a native speaker.

2) Do ALL of the masteringphysics homework problems. I don’t know if my professor was the only one who uses the homework problems for the exams, but he used the same exact problems from the homework numerous times. Make sure you know how to do all of the homework problems within 15 minutes each. The midterms are only 50 minutes long with 4 problems, and I assure you,, they can get a little bit stressful because of the time pressure.

3) Get a solution manual for the textbook. The solutions to the homework problems are posted after the deadline, which often times is too late for you to look and study off of for the midterms and finals. It’s better to just get the solution manual yourself, so that you’ll have it right there when you need it. But don’t be tempted to look at the solution manual every time you get stuck on a problem. Try to solve the questions on your own first, then check the answers. I realized that unlike other subjects, like biology, chemistry, or math, physics requires a longer critical thinking period. It wasn’t uncommon that I spend 30 minutes or longer to solve one single problem. With my short attention span and impatience, I struggled with this aspect of physics, but I think I kind of got used to it by the end of the quarter.

4) Visit the test bank for practice midterms and finals. As with any other class, it is always helpful to have sample tests to practice with. Don’t let these practice tests go to waste though! Set aside the allotted time to do each test like you would during the actual test. Time yourself and grade your tests right afterwards. Trust me. It will help you during the actual test. Sometimes, the professors will post a practice test online, but from my experience, those tests are easier than the actual test. So, do visit the test bank, and it may actually save your grade.

Physics was definitely one of the hardest classes that I took last quarter, but I noticed that the more time I spend on physics, the more I understood the concepts. I remember thinking to myself, “when will physics ever get easy?” but physics was a constant struggle for me until the very end. Good thing that the class is curved. Physics is hard for most people, if not everyone. To those who will be taking physics 6 series in the near future, stay on top of the material covered in class and don’t ever give up! You’ll be done with physics before you know it!