What can you do to prepare well for a physics exam?

Whether you are interested in atomic, molecular, nuclear or optical physics, preparing for the physics finals can seem like a daunting task. Interpreting and applying formulas that define velocity, static or kinetic energy can be challenging to memorize, especially when you are a first- year student. The lack of motivation, inadequate learning techniques, or poor time management skills could be some of the reasons for failing exams. However, there are a few simple recommendations each physics student could consider making exam preparation as easy and convenient as possible.

Firstly, it is important to start preparing for exams early! Even though many students state that they plan to start studying for their finals as soon as the lectures start, most do not follow through with this decision, and begin preparing for their exam only one or two days in advance. Needless to say, this much time is usually not enough to read the materials, let alone understand what needs to be learned. It is recommended that students start with intensive studying sessions at least one or two weeks before the scheduled exam. Always remember that Sir Isaac Newton also took some time to sit under the tree before an apple fell onto his head and inspired him to develop the theory of gravity.

Organizing your studying schedule is the key to success. When starting to prepare for the physics finals, you may consider outlining the list of topics and reviewing activities in your daily schedule. Each activity needs to be planned and placed in the right order just as is the periodic system of elements. It is recommended that you plan to cover a small portion of exam material each day and do a mini-review after the completion of each topic. It is essential that you stick to your plan and do not postpone any of the planned activities for another day as this practice will adversely impact your working routine and decrease your chances of getting a high mark on your physics exam.

After the preparation phase, the time has come to begin the studying process. It is essential to acquire all learning materials including books and presentation or concept notes. Do not expect to understand Hawking’s multiverse theory as soon as you open the book. During the first reading, you may consider skimming through the text to get yourself acquainted with the content. During the later readings, it is recommended that students outline and summarize each chapter of the book and highlight the most important parts of the text. Afterwards, students should consider reviewing each part of the lesson to make sure that they understand and remember all parts of the lesson well. 

Some students may benefit from making flashcards where they write Newton’s laws, measurements, formulas or other useful information required for physics exams. This studying technique is similar to outlining and involves writing down pieces of information from the outlined text to a piece of paper. Some say this effort is nearly half of the studying process, because students will memorize some information as they copy it to flashcards. Once you complete and combine all flashcards together, you will have a portable study packet you can bring with you wherever you go.

It is good to remember that you can always look for help when you face difficulties memorizing concepts that you do not understand. Physicists always need to collaborate with each other to solve complex problems. Remember that you can always talk to your teachers or peers about the glitches you have relating to specific information. You can also ask your family members to help you revise the concept notes through a quiz game based on the flashcards you created earlier.

You must get sufficient sleep. The view of the night sky can be stunning. All the mysteries related to the beginning of the universe seem much closer when the sun sets over the horizon. This might be a reason why many students believe it is a good idea to study long hours during the night. Some may also turn to consuming large amounts of caffeine through coffee or energy drinks to help them stay awake. However, people need at least seven to eight hours of sleep each day. Sleep deprivation may lead to serious adverse consequences to health as it disrupts the normal hormonal rhythm and sleeping and wakefulness patterns. Increased caffeine intake can increase levels of stress, as well as blood pressure and heart rate. All these physiological reactions to caffeine can make students feel more anxious and reduce their learning capabilities.

You need to remember to stay calm and not panic! When you take the first glance at your final physics test, it may look overwhelming and scary. You may initially start to panic because it seems you do not know any of the right answers. If this should happen, remember to breathe and begin solving questions that appear easier and provide answers to all questions you know. When you relax a little, proceed to the questions that are more difficult. Always remember that the answer to every problem is somewhere in the materials you read as you prepared for the exam, so take a little time to connect the dots and retrieve your knowledge.  


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