Tips for Studying Physics


Consider using a three-ring binder when taking notes and organize the class notes via subject. The advantage to using a binder is that it allows you to move material in and out of your notebooks easily and to organize your thoughts it a way that is advantageous to you as opposed to the order it was presented. Take the time to review your notes between class. Make references to points you don’t fully understand and address these with your peers or the instructor.


Homework is designed to give you a workout with new ideas and technical tools for calculations. But homework is also here to help you prepare for exams. Often when we finish a homework assignment we are so delighted that we have the answer in the back of the book, or some partial credit that we miss an important part of completing the assignment: Review.

After receiving back a marked homework it is important to study your solutions to understand the mistakes you’ve made and where the gaps in your understanding are at. Compare your solutions to the instructors. At what point did you make your mistake? Is there a better way to solve these problems? Going back through old assignments is the best way to make sure that you learn the material completely before you are given an exam.

Other Resources

There are multiple resources available to you to succeed in physics. The Physics Tutorial Center in 319A is staffed with graduate students who can help you with conceptual difficulties whenever it fits into your schedule. Additionally office hours with your instructor or T.A.’s offer more specific assistance to you. If you cannot attend regularly scheduled office hours, send your instructor or T.A. an email and work out a time that you can come by. Taking advantage of public space to study with your peers can also help clear up uncertain subjects and cement your understanding of the rest.

Tutoring & Outreach

Tutoring is a great way to reinforce your understanding of physics and mathematics. Trying to get into someone else’s head to see why they don’t understand a concept is difficult, but in trying to do so you will often attack a problem from a variety of viewpoints. There is also a positive pressure when tutoring for you to fully understand the material.

This can range from peer tutoring while working on homework assignments together, to taking part in Physics Outreach. Demonstrating physics principals to the general public is a rewarding experience both for yourself and your audience.


All of the faculty in the Department of Physics are actively involved in research. Take advantage of the close atmosphere here and ask the faculty if you can get involved in a research project. Sometimes one can receive a stipend through various University and Departmental awards, but you are encouraged to do research regardless of weather you receive a stipend or not.

Seminars & Colloquia

All students are invited to the colloquia that are offered in the department. Student presence is a source of pride for the department as it makes a strong statement to visitors about the level of participation of our students. It is never necessary to “understand” a colloquium or talk in its fullest as there is always something to get out of listening to someone trying to be a public speaker. Sometimes the speakers are job candidates and your exposure to what it takes to be a convincing speaker could go a long way in your career. Also feel free to join a research seminar to see the research as it is being developed.