A general approach to physics problems

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A GENERAL APPROACH TO PROBLEMS

I find every physics problem an intricate puzzle and have fun doing them. You too should try to find the logic behind each problem and simplify every problem to its roots. If you can try your best to actually have fun (to the best of your ability) and have a positive attitude with physics, even challenging problems should not pose as tedious work but simple logic puzzles which prove satisfying once solved. If you follow these steps, you will be able to solve problems efficiently (most of the time, problems are not difficult given enough time, the real difficulty lies in doing all the problems in the least amount of time).

First steps

Really understand what the question is asking you.

1.) Find out what concepts are involved?

-There are usually only 1 or 2 general concepts that it could be about so this step should be easy!

2.) What equations are at your disposal?

-Most of the time, these can be found on your formula sheet. Learn your formula sheet (i.e. what equations ARE on there, what you should memorize because it is NOT there. Use the formula sheet for the final throughout the term so you do not scramble during exams to find things)

3.) What information are you given?

-Summarize all the information given in a problem to variables and write it out under the question (i.e. velocity initial (vi) = 2000 meters per second, delta t = 5 seconds). This way you do not have to continuously refer to the question  this will save you time

4.) What information are you trying to solve for?

-If you can just substitute values you are given into an equation you remembered or found in your formula sheet, great. Otherwise, see below.


If you cannot solve just from the information given, devise a strategy to EFFICIENTLY solve for the information.

1.) Do you have sufficient information to simply solve for the problem or must you break up the question into separate parts (often, this is done for you to keep you on the right track, but other times, you need to figure this out yourself?

2.) Do you have too much information and should you ignore something extra given because it makes things too complicated?

3.) If you CANNOT figure out a question within 5 minutes, LEAVE IT, get back to it later