School of Physics

Traditional Introductory Physics I
PHYS 2211 A & B

How to Earn an A in Physics

For the past few terms, all students earning an A in PHYS 2211 were invited to pass on any advice they might have for students in subsequent semesters. Here are the responses from last Spring, in the order they were received. We hope that you will benefit from their suggestions. The only editing of these remarks has been for spelling, and to remove material that was not advice to students (advice to instructors, for example). At the bottom of the page, you will find links to similar advice from earlier semesters.
Bonus Homework is now called Practice Homework, to emphasize that its importance is in the practice, not in the bonus. PRS refers to an old in-class polling system, like the current TurningPoint system.

Number 1 go to class and really be serious about prs especially if your professor counts it as a grade not just mere attendance

Number 2 stay on top of your homework it is easy points so just dont forget

Take recitation and lab serious, have fun but both are easy ways to up your grade … Lab recitation and hw is 15% that you can easily score almost close to perfect on.


Thats about it and oh don't get discouraged if you bomb a test because the test scaling* will make it really worth nothing just keep working harder to get some good tests grades and you'll surprise yourself

* A note from Dr. Murray: Presumably JJ is referring to the test weighting scheme, by which each student's poorest test grade counts the least, and each students best test grade counts the most. You should NOT expect your test grades, or the course grades, to be "scaled".

In the days before a quiz, print off all of the previous quizzes at the library (free if you haven't used your printing allowance for the week) and work them all. Go through the solution immediately after completing a problem so it is still fresh. Pay attention to the way the solutions are formed and model your own answers accordingly. Make sure if there is something that you are not 100% sure of, you read the text to help clear things up or seek help from others. The same concepts are tested semester after semester, so if you can master the old quizzes, you WILL do well. Good Luck!

The most important things to do to get a good grade in this class are actually trying on the mastering physics and doing the practice problems at the end of the chapters to study for the tests. At the end of the day it comes down to putting in the effort.

For the next semester physics class I would like to give the following suggestions. I would ask them to practice and learn from the old quizzes, do some of the conceptual questions at the end of the chapter and do very well in most of the quizzes. This will help in two ways firstly that shows that we understand the concepts well and will help for the finals, secondly it will give us more rooms for making mistakes in the finals.

Best of luck!!!

The way I prepared for my quizzes was by doing at least two practice tests from the previous semesters and reading and taking notes on each chapter in the days preceding the quizzes. Figure out how to do every single homework problem and why you're doing it that way, and then you should really be confident that you understand the material.

Here is some advice I have for incoming PHYS 2211 students:

  1. Do the homework without using google. I believe that doing the homework by myself helped me get a better grasp of the concepts.
  2. Read through the book or notes. They provide you with the fundamentals.
  3. Learn the equations. There is not one test question that I did not use the equations on. Learning them will also help you understand them.
  4. Do the practice tests. Though the problems are not identical, they are often similar and are always of the same difficulty.

That set of advice got me through the entire semester.

This is not an easy class by any means, but if you're determined to earn an A, it's completely possible. Definitely go to class every day. If you miss a few days, it shouldn't matter too much. Just make sure you get notes from a friend. There are 3 graded homeworks every week, so don't forget to do those. Once again, a few missed homeworks won't make too much of a difference as long as you do well on the rest of them. There are many opportunities for bonus points on the homeworks, so it's not difficult to get above a 100% homework average. This should go without saying, but go to your lab and recitation and pay attention. Honestly, the recitation didn't help me much, but I can't speak for everyone. The labs are somewhat tedious, but they aren't difficult. Find a lab partner who isn't lazy and you'll be fine. The hardest thing about this class is the quizzes. I personally started studying the weekend before (the tests are on Monday). Me and a couple of friends would go through all the practice problems (these are "due" Saturday, but they aren't graded) that were relevant to the upcoming quiz. It helps to have other people to work with, but make sure you can do all of the problems by yourself before the quiz. Look over old practice quizzes too. They're very similar to the type of problems you'll see on your quizzes. Don't wait until the night before to start studying. Spend at least a few days studying, and spend 3-4 hours each day. If you're struggling to understand a certain topic, you should spend more time not only studying, but going to office hours. One more piece of advice: You have to want to do well. If you're okay with settling for a C it'll be much harder to get that A.

My biggest piece of advice is that I think its really important to realize that this class is hard- but definitely NOT impossible if you put forth the effort. After hearing about this class from friends, I never thought I would make an A, but its definitely do-able if you figure out a plan that helps you learn the material and stick with it.

This is what I did:

Finally, stay positive — I failed a quiz and still got an A. You can do it! Good luck!

To me getting an in PHYS 2211 turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. In this context, "easier" is not necessarily associated with not much work. In fact, it means if you are willing to put in enough work an A is not that challenging to get. It was also easier than I expected because the difficulty of the work I did wasn't as hard as I was expecting. Here are some tips I can give that describe the work I did to help me get an A:

This is what I did:

  1. MOST IMPORTANTLY, any lecture learning, homework, studying, or practice problems you do, do it in a mindset of trying to learn the concepts behind the question rather than just trying to learn how to do that specific question. I can't stress this enough! A lot of co-students I talked to in the class always expressed how they didn't like doing the mastering physics homework because they felt like it was worthless. And to be honest doing the mastering physics homework is where I did a lot of my learning. Now of course, sometimes the homework was pretty pointless, but most of the times if you take the above approach it cuts down on a lot of the learning you would have to do right before a test.
  2. Like everyone stresses, get the basically free 25 points to your grade, by going to all of your labs, recitation, and classes as well as doing the mastering physics homework. Even if you zone out in class still go for the easy points. (But don't go to zone out, go with the above approach. It will help in the long run!)
  3. Do all of the practice problems from the weekends on mastering physics. These problems are given to you for a reason. They represent huge concepts that need to be learned to well on tests if the time is taken to fully understand how each problem works. It's important to note that these do not have to be done by the deadline online, just by the time of the test that material is over. So don't stress yourself out trying to get it done by deadline.
  4. Do as many practice tests as possible. I did every one of the previous ones if I had the time. I highly stress doing this. And when you take them, DO THE PROBLEMS BEFORE YOU LOOK AT THE ANSWERS. This goes back to having the mindset mentioned in # 1.

Hope this helps!

  1. Don't simply go to class, pay attention and actively participate. If you think you will get distracted, sit up front. If there is a single thing that I believed helped me do well, it was that I sat in the first row and participated.
  2. Do the masteringphysics homework yourself. Some people may copy the answers, but that doesn't help them in the least. By actually doing the homework myself, I truly felt I was learning the material, especially since it really prepared me for the test.
  3. The best way to study for the tests is by completely working through the problems from previous tests. Use the test preparation provided on the physics website and work out each and every problem from the tests from previous semesters. Oftentimes, they use similar concepts and will greatly prepare you for the upcoming test. Sometimes you will even get lucky and have a problem on your test (usually multiple choice) that is near, if not, the same as a problem from a previous test.


Practise, practise and more practise!! Ensure you understand the basics thoroughly because they provide the essential foundation to understanding the more challenging topics.

It's really important to have a good foundation. If possible, draw a free-body diagram for everything — they're magical. You don't even need to really understand the problem. Draw them even for the most basic problems and it will help when problems become more complicated. Also relate concepts to real life. Don't understand momentum? Run into your car and see how well that turns out. Think you'll never need to use impulse? Try jumping down from a chair without bending your knees. (Bending your knees increases time, which is essential!) And if there's a concept you know you'll never understand, try your best and then make up for it by knowing everything else really well.

I hope this is helpful.

It is absolutely crucial to attend every lecture. Even if you choose not to takes notes, you need to be present and at least paying attention. Closely tied with lecture is homework. It is essential to doing well in the course. Also, the practice homework assignments helped a lot for the tests. If you can work all of the problems on the practice, you will make a good grade on the test doubtlessly. There is no reason that anyone can't make an A if they keep up with their homework.

I feel that the key to success in PHYS is to have a deep understanding of easy questions. Most of the complex questions are derived from the easy ones and can easily divided into easy ones. For an example, a lot of questions' approaches are the same like a force problem, the first thing to do is to identify the objects current acceleration. Afterward, you can find the force. This is very basic but it is the only key for most of the complex problem.

Hope that help.

My best advice for Physics students is to use the provided practices quizzes. It is also a great idea to read the sections in the book before coming to each lecture.

Firstly, I always attempted the Mastering physics on my own. The answers, though available on Google, encourage you not to work. The learning that takes place on that website is always very significant to your understanding of the course. I also found them fun.

Secondly, for most students, on the day before the test, they have to choose between studying from the book or practicing the previous semesters tests. The latter is always a better option as it not only prepares you with the basics, but also provides with an idea of the type of questions you can expect to receive. Simply knowing that v = u+at doesnt help solving complex scenarios of canon balls being. Students should practice all the tests by reading or copying them once, and solving them a second time

I am not a very hard worker […] but when I went into the final I was confident that not a single question from the course could throw me off. Well prepared students have to only worry about trick questions during tests. reviewing the paper is very VERY important. If i had not done it, I would have gotten an 80 on the final and would not be writing this […]

**Physics is a difficult course and you need to respect it because it will have you on your knees at some point, I promise!

Here is my advice to you:

Attend Class and …
Read before going to class. Specifically, read for "enjoyment" — without worrying about the details; take brief notes and work the example problems. If something isn't clicking at the moment, do not linger. This should only take you 1 hr maybe even less.
Follow along with [your instructor]. Resist the urge to surf the internet or text!!! Answer all PRS and DO take notes if you like to refer back. You may even want to take notes; [your instructor] likes to do concept questions on the test that are similar to some of the PRS questions.
DO Mastering Physics — all of it; yes, even the practice …
Start the mastering physics homework prior to a couple hours before it's actually due (ideally, start it the same day as lecture and work on it whenever you get a chance).
Do the practice assignments and start them early in the week rather than leaving them until Saturday.
Google the question — you can find great yahoo forums and physics forums where people really explain how to work the problem and this really helped a lot!! Remember, 'googling' the answer will only hinder you in the long run because you won't learn anything.
How to get an A (or close to it) on a test (quiz)
Do the above and …
One week before the exam — start putting additional time aside for physics. Specifically, read through each section again and take notes this time. Do the corresponding problems at the end of each section — you don't have to do all of them, just the odd ones associated with the section (usually only 3-5 problems total). Seek help from physics forums online if you need an explanation to the answer or talk to [yopur instructor] if you both have time.
If you don't understand a concept, it always helps to seek outside resources — google the topic and see what other physics websites say about the topic. Sometimes it just takes hearing something in a different way that finally makes it "click"!
Two days before the exam — finish going through every section in the book and make sure to complete all of the practice problems on Mastering Physics.
One day before the exam — try to do one of [your instructor's] tests — oops, I mean "quiz", from the previous semesters. Look up the answers on the test key if you have to, but keep going over that test. It will really help you figure out the style of questions that are going to be asked.
Night prior to test — Get sleep!!! Do not review any material more than 1 hour before the test!! Be confident and keep telling yourself you WILL get an A. Seriously … somehow it works!!!


First, the extra practice problems are really helpful. And I often do them again before quizes since most of them are pretty similar to quiz problems. Furthermore, the review part of the homework problems are worth to reading after finished the homework because we could find some better ways to solve the problems.

Hope these suggestions could be helpful.

The way I succeeded in this course was:

  1. Read the textbook and do all of the example problems; Sometimes the lecture material cannot cover all types of problems that the exams can cover and I found it very useful to solve the guided example problems by replacing numbers with variables in the book.
  2. Go to class everyday — This helped me to get in the mindset of doing physics on a daily basis
  3. Do all of the practice exam problems that relate to the subject material covered in exams. This was the most helpful tool to determine if I were prepared for the material covered on an upcoming exam.
  4. Find a trustworthy friend to study with where you can discuss conceptual questions and make sure you know the nitty gritty information of formulas and specific concepts.

That's how I succeeded in this course. Hope this helps.

My best advice would be to take the time to do the saturday practice assignment. Also, try and have another person or build a group to study with throughout the semester.

As far as advice goes, I don't know that I have anything beyond the advice that I was offered at the beginning of the semester. But I will reiterate those points:

  1. Do the reading before class
  2. Go to class.
  3. Do the homework.
  4. Do the practice homework even though it doesn't count for points.
  5. Go to all the recitations. (and be sure to ask questions if you are confused)
  6. Go to all the labs and contribute to the group as best you can.

All these things combined with a little extra studying for each quiz and final should be enough to be successful in this class.

Here is what I would suggest to students. Having already taken this class once and earning a D, I knew that taking this class the second time I would need to change what I was doing. Even though I attended class the first time I took this class, it wasn't enough. The key to success in Phys 2211 is to go to class every day, but when you go to class do not just 'be in class'. You need to glance at the information ahead of time so that you know what is going to be covered. Make sure you sit in one of the front three rows and participate! If you are not actively engaging in the discussions you will not benefit. Next, try your best to do MasteringPhysics by yourself- Do not google the answers!! By using the hints provided, they will help you get the right thought process to solving each problem. Third, I would recommend to take PHYS 2802!!! Ken Barker's class gave me the tools to succeed in Phys 2211 — in his class you learn how the equations work together to solve each type of problem. The last key to succeeding in Phys 2211 is to study- go to the library and find a floor without distractions, put away your laptop and phone, and sit down and work at least three practice tests. As much as this class can be thought of as a weed-out class, it really does not have to be. You must learn how to be proactive and not get behind. If you remain proactive and try to understand, you will succeed!

the only advice I feel really helped me was that of attending class. Other than that, as far as preparing for quizzes go, I would strongly advise solving the examples and conceptual questions in the text as well as the practice tests just to get a feel of what to expect. They greatly helped me and I hope students who take this class next semester find it helpful to.

The key to my preparation was understanding a few fundamental topics to great depth. This did require spending a large amount of time on these topics at the very start as soon as they were introduced. As I got more familiar with the patterns in these concepts, they became easier to understand and analyze. Since the advanced parts of each topic are simply combinations of two or more of these fundamental concepts which I had already spent significant time on, I hardly had to put any effort into understanding the complicated portions.

Also, while attending lectures helps understand difficult topics very well, attendance itself plays a role in the final grade. For this reason, one way or the other, not attending classes does affect or influence the final grade.

Personally, reading through the book and working through all of the examples and "stop and thinks" was the best way for me grasp the concepts. I emphasize working through the examples and at least attempting to solve them before looking at the books solution.

This, of course, in not enough practice to learn the skill of problem solving needed for the tests. The Mastering physics problems are good for understanding basic concepts, however the test problems can seem daunting in comparison. Solving more difficult problems , like the book's challenge problems can help make the test's free response questions seem less "scary."

It is also important to keep up with participation and lab grades. This 25 percent or so that is not exams or quizzes adds up.

I am not sure I could give any worthy advice to other students. If it could help them, though, I would simply stress what a great resource the textbook is. It isn't perfect for the class you teach; as I remember, you mentioned several times during the course that you could not agree with it at every turn. But, I found it had most of the information I needed. What is more, I found it be an example of how educators are really trying to make the text more accessible to even the least diligent by throwing in color, creative formatting and loads of pictures. My high school physics textbook was bleak, colorless, excruciatingly wordy and made for a lousy pillow those times that I fell asleep on it while reading it. I really appreciated the difference in the textbook I used last semester, and I'd recommend that anyone who enjoys physics and hopes to do well in the course give it a chance. If successful learning (as determined by a high letter grade) hinges on good presentation of the material and good reception of it, then I'd say the book bridges the gap pretty well from the presentation side.

More advice is available, from students who earned an A in PHYS 2211 during Spring 2010.