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PHYA10H3 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Free Fall, Equals Sign, Net ForcePremium

Physics and Astrophysics
Course Code
Johann Bayer
Study Guide

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University of Toronto
Introduction to Physics IA
Fall 2017
Term Test 1
Prof: Johann Bayer
Exam Guide

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The first instinct of many life science students is to study for exams by memorizing as much
information as possible. This is not a bad instinct it is generally a successful strategy in
biology courses.
However, this will not work in physics classes. Introductory physics courses teach problem
solving. The only way to get better at problem solving is to practice this means that you
should not only do all of the homework that your professor assigns, you should also work
together with a study group to solve or review difficult problems. The best way to study for a
physics test is to review the solutions and revise your answers to your corrected home-work
problems (but don’t try to simply memorize them!). Physics professors are known to put
homework problems, either verbatim or slightly modified on exams.
How novices and experts solve problems
Education research shows that novices and experts approach solving physics problems very
differently. If you would like a high grade on your physics exam, you should emulate expert
problem solvers, rather than follow your instincts as a novice.
How novices (students in physics 101) solve problems:
Introduction to Physics
Problem Solving Tips
2. Hunt through the textbook (or equation sheet) until they find an equa-tion that looks
promising or has (some of) the right variables
3. Immediately plug in the numbers given in the problem
4. Plug all of those numbers into their calculator
5. Get a result
6. Relax! The problem has been solved.
1. Panic!

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How experts (physics professors) solve problems:
1. Describe the physical system (objects, forces, interactions)
2. Clarify the geometrical relationships of the system (for example by drawing a
picture or adding a coordinate system)
3. Identify the relevant physical principle (this is a Newton’s 3rd law prob-lem, this is a 1-D
kinematics problem)
4. Make simplifying assumptions (can we represent this as a particle?, is air resistance
5. Find relevant equations
6. Solve the equations algebraically first, then plug in numbers
7. Get a result
8. Check the units of the result (to verify the answer is correct) and in-terpret the result
(is this reasonable?)
The mandatory steps for solving a physics problem:
You may not be an expert problem solver yet, but you can avoid some novice mistakes by
following these steps:
1. Examine the situation to determine which physical principles are involved.
2. Draw a picture
3. Write down the things that we know (knowns) and convert units if necessary
4. Write down what we want to figure out (unknowns)
5. Write down an appropriate equation(s)
6. Solve that equation using algebra so that the variable we are interested in is by itself on
one side of the equals sign
7. Plug in numbers
8. Use a calculator (or our heads) to do the arithmetic
9. Check to see if our answer is reasonable
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