About a year from now...

Kippras
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2004 12:40 am

About a year from now...

Postby Kippras » Sat Nov 13, 2004 1:09 am

About a year from now, I have to take the Physics subject GRE and, in all honesty, I am scared to death. Like everyone else, I have to score well so I can get into the grad programs I want to get into, my top choices are Penn State, University of Colorado in Boulder and University of California at Berkeley. I keep thinking those are too out of my league, but I'm going to try anyway.

Well, I have a few problems that I don't know how to solve. I'm pretty much a B-C student at the moment, having had to work (i.e. take time away from studying) so that I can live and have received B's and C's in my Physics classes. My GPA is horrid as I came back to school after a brief reprieve into the world of customer service and telemarketing - but I came back and got B's and C's my first semester back, which to me was awesome. I'm currently a senior Physics major at my school and I believe that I'll be making A's in my Physics classes this year and a B in the Adv. Calc class I'm taking. Yay. I also quit my job grading for the department in order to focus on school (the chair of my department pushed me to focus more) and have done pretty well this semester.

One of my problems is I don't feel like I retain this information after the semester is over and I don't know what to do about it - I learn a lot from the classes, but I don't feel like I learn ENOUGH to do what I want to do in the future. And this scares me greatly being that I've got to take this test and do well in order to get into graduate school. Do others feel this way too as undergrads?

Secondly, I don't think I'm "gifted" in Physics -or- Math, to be honest. This is what I want to do though - I enjoy the classes and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I'm getting better, but I don't feel like I have a "talent" for the subjects. So I figure the only thing I can do is study harder. And I have this past semester.

The third thing is: I have a professor who can't teach. Well, not that he can't teach, but I feel like I can't learn from him. He focuses so much on the math and not the concept whereas I need the concept first and then the math to understand it better. And I don't know how to adjust to this. I have to take at least THREE more classes with him: Math Methods (which I think will be awesome with him because it _is_ learning the math), Mechanics, and Quantum. (sigh) Any suggestions?

Fourth: how do I take this test next November when I haven't even had Quantum yet? I feel as though it's a rush to take the test and apply for graduate school, but i have to apply to these schools early Jan/Feb to get in for the Fall and I can't afford to sit out a semester and study for the test.

(sigh) I've needed to rant for a while about this. Sorry - I just really am frustrated with this whole thing.

--Kari Adams
Huntington, WV

mpecaut
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2004 1:40 am

Re: About a year from now...

Postby mpecaut » Sat Nov 13, 2004 3:06 am

Kippras wrote:Secondly, I don't think I'm "gifted" in Physics -or- Math, to be honest. This is what I want to do though - I enjoy the classes and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I'm getting better, but I don't feel like I have a "talent" for the subjects. So I figure the only thing I can do is study harder. And I have this past semester.


Don't worry that you are not 'gifted'. Keep in mind that most science is done by small baby steps. Big breakthroughs are few and far between. Most of what we know about the universe was obtained by people who love doing it and just take baby steps. And ultimately, you have to do what you love.

Kippras wrote:The third thing is: I have a professor who can't teach. Well, not that he can't teach, but I feel like I can't learn from him. He focuses so much on the math and not the concept whereas I need the concept first and then the math to understand it better. And I don't know how to adjust to this. I have to take at least THREE more classes with him: Math Methods (which I think will be awesome with him because it _is_ learning the math), Mechanics, and Quantum. (sigh) Any suggestions?


Part of becoming a good physicist is being able to learn things without a teacher. Crappy teachers are a fact of life in physics. You or someone you know might be a crappy teacher someday. This is a great opportunity to develop some self-teaching skills.

Don't get stressed out, and don't just 'Work Harder'. Work smarter - spend time on things that will give you a bigger bang for your buck; develop strategies for taking the GRE; Practice taking the GRE in your room on the weekends, with a timer; Don't persue the myth of 'extra credit' (ie, spending 12 hours working on an extra credit project that will earn you 0.5% extra). If the lecturer is not helping you in class, read the textbook more carefully. Sometimes the textbook is better than you think. Besides, you will want 'textbook reading skills' for graduate school anyway.

Destressify and enjoy physics.

-Mark

Mick
Posts: 18
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 7:59 pm

a year from now ...

Postby Mick » Wed Apr 06, 2005 8:45 pm

I do not consider myself gifted either. But YOU might be gifted. Your ability to make good grades in classes does not define your ability to solve problems in the real, physical world. Just being able to FIND a good problem may classify you as gifted.

Easy to say don't stress about the test, hard to do. So try this, stress all you want about the test. Go ahead and stress your guts onto the carpet. Get it out of your system, and just be stressed. Because you being stressed, or relaxed, or confident or not will have very little effect on your score.

Ten minutes into the test, you'll be in the zone, whether you're prepared or not, if you choose the right answers or the wrongs, none of that will matter. You'll just be a test-taking machine. It's the nature of the human calculator.

As for the Quantum, don't worry about that either. You're better off knowing a lot of general, simple stuff about quantum than knowing in depth stuff. Just use an introductory text and get the basics. If you have to skip six quantum questions, guess on four and answer ten, it won't influence your score any much more than spending six months studying quantum, and then guessing on one, skipping two and answering 17.

The goal is to become a good physicist, not a good test-taker. Spend your free time dreaming about your favorite physics subject or doing an internship somewhere. And forget about CU, Caltech and that other school. They're just fancy names, with some very nice people and some jerks. A good physics school is the one that sees you for who you are, accepts you into their program and puts their money on their faith in your future. If that's City University of New York, or MIT, or University of Florida or Denver University or Southern Aleut University of Upper Canada, then so bit it. Physics is one of those rare fields where your future will be decided more on the quality of your work than on the company you keep!




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