Katelyn completed her QCE studies in 2020 with an ATAR of 98.40 (including a 92 in QCE Physics), and now studies a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) at UQ. In this article, find Katelyn’s top tips and tricks for success in QCE Physics.

QCE Physics is a beautiful – although sometimes confusing – subject. Believe me, I know just how overwhelming it can feel when trying to study and understand all of the content. That is why, I come bearing good news: you don’t need to be the next Einstein to do well in QCE Physics! 🙂 That’s right, I said what I said.

There are 6 things that you can do to conquer this subject…

#1: Familiarise yourself with the formula sheet
#2: Read ahead
#3: Be selective with note-taking
#4: Focus on your weak spots
#5: Practice, practice, practice
#6: Avoid silly mistakes

#1 Understand the Formulae

The formula sheet is full of wonders. However, it is of no help to us if we don’t know how to read it. It is important that you familiarise yourself with each of the formulae – this means understanding what they represent and what each of the variables and constants mean. On both of the external papers, majority of the questions you will come across are of the standard problem-solving variety. There will be few questions that require wordy, theory-based answers.

That being said, the formulae can also be helpful for some of those wordy questions. Take this syllabus point for example:

“Recall Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.”

Now, Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation is one that states that the force of gravitational attraction between two masses is directly proportional to the product of the masses but inversely proportional to the distance between the masses squared. This may seem a bit bothersome to remember, so a nice trick to help you with that is to use the formula provided to us:

QLD Physics ATAR tips - ATAR Notes

As you can see, the relationship stated above is evident in the formula. You can use this to your advantage so that, instead of memorising that explanation, you can simply look at the formula and put what you see into words.

It is also important that you know how to linearise formulae. You will be confronted with graphs of data in your exam – oftentimes you will be required to linearise the appropriate formula in order to answer the questions. So make sure to develop those skills.

You can find the formula sheet here.

#2 Read Ahead

This tip isn’t essential but can be super helpful! Your QCE Physics experience can be a much less stressful one if you are able to go into class already somewhat familiar with the content. It is good to have an expectation of what will be covered in a given lesson – reading ahead helps you determine what sections of content will be particularly tricky and worth paying extra attention to. Further, it allows you to come to lessons prepared with any questions you may have (these questions may even be answered during the lesson).

Study tips for ATAR Physics - QCE

During the Christmas holidays at the end of grade 11, my family went on a big drive from Southeast Queensland to Sydney. I used the car trips to and from to read the entirety of my Unit 3&4 textbooks for Physics, Psychology, and Biology (nerd alert, am I right?). I had developed a rough understanding of all of the content and started building the foundations from which my knowledge would build. My classes became revision lessons where I could consolidate my understanding of the content, rather than being my first exposure to the content.

Do I recommend doing exactly what I did? Probably not. Instead, I would recommend spacing out the textbook chapters throughout the term so that you aren’t waiting too long between your first exposure to the content and your first class on the content. In my experience, this is a good habit to develop in preparation for continuing your physics studies at university – if that is the post-secondary path you plan on taking.

📚  ATAR Notes Study Guides 📚
QCE Physics Units 3&4 Course Notes

#3 Selective Note-taking

It’s no secret that QCE Physics is a subject that emphasises the application of knowledge. While it is important that you have the theory at the back of your mind, what QCAA truly wants to see is the effective application of that theory. The majority of the time you spend studying for Physics should be dedicated to running numbers and pumping out calculations. With this in mind, you don’t need to have ridiculously lengthy notes. For remembering definitions, I found apps like “AnkiApp Flashcards” to be incredibly helpful.

So, in summary, you want to keep your notes short and sweet and include only what is necessary.

#4 Consolidate Your Weak Areas

Firstly, go over each of the dot points in the syllabus and give it a rating – let’s say between 0 and 5. With 0 being “I’ve never heard of this before,” and 5 being “Man, I hope they ask a question about this!”. Then, dedicate some time to nailing the sections you gave a 0, 1, 2, and 3. Do some practice questions and take note of the mistakes you most frequently make – learning from your own mistakes is 10 times more valuable than any textbook ever will be. Also take note of any tips and tricks for tackling certain types of questions; this way, you can then refer to these tips and tricks when doing practice questions in the future.

As always, don’t forget about your friends on the forums – you can find the QCE Physics section here. Access to lots of information and a wonderful community of knowledgeable and helpful people is merely a few clicks away. If you are stuck on a question, there are plenty of people who would be more than happy to help! 🙂

#5 Complete Practice Papers

Practice makes progress! And there is no better way to practise thea by completing practice exams. Past papers not only give you a chance to test your knowledge, but also give you a chance to suss out the potential structure and difficulty of your upcoming exams. You can access past papers on the QCAA website.

The most beneficial way to complete these papers is under exam conditions. You will better remember the content during an exam if you have practice recalling the content under the same conditions. If possible, get your teacher to mark it with you (that way you are getting unbiased feedback). Sit with your teacher and have discussions about any of the questions you found particularly difficult.

Tips for ATAR Physics - ATAR Notes QCE

#6 Avoid Silly Mistakes

It can be easy to lose marks because of small mistakes. Thankfully, this is easily avoidable. Some common mistakes include:

Units – make sure to use the correct units! It is always important to ensure that you include units in each step of solving a question. This allows you to perform some dimensional analysis with your final answer, offering another way to check the reasonableness of your answer.

Vectors – make sure to treat vectors as vectors. Vectors require both a direction and magnitude – oftentimes, direction is overlooked.

Signs – it is important to keep signs in mind. For example, remember acceleration due to gravity is a vector acting downward so your value for g is negative 9.8ms-2.

Avoiding silly errors is where keeping a log of mistakes becomes really helpful! The last thing you want to be doing is repeating the same mistakes over and over.

So, there it is – that is how you ace QCE Physics! As you can see, most of these tips are just small changes in study habits that can have drastic effects in the long run 🙂 I wish you all the best with your studies, physics-wise and else.

Looking for some extra guidance?

Don’t forget to check out the forums for access to a plethora of resources and places for discussion. Here you will find a wonderful community of people who are more than willing to help you navigate any challenges you may be facing. If ever you have any question, the forums are a great place to seek out answers! Also, make sure to head to the free notes section for extra resources.