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October 14, 2019, 07:01:41 am

Author Topic: Hardest Physics Concepts  (Read 339 times)  Share 

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Alevine

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Hardest Physics Concepts
« on: May 11, 2019, 10:00:44 am »
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Hey!

I'm a physics tutor and am always trying to put myself in the mindset of someone who's just started to learn physics.

For past / current physics students, are there any concepts you remember REALLy struggling with? And why?

Tau

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Re: Hardest Physics Concepts
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2019, 11:23:08 pm »
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I'm currently in Year 12, but I completed Physics 3&4 last year. I'm also tutoring someone in Physics atm. From what I've found, the topics that students tend to find challenging are as follows:

Unit 3

Fields
  • loops and solenoids
  • magnetic flux and Lenz's law
  • Application of basic electrical circuit analysis to power transmission. Despite circuits being primarily a 1&2 topic, students who don't have a good grounding in the basics tend to trip up - see for example the 2018 Exam Question on power transmission.

Motion
  • Einsteinís theory of special relativity. This is an extremely hard topic for most students. Difficulties arise in finding the correct reference frame to analyse the problem, and the general concepts of time dilation and length contraction. It is probably one of the few areas in the course where just knowing all the formulas does not enable you to answer the question flawlessly.

Experimental physics
  • Knowing terms such as dependent, independent, controlled variables and uncertainty, error. VCAA actually has a great document giving a run down of expected experimental physics on their 'Advice for teachers' webpage I believe.
  • Significant figures
  • being able to draw a line of best fit properly, talk about errors and error bars, and determine basic properties of trendlines such as axis intercepts and gradient. I feel students are generally comfortable with the maths, but this is physics, and a better understanding of the applications is required.

General Areas
  • Worded questions - at risk of flogging a dead horse, students overly rely on canned responses. VCAA is extremely picky about answering the question explicitly, to the utmost degree. For example, that means even labelling the sides that the magnetic force acts on in a DC motor i.e. if the sides are AB and CD, then use those labels in your answer - not just a generic substitute.
  • Applying extremely basic concepts to more advanced ideas. For example, students who don't know the distinction between the vector quantity of velocity, and the scalar quantity of speed, will not be able to answer VCAA 2018 Exam Question 14

I'll try and add Unit 4 content if I get some time later.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2019, 10:33:43 am by Tau »
2018: Methods [46], Physics [48]
2019: English, Algorithmics (HESS), Specialist, UMEP Mathematics Extension

striveforsuccess

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Re: Hardest Physics Concepts
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2019, 03:11:09 pm »
+1
Hey!

I'm a physics tutor and am always trying to put myself in the mindset of someone who's just started to learn physics.

For past / current physics students, are there any concepts you remember REALLy struggling with? And why?

Hey Alevine! I am currently undertaking units 3 and 4 physics and am beginning to find a lot of unit 3 difficult, specifically fields and motion. A lot of my cohort is also struggling with all of those topics.

Sadly, out of the 4 SACs that we are meant to be doing this year I screwed up only 2 of them and out of 12 people in my class about 5 or maybe more people didn't do so good on those SACs.

 Is there still a chance of me achieving a high study score this year? Also, I have recently checked out a couple of videos on ATAR Notes and have found yours to be one of the most helpful thus so far.  :)