AP Physics 1

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Tips for Doing Well in Physics

We are Seeking to Unlock the Basis of How the World Works

For some lucky individuals, being good at physics comes naturally. For the rest of us, however, getting a good grade in physics requires lots of hard work. Luckily, by learning important foundational skills and getting lots of practice, almost anyone can master their physics material. Even more important than getting a good grade, however, is that fact that getting a better understanding of physics can shed light on the mysterious forces that govern the way the world works.

1) Memorize basic constants. 

In the world of physics, certain forces, like the accelerating force of gravity on earth, are assigned mathematical constants. This is simply a fancy way of saying that these forces are usually represented as the same number regardless of where or how they're used. It's a smart idea to memorize the most common constants (and their units) — often, they won't be provided on tests. Below are a few of the most frequently-used constants in physics:

2) Memorize basic equations.

In physics, the relationships between the many, many different forces acting in the universe are described with equations. Some of these equations are very simple, while some are enormously complex. Having the simplest equations memorized and knowing how to use them is critical when tackling both simple and complex problems. Even difficult and confusing problems are often solved by using several simple equations or modifying these simple equations so that they fit new situations. These basic equations are the easiest part of physics to learn, and if you know them well, the odds are that you will at least know some part of every complex problem you face. Just a few of the most important equations are:
Basic Equations
Basic Physics Equations

3) Study the derivation of basic equations.

Having your simple equations memorized is one thing — understanding why these equations work is another entirely. If you can, take time to learn how each basic physics equation is derived. This gives you a much clearer understanding of the relationship between the equations and makes you a more versatile problems-solver. Since you essentially understand how the equation "works", you'll be able to use it much more effectively than if it's simply a rote, memorized string of characters in your mind. For example, let's look at a very simple equation:
Basic Equations
Acceleration Definition

Acceleration is the force that causes an object's velocity to change. If an object has an initial velocity of v0 at time t0 and a final velocity of v at time t, the object can be said to accelerate as it changes from v0 to v. Acceleration can't be instantaneous — no matter how fast it occurs, there will be some time difference between when the object is traveling at its initial velocity and when it reaches its final velocity. Thus,
Derivation Result
Acceleration Result

4) Learn the math skills required to do physics problems.

Math is often said to be "the language of physics." Becoming an expert in the fundamentals of math is a great way to improve your ability to master physics problems. Some complex physics equations even require specialized mathematical skills (like taking derivatives and integrals) to be solved. Below are just a few math topics that can help you perform physics problems, in order of complexity: