7 Helpful Studying Tips for Physics Majors

7 Helpful Studying Tips for Physics Majors


Studying physics is not for the faint of heart. It can be a difficult subject for even the brightest minds to wrap their head around.

If you are struggling, know that there are plenty of ways you can improve your study habits and succeed in physics.

Here are seven helpful studying tips for physics majors you can use to succeed.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Physics calls for math and lots of it. It’s one thing to understand the formulas on paper, and another thing to understand how (and when) to apply them.

All this to say, there’s no substitute for practice. With cell phones at our disposal, it’s easy for an hour “study” session to turn into twenty minutes of looking over notes and forty minutes of scrolling through Instagram.

So first and foremost, rely on a different metric for studying. Count the number of practice reps you go through, not the amount of time you spend studying. That alone is a great way to set yourself up for success.

You can use resources (like this circular motion calculator) when you study. Just make sure you’re understanding how you moved from A to B and that you can replicate it later if you need to.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

Sure, it’s hard to get enough sleep in college sometimes. But if you’re serious about studying physics, getting plenty of rest will help.

Sleep is absolutely essential for optimal cognitive function. It restores memory and concentration, and also plays a role in our ability to think critically. On top of that, important skills like creativity, judgment, and emotional processing can also be affected if we don’t get enough rest.

As a college student, aim for at least eight hours a night.

3. Try the Pomodoro Technique

Did you know that spacing out study sessions over a longer period of time leads to better retention and test scores?

One proven technique that can help you slow down and really focus when it counts is the Pomodoro Technique. Instead of going at clips of two to fours hours at a time, try this:

Set a timer for 25 minutes. Press start, then use that time to study. When it goes off, rest for five minutes.

In that rest period, feel free to get up and go for a walk, use the restroom, or even use your phone. It’s yours to do as you wish. But when the time is up, start again with another 25-minute block.

Taking a short break helps your brain relax and allows your concentration to recenter itself. It’s especially useful when it comes to how to study physics, as this can be a way to get outside yourself and revisit a problem with fresh eyes.

4. Test Yourself

Reading over notes and going through your textbook will help you understand concepts. This is important, but studying physics is more about applying what you learned. Any additional ways that you can test yourself will pay off big time when tests roll around.

Does your textbook come with practice problems? Does your professor provide additional problems or resources online? See what material is available for you to test your skills and see how you fare.

This is the best way to get an honest assessment of where you’re at. It’s also great for pointing out weaknesses. Testing yourself tells you what you need to focus on or ask questions about in your next class meeting.

5. Learn From Your Mistakes

It’s easy to beat yourself up when things don’t go well. A bad grade, a terrible study session, or just general frustration towards the subject of physics can all result in feeling down. But overcoming this is key.

In fact, it means you’re studying correctly. People who make mistakes when they study are actually more likely to do well on tests. It means you’re pushing yourself to the edge of your abilities. Sometimes, this will result in failure.

Think about it this way: isn’t it better to get the failure over with now before the test?

6. Change up Your Environment

Having trouble studying for physics? Maybe try changing up where you study.

If you’re always in your dorm or always in the library, finding some new scenery might be a good idea. At the very least, it can help studying feel fresher than usual.

Where could you study that would actually be fun? A coffee shop? Somewhere on campus? Think about what would work best for you.

7. Ask for Help

Professors are there to help you. Your college also likely offers resources to help you improve your understanding of physics. All you need to do is ask.

First and foremost, find out when your professor’s office hours are. Shoot them an email a few days in advance and see if you can meet with them. At some schools, physics classes are quite big, so the sooner you reach out the better.

Also, seek out additional resources. Your college should have an academic success center or something like it. For higher-level math or physics courses, there are sometimes specific groups or graduate students designated to help undergraduate students.

See what’s out there and take advantage. It’s there for you!

Studying Physics

Whether you study physics online or are fortunate enough to be back on campus, physics is a difficult subject that many students struggle with. But there are things you can do to succeed in this course.

Focus on mastering actual problems. Concepts and theories only tell half the story, and if you can’t actually do the work on paper, you’re going to struggle come test time.

Also, be sure to get plenty of sleep so that you’re functioning at your best. And reach out to the college resources you have available with you for help when you need it.

For more tips on succeeding in your education, check out our blog!

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