Science and technology play important roles in Singapore's economic developments, our government has put in a lot of resources including these areas and developed many talents. So science subjects are important here, especially Physics. BUT! We always hear from students that Physics is so hard since it includes a wide range of abilities and we are sure many of you are struggling as well.
We are going to explain why is Physics so hard and if there are methods to help you improve.
1. So many concepts to be mastered
Physics is a broad and in-depth subject. As you need to get the knowledge, master the concepts and practise what you have learnt, you should dedicate more time into this subject. However, there is limited lesson time at school and teachers at school need to elaborate so many concepts, you may not learn the concepts well. Even you understand everything in lessons, you may not master them afterwards when there are different levels of mastering Physics knowledge. Even you mastered concepts during lessons, you may not have enough time to practise in lessons to get help from teachers.
However, you need solid Physics foundations and sound understanding in order to use the appropriate calculation skills. In an examination, each question may include more than one topic. For example, “Measurement” and “Newton Mechanics” can be tested in one question. You have to solve unknown distance first to find the force applied to a box on slope as your final answers. So we have to be familiar with all topics in O Level and A Level. (Click here for 2022 A Level's curriculum and 2022 O Level's curriculum)
Methods for improvement
Since there are lots of topics, it is difficult for you to study in a short time. If you are unclear about a few topics, don’t leave them until the last second to learn. Start revising ASAP, so that you have sufficient time to ask teachers or friends to help you. (Your friends may be rushing at the same time. XD)
Another option is you can join Physics group or private tuition. In group tuition centre, you can join courses according to topics that you want to focus on or general curriculum that includes everything. In private tuition, tutors analyses your strengths and weaknesses, then offer you personal training. Tuition is useful, especially when you already studied through topics but you are unable to integrate everything and need some help on clarifying misconceptions.
2. Calculation is essential
Both A Level and O Level Physics requires elementary and additional mathematics. Maths is so important in Physics, especially when more than 50% of marks in O level Pure Physics and A Level H2 Physics is about mathematical calculation. When you are solving physics questions, it may involve calculus and algebra etc.. You may be able to handle O Level's calculation but A Level H2 Physics's calculation is totally on another level. You need great mathematical calculation skills! That’s why if we are not good at mathematics, Physics is hard to study.
BUT! Stay calm.
Asians are usually doing well in Mathematics. You know what? The top 4 regions that scored the best in Mathematics (sited from PISA2018) are all from Asia, Mainland China, Singapore, Macao and Hong Kong. It is because we have been taught the foundations of more advanced Mathematics than other places since we were young, so you can do better than you thought as long as you find the way to learn.
Methods for improvement
You can try to work on mathematical calculation’s improvement first when you find Physics is hard. It can be improved by doing more exercises on Maths and evaluate your false answers. Evaluation is important. It is a waste of time after doing exercises but no evaluation! Doing it helps you identify your weak topics on Physics-related Maths, so that you can focus on improving them.
2. Many more off-the-book abilities
You may say, “Hey! I’m clear about all topics and I'm good at Maths. However, I still get a poor result. What are the reasons?” Then your problem may be lack extra abilities to solve physics questions.
In O Level Physics Paper 2, A Level H2 Physics Paper 2 and 3, there is at least 1 structured question in each paper. Questions may contain information that has a specific domain knowledge, which may be hard for you to understand. Imagination of a 3D space is needed as well. Take “Electromagnetic Induction” as an example, Right-hand Rule is used to identify directions of fields. And in “Forces”, it is necessary for us to draw diagrams of x-, y- and z-axes to analyze questions. Then, we have to think logically to analyze steps and formulae needed to solve a question. Last but not least, mathematical skills are used to come up with the answer.
Therefore, practicing Physics is more than just memorizing formulae. When we work on a Physics question, we need the ability to imagine, calculate, think logically, and comprehend. It requires several abilities that hard to use at the same time.
Methods for improvement
For difficulties out of knowledge level, the only way is to do more exercises and evaluate. (Yes, again!) Every time you practise and review your answers, you are consolidating your different abilities. However, sometimes you can’t understand the thinking process or analysis just by reading the answers. Then you can ask for help from teachers afterschool and tutors during tuition.
Especially during tuition, tutors have more time to explain everything to you in detail on solving process, when teachers have limited lesson time to teach you all the foundations within the huge curriculum. Sometimes, tutors teach students some tips and problem-solving strategy that teachers in school don’t as well!
Always remember you are not fighting alone during your study of Physics. You can reach out for help from teachers, tutors and friends.
The most important thing is you are self-motivated to improve. Even if you worked hard and the outcome didn’t met your expectation, you could drop Physics in O Level or drop Physics from H2 to H1 in A Level as the final solution. However there will be a lot of considerations to be taken into account. So, you can discuss it with your teachers or tutors and try these suggestions first:
1. Do more exercises and evaluate your performance
2. Start studying earlier so you have sufficient time to ask questions
3. Join Physics courses in tuition centres or find private tutors according to your needs
Wish you a great improvement in your study of Physics. We, Power Physics, are always here to help!