High school physics courses typically come near the end of your high school career. You’ve probably taken chemistry, biology, and earth science, and may have found that the differences among all of those subjects made science feel disjointed and hard to follow. Physics offers you the chance to tie everything together under a unifying science that explains everything from the behavior of an electron to the motion of planets. Because of how fundamental physics is to all other sciences, some schools are advancing a curriculum where students take physics first, before all of the other sciences typically encountered in high school. If this is an option at your high school, it may be worth considering. If, however, you are further into your high school career, physics still offers a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the unity of the natural sciences.
Perhaps in large measure because of its ability to cross disciplines, physics can be intimidating for even the best students. You will likely find that high school physics classes are at least as challenging as your previous science courses, and that they will reward practice and hours spent with laboratory reports or preparing for long-answer test questions. One of the keys to success in a high school physics class is to develop an ability to reduce complicated situations to a series of familiar, simple equations.
This approach may sound simple until one considers the perhaps overwhelming number of new equations and mathematical expressions introduced in a typical high school physics class. There must be a way to keep the equation for centripetal acceleration straight when you are also trying to keep Newton’s second law correct in your mind! One of the most satisfying parts of physics comes when you appreciate that every single equation is related to another. Consider that Newton’s second law looks like this . . .
. . . and the equation for centripetal force looks like this:
It turns out that these two equations are really just different expressions of the same concept, force! Instead of memorizing a third equation for centripetal acceleration, you can just recognize that if you set both equations equal to each other and cancel out mass, centripetal acceleration must be equal to the following equation:
This is just one example of many, many others that are similar to what you will face in a high school physics class. In this short example, we just reduced by one third the number of equations you would have to memorize for this unit in your physics class. Studying smarter, not harder, can pay off big time in a class like physics. Consider working in study groups, or one-on-one with successful students, to appreciate where you can substitute in derivations and logic to replace rote memorization. If you get stuck when learning about a particular concept, our high school physics help page can assist you in navigating whatever misunderstandings stand between you and understanding the concept at hand. Our high school physics help is organized by topic in both general high school physics topics and specific concepts and problem types commonly featured in class curricula. Each concept is linked to solved example questions that can help you see patterns in ways that a type of problem can be successfully solved. When you feel ready to tackle some problems on your own, our free high school physics practice tests and diagnostics can take center stage.
Not only can approaching your high school physics class with care and sedulous effort reduce your workload and stress in the long run, but it can help you develop your ability to think critically and logically. These are skills much more valuable in most college classes than simple memorization. Your long-term retention, problem solving skills, and appreciation of all other sciences can clearly benefit from hard work in your high school physics class!