Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

PSLE marks the graduation of Primary school students and their entry into Secondary schools as teenagers. Discuss all issues about Secondary schooling here.

Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby PhysicsTeacher » Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:38 pm

I used to visit various forums and collected some students’ comments regarding the learning of physics. I mostly quote them here verbatim. The points are interesting but consistent!

Physics is Hard to Study

• Physics is hard. My advice: Do not take it!
• I want to do Physics at A Level, but my friends and family are against the idea because they say it is too difficult, and I would be lucky to get an E
• It is a silly idea to take Physics. I put in more effort in Physics than Chemistry and Biology combined!
• Biology is easiest but if you are not good in memorizing, it will be hard.

My Comment: You feel that Physics is hard may be you were poisoned by many “advisors” who earlier were similarly poisoned by their teachers or peers. Learning something definitely needs effort. To accomplish some level of expertise (so that you score A in it) is like training for competing in any championship. You need to sweat, you need to transform your mind and body. Naturally, physics is hard if you “read” it on a sofa or on a bed! Is Physics really that fearful? Read what other students have to say!

Physics is Easy and Beautiful

• You won’t regret, Physics is a beautiful subject
• I think Physics is better than the other subjects because it is systematic rather than hard knowledge
• I don’t think Physics is any harder than Chemistry
• I feel that Physics is much easier than Biology because Physics has much less content to study
• Hard at first, but easy and fascinating later
• Yes, Biology is a bane of my life, but once you grasp the concepts of Physics, then you basically have it.

My Comment: It can be the easiest subject, and might be the best scorer! It needs much less time to study compared the Biology, Chemistry and Literature. But then why is Physics so much feared by students?

Teacher is the First Culprit

Many students lamented that their teachers contributed significantly to the agonies of learning Physics:

• Super easy course, but depends a lot on the teacher’s competency. Physics was absolutely a pain-in-the-ass until I found an excellent tutor, not my school teacher!
• I have dropped it now, because I was not enjoying the subject anymore. The introduction module killed me.
• I tried doing all my homework, but it didn’t work because the teachers were terrible
• The teacher barely teaches the class anything
• I am good at Math, but none of my teachers explain things well and expects us to know this shit automatically!
• What put me off was a rubbish teacher who really failed to explain anything other than how to pass the exam. The Physics teacher basically said, 'This is what happens, don't ask why, just learn it.'

My Comment: I can still vividly remember how my Physics teacher taught me O-Level Physics. He would typically instruct the Class Monitor to copy his decade-old note on the blackboard for half the period, then, about 20 minutes before the period ended, he would step in and blurted, “Any questions?”

Concluding Remark

To learn anything is not easy, and there is no short cut. Learning new knowledge requires major cognitive engagement. It entails major change in thinking processes which transforms the brain’s neuro-synaptic connectivity, just like when you are learning bicycle. Once you have learnt it, your relevant brain cells for bicycling are “connected” and it becomes effortless because all those complicated body-parts coordination has transformed into an involuntary chain of actions. Similarly, to acquire new knowledge and become competent in it necessitates the continual re-learning to ensure the relevant brain cells’ connectivity. Hence, to score aces, be it Physics or Biology, you need regular revisions and repetitive exercises. Probably, one major difference between the various subjects is the learning methodologies. Comparatively, Biology is more memory heavy; it has too many terminologies (e.g. terminologies for components of human cells). My view is that O- and A-Level Math are less thinking than Physics. They are more procedural; you just need to follow steps and execute them accordingly. But Physics truly requires complete grasp of concepts so as to apply them well in different contexts; memorising formulae alone will not guarantee success. It is this element of thinking process confers Physics’ distinct value in training, and also probably perceived by most students as the most difficult area.

I hence conclude with one piece of advice to teachers, tutors and all kiasuparents who wish to coach their DDs and DSs: Other than helping to establish the right concepts, you also need to provide efficient and effective repetitive exercises, where effectiveness means chosen topics (current year’s exams and the student’s strengths) for scoring and efficiency means carefully chosen exercises that hone exam skills while not blindly solving endless problems.
Last edited by PhysicsTeacher on Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PhysicsTeacher
OrangeBelt
OrangeBelt
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:19 pm
Total Likes: 4


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn?

Postby PhysicsTeacher » Sat Dec 05, 2015 3:23 pm

A paper in the International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 2008, published a study on the nature of physics and tried to answer the question what makes Physics difficult. It surveyed about 1000 high school students, with only 293 responses. Unfortunately, it is not known how many of them are male or female. The result is quite interesting because difficulty in learning physics is not overwhelming supported, and that math may not be the stopper for learning Physics (high school Physics, not valid in university Physics). Even more surprising is that great majority of the students view Physics as not abstract. This seems to contradict my experience with my tuition students. Similarly, though a good confirmation that only minority of students view Physics as not interesting, most students I encountered think Physics uninteresting, especially the female students. But there is one confirmed fact about physics, that is, it is cumulative; if you miss one concept, it is hard to grasp the next one. The statistical result are as followed:

Factors Related to the Nature of Physics
(% of Students N=293)

Physics is cumulative 77%
Physics is a very difficult subject 57%
Physics is very abstract 41%
Physics requires good mathematics 33%
Physics has too many formulas to be learned 29%
Physics is not interesting enough 23%
Physics cannot be learned without mathematics background 23%

PhysicsTeacher
OrangeBelt
OrangeBelt
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:19 pm
Total Likes: 4


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby PhysicsTeacher » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:29 pm

I have just change the the post title to reflect what I am going to discuss in this post.

PhysicsTeacher
OrangeBelt
OrangeBelt
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:19 pm
Total Likes: 4


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby PhysicsTeacher » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:46 pm

GCE O-Level Physics - An Ace Scorer or a Passer

In this forum, many parents are asking which subjects their DDs or DSs should take? In addition to their affinities, prospective college programmes and career aspects, should the ease of scoring A or passing be considered too?

It is interesting to find out which subject is easier to score A. I do not have Singapore’s O-Level statistics. But to answer the question, other similar exams may be able to provide an indicative answer. The close brothers to our O-Level is Cambridge’s O-Level and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Nov Exam, which is mostly offered by private or international schools here, albeit their levels are slightly different from our O-Level’s (As usual lah, our Merlion’s standards are always better and harder one!).

Q1 Which O-Level subject is the best A scorer? A comparison on proportions of students gotten A from past year could give us a clue. This is done by ranking the subjects every year and average the rank numbers from 2010 to 2014.

Q2 Which O-Level subject is easier to pass? This is to compare the proportions of students gotten E above, again average the rank numbers for the past 5 years

The Cambridge O Level result is posted now, the IGCSE and Cambridge A Level analyses will be posted later.

Results

Q1 The best scoring subject is clearly Physics, followed by Chemistry and Biology. Most surprising is that E Math is the hardest to score, and so is Add Math, almost as difficult. Physics is about twice as easy to score than both Maths: For the 5 years, about 21% of students got A or A*in Physics, where-as only about 9% for both Math

Add Math 21
Biology 14
Chemistry 11
Math 24
Physics 5

Q2 Physics is the easiest subject to pass. For the past 5 years, an average of 87% students got E and above, where-as Math and Add Math range between 68 to 74%.

Add Math 24
Biology 12
Chemistry 13
Math 20
Physics 6

PhysicsTeacher
OrangeBelt
OrangeBelt
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:19 pm
Total Likes: 4


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby Mary Chee » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:12 pm

That is very surprising news.When I was teen physics was the hardest part of mine education. Really great to see things change!

Mary Chee
KiasuNewbie
KiasuNewbie
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:11 pm
Total Likes: 0



Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby mathtuition88 » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:06 am

Actually O Level / A Level Physics is quite ok. Once you mastered the "technique of applying formulae" you can solve the questions and score. The hard part in physics comes in university where calculus is involved.

Blind memorising is not recommended, as nowadays exams test application, and there are many questions set to trap those students who blindly memorise without understanding.

Overall, hard work and the correct studying method (focused on understanding and practice), will result in a reliable good score without much risk.

mathtuition88
KiasuGrandMaster
KiasuGrandMaster
 
Posts: 1829
Joined: Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:42 pm
Total Likes: 10


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby Mary Chee » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:45 pm

I'm totally agree with you!
So as I get there can be different methods to teach physics and maths in different schools?

Mary Chee
KiasuNewbie
KiasuNewbie
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:11 pm
Total Likes: 0


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby PhysicsTeacher » Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:08 pm

Continue my post on the topic, the following is the result for the Cambridge International GCSE.

Results:

Q1 The best scoring subject is also Physics, followed by Chemistry and Biology. The ranking order is exactly same as O-Level’s. Physics is still about 1.5 times as easy to score than both Maths: For the 5 years, about 36% of students got A or A*in Physics, where-as Math and Add Math is 19% and 24% respectively.

Q2 Physics is still the easiest subject to pass. For the past 5 years, an average of 90% students got E and above, where-as Math and Add Math’s average is 81% and 88% respectively.

To summarise both Cambridge O-Level and IGCSE

Best scoring: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Add Math and Math

Easiest to Pass: Physics, Chemistry, Add Math, Biology and Math

Quite conclusively, if we define the hardness of a subject by the above two criteria – easiest to score or pass, Physics obviously is the easiest subject and Math is the hardest! This might go against many of you who thought that Math is the easiest

I will post Cambridge A-Level result soon.

PhysicsTeacher
OrangeBelt
OrangeBelt
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:19 pm
Total Likes: 4


Re: Is Physics Difficult to Learn, to Score or to Pass?

Postby PhysicsTeacher » Sat Jan 09, 2016 11:58 pm

Continue my post on the topic, the following is the result for the Cambridge A Level

Results:

Q1 The best scoring subject is Math, distantly followed by Chemistry and Biology. Physics is the hardest to score. For A Level, the passing distribution is very close: 28%, 22%, 21% and 20% for the above subjects respectively.

Q2 Math is also the easiest subject to pass. For the past 5 years, an average of 85% students got E and above, where-as Biology and Physics are both 81%

A-Level physics seems is harder to learn than math, though IGCSE on the contrary

PhysicsTeacher
OrangeBelt
OrangeBelt
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:19 pm
Total Likes: 4



Return to Secondary Schools - Academic Support