Is Physics Hard? (With Student Quotes)

Do you find physics difficult? Do you ever wonder, “Is physics hard? “

You’re not alone, so relax. Because they don’t know how to apply principles to issues, many students find physics difficult.

Science is not difficult. Just practice will do. You’ll discover how simple it is to comprehend and apply physics ideas to daily life once you get the hang of it.

In this piece, I’ll discuss why physics is difficult and how to make it simpler. In addition, I’ll offer my best physics study advice.

Physics E=MC2 Mass Energy
Physics E=MC2 Mass Energy

Is Physics Hard?

After you grasp the principles, physics is not that difficult. People who encounter physics for the first time sometimes feel as though they are speaking a foreign language due to its complex concepts and formulas. Physics appears challenging to pupils because it is abstract. The arithmetic is simple to solve if you understand the fundamental physics principles, though, and it becomes second nature.

Understanding the physical characteristics of the functioning of the Earth and the cosmos is the goal of physics. That may seem extremely abstract to certain individuals, making it challenging for people to understand.

A combination of two factors makes physics challenging:

  1. Physics encompasses a wide range of subjects. For instance, there are many different sciences, including mechanics, electricity, magnetism, optics, and thermodynamics.
  2. There is a vocabulary specific to each area of physics. When discussing forces, for instance, terms like acceleration, force, mass, momentum, friction, etc. are often used.

The school you are attending and your professor have an impact on how easy or tough a course is, in addition to the physics subject’s difficulty. A course in engineering, for instance, can be more difficult than it would be at a liberal arts college if you are taking it at an institution that specializes in engineering.

The reputation of the establishment where a course is delivered also influences how challenging it is. It is most likely going to be more difficult if you are taking your course at Caltech than if you were at a less prestigious institution.

The physics courses at these institutions will be quite challenging. It goes without saying that a course that is intended to be difficult will probably be difficult. In order to ensure that every student is sufficiently challenged, you can also anticipate that instructors will have high expectations and push their pupils.

Why is Physics Hard?

I asked Andy Lim, who has a Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford, why he thinks physics is hard for students. He gave the following reasons: 

  1. Need to Think Differently and Logically – You need to find logic in each step of a physics problem. Physics is a very logical subject that requires lots of imagination, mathematical and analytical skills. A derivation involves multiple steps, each of which may be several pages long. Each step logically connects to the previous one.
  2. Trouble Understanding the Concepts – When you start learning physics, you might think that you already know what all these terms mean. But as you progress through the course, you realize that you don’t really understand what all these terms mean until you understand where they’ve come from. This makes it difficult to remember the definitions when you encounter them later on. For example, without first understanding why Einstein came up with relativity to describe motion at relativistic speeds, you will have difficulty learning relativity.
  3. Math Is Not Easy – Math is the foundation of physics. Every concept builds upon math. So, even though you may not understand math well, you still need to learn it. There are a lot of mathematics and formulas.
  4. Physics Is Difficult Because It’s About Everything – Physics is about everything. There are so many concepts, ideas, and theories that it would take an entire lifetime to master all of them.
  5. Physics Requires Patience – Physics is a field that takes time to develop. Even after you get into graduate school, there are still new things to learn. You’ll never stop learning, so you’ll need to know that you’ll always be putting in time and effort to solve physics problems. 
  6. Poor Mindset About Oneself and Their Ability to Learn Physics – Most people have a poor mindset about themselves and their ability to learn physics. They believe that they are dumb because they didn’t do well in high school or college. Or they think that they just aren’t smart enough to learn physics. Adjusting their negativity into positivity is key to someone having an open-mindedness to learning physics. 

Math Needed For Basic Physics

Physics requires an understanding of high school mathematics because most of the concepts come from it. For example, if you were asked to calculate the velocity of a car traveling at 60 mph, you could use simple arithmetic to get the answer.

These are the basic math skills needed for basic physics:

  1. Trigonometry – The study of angles and triangles. You’ll need to work with cosine, sine, and tangents of angles when working with electromagnetics and mechanics.
  2. Algebra – The study of numbers and equations. You’ll need algebra to solve differential equations.
  3. Geometry – The study of shapes and figures. You’ll need geometry to find volume, surface area, and other geometric relationships.
  4. Calculus – The study of limits and derivatives. You’ll need calculus to solve physics problems involving acceleration and deceleration.  
Physics Equations Formulations
Physics Equations Formulations

Concepts Needed For Basic Physics

In addition to various math skills, you’ll also need to learn some basic physics concepts. These include:

  • Electromagnetism – How electricity works and how magnets interact with each other.
  • Mechanics – Newton’s Laws of Motion. Forces acting on objects. Work, energy, momentum, and kinetic energy.
  • Kinetic Energy – The amount of motion an object has.
  • Work – A force applied over a distance will cause an object to move.
  • Energy – The potential to do work.
  • Momentum – The product of mass and velocity.
  • Newton’s First Law of Motion – An object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by another force.
  • Newton’s Second Law of Motion – Objects in motion continue to move until acted upon by another force (called inertia).
  • Newton’s Third Law of Motion – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Understand the Terms and Vocabulary of Physics

Students frequently have trouble grasping terminology. A good illustration of this is physics. You run a higher risk of making a mistake when trying to solve a problem if you don’t know what a word means.

If you don’t understand what “mass” is, for instance, you might assume it’s just another variable like length or time. But in reality, mass is a characteristic of matter that governs its inertia. Therefore, you won’t receive the right answer while answering a physics problem if you don’t grasp what mass is.

A science that studies both matter and energy is physics. Energy is any form of energy that exists, whereas matter is all things that are physically present.

Forces and motion are other topics covered in physics. Motion is an object’s changing position over time, whereas forces are anything that causes an item to modify its motion.

The idea of acceleration is also crucial. The pace at which an item alters its speed is known as acceleration. The rate of movement of an object is its velocity.

The movement of electrons in a circuit is known as current. Voltage is the difference in electric potential between two conductors.

The surface area of anything is its area. The inside space of something is its volume. The quantity of kinetic energy an object has is known as its momentum. The push or pull applied to an item is known as force. The distance that an object moves is its displacement.

The angle between two vectors is known as pitch. Speed is the pace of movement of something. The rate at which energy enters a system is known as power. Possibility is the capacity to perform work. Resistance is anything that stands in the way of current flow. The average kinetic energy of the particles within a substance is its temperature.

Physics Universe Cosmology
Physics Universe Cosmology

Be Able to Express an Idea Mathematically

Mike Alton, who has a Bachelor’s in Physics, says that “most students have trouble modeling and expressing real world problems into physics and mathematical equations. He suggests that students should be able to express their ideas using mathematics. This way they can see how the math works out and make sure they have done it correctly.”

Solving problems is the most effective approach to learn physics. Utilizing the topics you studied in class is necessary while solving challenges. To use the vocabulary and definitions from the lesson in the problem, you must recall them.

A science that explains the cosmos is physics. Mathematics may be used to define any physics concept. Because physics is the science that explains the cosmos, and since arithmetic is the sole universal language we have for explaining everything about the universe, this is done on purpose. The ability to write an issue as an equation or solve a problem using an equation is necessary.

How To Study And Learn Physics Easier

There are many ways to study physics. The most effective method is to practice solving problems. Practice makes perfect! When you solve a problem, you apply the knowledge you have gained in class.

If you want to improve your physics grades and skills, try practicing the following:

  1. Draw to Visualize the Problems – Draw diagrams of the problem and label each part. Don’t worry about making the diagram look pretty, just draw it out. Label and identify the angles and forces involved in the problem. 
  2. Write Out the Problem – Write down the information you need to solve the problem. Make sure you include all the variables and constants. There’s no need to keep anything in your head.
  3. Solve the Problem Step-by-Step – Start with the simplest step first. If you are stuck, go back and review the steps.
  4. Practice Makes Perfect – Try solving problems over and over again until you get it right. It may take time, but eventually you will master the skill.
  5. Don’t Memorize Formulas – Memorizing formulas is not the same as understanding what they mean. You must understand the formula before memorizing it. The professors that I’ve had in my physics courses actually always allowed us to bring a sheet of formulas. They knew the formulas would do us no good if we didn’t understand how we arrived at the formulas. 

How Hard Is College Physics Compared To High School Physics?

College physics courses are generally harder and require more effort than high school physics classes. You should expect a college physics course will be more demanding and detailed than a high school physics course. College courses are always more in-depth and require a deeper understanding of the material to prepare students for the outside world. 

In college, the physics courses will also cover more material in a shorter amount of time, making the courses more difficult. In addition, there will be more homework assigned which requires extra work on top of studying for exams. As a result, you’ll find yourself having to put in more hours into preparing for your college physics courses.

Physics Experiments
Physics Experiments

Is Physics 2 Harder Than Physics 1?

Because it is more abstract and covers more difficult topics than Physics 1, Physics 2 is more tough. Compared to Physics 2, which is more abstract and challenging to understand, Physics 1 principles are clearer and easier to envision.

For instance, Physics 2 teaches about motion using vectors while Physics 1 teaches about motion using scalars when learning about Newtonian Mechanics.

Is Physics Hard? Final Thoughts

Physics can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. You may study physics through practicing, just like any other topic. You will learn the terms and concepts utilized in the industry by doing this. When you begin taking physics classes in college, this familiarity will be beneficial.

You might be interested in reading about these other subjects and majors: 

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Written by:

Chris Wood
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Stanford University. I’ve been working as a Software Engineer for the past 5 years. While working in this field I’ve had the pleasure of developing software in a wide variety of industries. I look forward to using my experience in order to find a role where I can utilize my creativity and passion for solving complex software engineering problems.

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