Frequently Asked Questions about Physics 101

(If your question is not answered below, just email it to me at

  1. How do I compute my grade?

This is answered on the course syllabus that you were shown on the first day of class. You may also find a link to the syllabus on the course homepage.

           Course Points =   150 x (Lecture Exam 1)
                           + 150 x (Lecture Exam 2) 
                           + 150 x (Lecture Exam 3) 
                           + 150 x (Final Exam, Lecture Part) 
                           + 100 x (Lab Exams) 
                           + 100 x (Lab Experiments) 
                           +  40 x (Bonus Points) 
            Course Points:  A(720-800), B(640-719), C(560-639), D(480-559), F(0-479)
  1. Why is the letter grade for my lab the same as the letter grade for the lecture?

At the end of the semester, the lecture and lab grades are combined (as mentioned on the syllabus and in the General Bulletin), and the same grade will be recorded for both lecture and lab on your transcript.

  1. Are there extra credit opportunities?

Bonus points are available that can increase your grade by half a letter grade.  See the syllabus.

  1. Is there anything that I can do after the final exam to help my grade?

Once the semester is over, there is nothing that can be done to improve the grade. It would not be fair to the class to allow individuals to do makeup work or extra credit after the final exam.


  1. How can I make good grades in Physics 101?

Reading the chapters will help the most. Spend 1-2 hours reading for every hour of lecture. This means that you should read the chapters on the same day that you have class, perhaps in the evenings. Forgetting to read the book can lead to bad results.

    • Attend class. We cover at least 10% to 15% of the exam material each day in class. So missing one day could lower your exam score by one letter grade since you miss the material that will appear on the exams.
    • As the exams draw near, go back to the chapters and look at the figures in the book and read their captions. Then use the summaries at the end of the chapter the day before the exam.
    • There are also questions at the ends of each chapter. If these suggestions do not work for you, then you can visit with me during office hours and I can make more suggestions.
    • If you have problems in trying to comprehend this material, please do not hesitate to come and visit with me. I have truly enjoyed working with students, and often I have found that I am most effective with them when they have brought their questions and problems to me in my office.


  1. How do students that perform well in Physics 101 study?

In the past I solicited some study comments from honors students who have taken PHY 101 at SFA.  Here are a few responses:


    • Student # 1

I mostly used the book and then paid attention in lecture for stuff I wasn't sure of.  Here's how I study from the book:

1.   I look at the big titles.  I read ONLY ONE SECTION (usually only about a half a page long).  Then I turn to the end of the chapter and I do the REVEIW questions (not exercises or problems) that are listed under the heading of what I just read.  I do this for as many sections as I feel like at the time.  When I get tired, I stop.  (If I'm bored with something, there's no point in continuing because I won't retain it).

2.   Once I have done this all the way through a chapter, then I sit down and do the exercises and the problems to see if I have remembered everything.

3.   I attend the review sessions and I only write down the problems that I missed in my head before the answers were given.

4.   I don't skip class.  I've found that this is the worst thing I can do even if I think the class is a joke because often times if I pay attention and actively absorb stuff in class, I cut my required study time for a subject anywhere from 30 to 100% depending on the difficulty of the class.

I have found this effective because I don't really "study."  I do a little reading and writing each night (like 45 minutes) or sometimes none at all and I'll sit down for a couple of hours on the weekend and do it for a whole chapter.  This way, once test time rolls around, I pretty much understand everything and I don't study at all unless I don't understand something.


    • Student # 2

The first thing that I did was take advantage of the book.  I read the material before it was covered in class and several additional times before the test.  In addition, I also looked over both the review problems and the exercises in the back of each chapter.  Secondly, I took advantage of the information on the Internet.  I copied all of the notes before coming to class, and I frequently looked over the review questions at the end of each section to make sure that I understood the answers.  Next, I learned my notes backwards and forwards.  My particular technique for doing this was to write a term on one side of a note card and then write everything about that term on the other side.  After each lecture, I created new note cards over the material we covered and went back over all of my previously made cards.  Finally, I took advantage of the fact that I had a friend in the class.  At least a week before every test, we got together and just discussed the material.  I have often found this helpful in science classes because you can help each other understand the concepts and clarify your thinking.  If you can explain something to someone else, more than likely you can answer questions about it on a test.


    • Student # 3

I made flashcards with the formulas, key concepts, and vocabulary to use to quiz myself. I also watched each slide show through again and used the test bank to practice questions. I went to the review session for a little while, but found that I had already covered the information thoroughly enough to feel ready for the test the next day. I also read the chapters and notes again, just to make sure the information was fresh in my mind.


    • Student # 4

For starters, I write down more than what you put on the overhead.  I actually listen to the lecture and draw parallels between what you say and the some of the technical jargon on the overhead.  If I can create analogies and put the physics into very simple terms, often using your demonstrations, I understand the material better.  Also, I make sure that I read the chapter sometime BEFORE we have finished discussing it in class.  A lot of the time, the book contains a lot of technicalities that we don't go over in class.  If something seems too difficult in the reading (a series of really confusing paragraphs), I often skim to the bottom of that section, where there is often a simple summary of the material.  This usually coincides with what you are teaching.  Also, I do all of the review questions for each chapter.  However, I make sure to do them at least a week before the test.  If I do otherwise, the giant mass of information jut gets confusing.  Finally, to study for the test, I review my notes, go over the review questions, look over the demonstrations with your on-line notes, and finally, I do the on-line tests.  I have found that after studying notes, review questions, etc., my grade on the on-line test will be equivalent to my grade on the real test.


    • Student # 5

First of all, I pay attention to the notes in class, writing down extra examples and wording that makes the printed notes clearer.  After each class session, I do the review questions over whatever sections we cover, reading the sections and underlining additional information that would be beneficial to remember (besides just the answer to the question). The weekend before the exam (mainly Sunday) I skim each chapter and then look at my notes, re-memorizing any bits of information I may have forgotten. After each chapter review, I do the study questions on the net, and after that, I do the practice exams.  I review the entire section of any question on the exams I miss to make sure I grasp the concept, and then do the exercises to make sure I can apply them.  Somewhere in there I look over lab stuff and try to remember the basic concept applied in each.


    • Student # 6

I read the chapters for each exam and paid attention in class. I think the thing that helped me the most was actually understanding the concepts and learning the material like you constantly told us to do in class. I also did not print out the powerpoints but wrote down the main points I needed to know. Before the review night, I took the practice exams and then went to your reviews and understood why I got certain questions wrong. I also went through the powerpoints and found the sample questions and checked to see if I learned the material. Oh and I read through the notes I took in class, went through the review questions in the back of the book, and did notecards on the vocabulary words. For the lab final, I just studied the review material that you emailed us. The main thing that helped for the lab final was learning about each lab as we went through them.