Dear Future AP Physics Student,
Hi! My name is Samantha Montalbine and I am currently a junior who has just finished their AP Physics class year! When I first decided that I wanted to take AP Physics, I was absolutely terrified. I had been told by almost everyone I knew that I would regret this decision, that it would ruin my GPA and, according to so many late summer TikToks, my sleep schedule as well. But, after a while, I learned that the reality was that, as long as you tried your best, none of this is true! While also taking two other AP classes, with the following tips and tricks, I was able to finish the year with an overall average grade of 97% in the class, and with a sleep schedule that goes no later than 12:45 A.M.
The first tip, trick, advice, or whatever you may call it, that I would tell you is to be patient. In the class, your first grade on a test, quiz or even homework assignment will not be perfect. Especially if you’re starting your junior year, seeing a grade that bad can be terrifying! I know so many people who avoided taking AP Physics with that mindset, or dropped the class for academics after the first grade. Personally, on the first test of the year, which was actually one of the easiest units looking back, I got a 61%. I spent hours crying everytime I even thought of the grade, I had worked myself up so much and almost gave into the fears everyone had been placing in me about the class, and gave up. But, instead, my teacher explained that, at the end of the day, being fresh juniors who have most likely never taken an AP or math based science class before, that there will be a learning curve, and that in no time we’ll get the hang of it. At the time, I had no idea what this meant, but it was extremely true! Before I knew it, I was understanding physics and getting used to the test style, so much so that I would start getting hundreds on my tests, something I thought before to be impossible! After the beginning of the year, you’ll start to do labs. While it may not be the simulations we had to do virtually, what I learned most of all from them is to be patient with yourself. I am an extremely slow worker and would always be the, if not one of the, last students to finish labs, leaving a lot more for homework than the average student. Whether it was because I simply took longer than everyone else, or couldn’t get the materials or just was having trouble with the math, I learned that the best way to get it done is to not freak out about the work I have to make up, but to take each step one at a time and be patient with myself. So, whether it be labs or tests, try to be patient with yourself, as everyone learns and acts at different rates.
Although the extra help via Google Meet may not be in place next year, you should still try and use every extra help or general resource your teacher provides. A lot of the time in AP Physics, you’ll be taught a lesson, then given a homework assignment to practice said lesson, and either do more practice the next day or learn a whole new lesson. With this in mind, your AP Physics teacher most likely is not going to go over every single homework question you’ll have trouble with, which will most likely be a lot. The purpose of homework in AP classes especially, is to further your knowledge beyond the basics, as tests will do exactly that. So, whether it be going into class after school to ask questions, or asking a teacher during free time in class how to solve a problem, try and take advantage of every opportunity your teacher gives you as simply doing the homework to hand it in is not enough. You really need to try and find out where you went wrong as, most likely, questions just like that one will be on the test.
One of my biggest problems this year was reaching out for help. If I were being honest, I was put into a class where I had absolutely no friends, knowing some students but barely. The people who knew me would take advantage of that and constantly ask for help, which was completely fine, but I felt like a burden to do so back. However, in AP Physics, just like my teacher told my class at the beginning of the year, you need a buddy. Even if it’s someone from a different class, like mine was, you need someone to work out equations with, to compare answers to homework problems before you ask the teacher, and to work on group assignments, or ones where your teacher specially encourages you to reach out to someone to work on it with. Looking back on this year, I really wish I were more like all the students who reached out to me and understood that not only is it beneficial, but it’s perfectly okay to reach out for help! And you never know, sometimes even friendships can build from doing so.
Now that you understand how to make the best of the class with your friends, one key thing to remember is to take it seriously!! Like your teacher will most likely tell you at the beginning of the year, and like all my own friends told me, AP Physics is one of the hardest AP classes to take! With that being said, you need to take it seriously and give every assignment your all! While I may be a pedantic person who writes way too much for everything, you should still try your best in this class. Like stated before, even if it’s just a homework assignment that’s being graded on completion, if you don’t take the class and assignments like that seriously, and just work for a grade and not a good understanding of the concepts, the day the AP test, or even just a normal class test, comes, you’ll be completely lost, and your grades will reflect that. One thing I did for every test and quiz, even in classes other than AP Physics, was make my own “cheat sheet.” What I would do is, the night before or two nights before an assessment, I would copy down all the basic concepts of the unit, with specific examples of questions I had stared or remembered having trouble with, in my notes, homework, or even labs. Then, I’d copy it all down in my own definition, highlight the key points, and read it before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up. With this, I would have all the knowledge of the unit in my head for the test, and all of those sheets left over to help me study for the AP Exam without rereading my entire notebook! While this is a very pedantic method, taking me personally hours to write one to two pages per assessment, it really did help with the end of the year assignments and studying, such as one where we had to mark 7-10 facts from each unit to prepare for said test. Whether or not you use this method, you should still take the class seriously and give it your all!
Lastly, although this may slightly contradict my prior statement, try to have fun! While you should give the class your all and take it seriously, there are many opportunities to make the class fun, if you try. What I’ve personally learned in life is that it’s what you make of it. You can stress out about everything and destroy your mental health, or try to ignore it and see life optimistically, and everything as not a failure, but an obstacle you can overcome and grow from! While Physics is difficult, trust your teacher and be confident in yourself. Try and make friends and try to have fun when you’re doing labs, such as racing mechanical cars or building a toothpick bridge, when you’re put in groups, even if you don’t know anyone try and strike conversation based on common ground, and when you have free time in class!
In the end, as long as you:
Be patient with yourselves, everyone learns at different rates
Use the extra help and resources teachers will provide to you
Reach out to friends for help, you’re not a bother
Take the class seriously and give every assignment your all
Have fun! Like all of high school, Physics is what you make of it. So try and enjoy it!
You’ll do great! The final thing I’ll say is that you’re only a teenager for so long. You already lost a year and a half of high school to the virus, to try to have fun and get the best grades you can get, you got this!