“How to Study Physics” by David R. Hubin

and Charles Riddell, was published by the Learning Skills Center, Univ. of Texas

at Austin, in 1977. This revision is by Lawrence C. Shepley, Physics Dept.,

Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX 78712. (He gratefully acknowledges the advice of

Leslie Dickie, John Abbott College, Quebec; Kal Kallison, Learning Skills

Center, UT Austin; and John Trimble, English Department, UT Austin.)

Please feel free to browse Larry Shepley’s homepage: http://wwwrel.ph.utexas.edu/Members/larry/index.html,

and please do send him your

questions and comments on this document. Version of **7 October 1997**.

You, like many students, may view college level physics as difficult.

You, again like many students, may seem overwhelmed by new terms and equations.

You may not have had extensive experience with problem-solving and may get lost

when trying to apply information from your textbook and classes to an actual

physics problem. We hope this pamphlet will help!

It’s designed to help you stay out of the difficulties that come when

you think small and get too involved in memorizing formulas or other specific

details without understanding the underlying principles. It will guide you in

understanding how to apply specific knowledge to the problems, how to start, how

to seek help, how to check your answer. In short, it will help you develop the

study skills that are important not just in physics but in all of your courses.

# Contents

Getting an Overview

Effective Participation in a Physics Class

Reading Your Physics Textbook

Problem Solving in Physics

Examples of the Application of the Problem-Solving

Principles

Effective Test Preparation

Weekly Flow Chart for Studying Physics

Tips

# Getting an Overview

It’s important to recognize that physics is a **problem-solving discipline**. Your physics teacher will stress major

themes and principles, and one major goal is that you, the student, will be able

to apply these principles to **understand and solve problems**. You should

focus on this fact, that in a physics course, you are expected to solve

problems.

An **overview** of your course can help you organize your efforts

and increase your efficiency. To understand and retain data or formulas, you

should see the underlying principles and connecting themes. It is almost

inevitable that you will sometimes forget a formula, and an understanding of the

underlying principle can help you generate the formula for yourself.

Take these steps to getting an overview early in the term so that all

subsequent material can be integrated into your overview:

- Examine the course outline (first day handout or syllabus) carefully, and

read the official description of the course in the University Catalog. Look

for underlying themes or a pattern on which the course is developed and how

this course fits in with your other courses. - Preview the textbook:
- Read the introduction and table of contents.
- Read any notes to the student (or teacher) that are included and the preface.
- Check the course outline to see what chapters are assigned and which are

omitted. If they are not assigned in the same order as in the table of

contents, can you see a reason for your teacher’s decision to alter the

order of presentation?

- As you preview the course from this perspective early in the term, look

for important themes and principles. Glance at some of the problems. How are

important themes illustrated in these problems?

# Effective Participation in a Physics Class

It’s important that you be well prepared for class in order to use its potential fully for

integrating the course material. To prepare for the class, you should do the

following:

## Prior to each class:

- Check the course outline or reading assignment to see what will be

covered. Prepare by**briefly previewing**the sections of the textbook

that apply to the subjects to be covered. This preview will improve your

ability to follow the class, for you will have seen the new terminology and

will recognize signposts that will help integrate the classes into an overall

picture. - Read the introduction and the summary of the relevant chapter and look at

the section headings and subheadings. Try to formulate questions in your mind

about the subjects to be covered. This question-formulating helps you

manipulate and therefore better understand the material. - Examine the drawings and pictures. Try to determine what principles they

illustrate. - Make notes of new words, new units of measure, statements of general laws,

and other new concepts. - Do
**not**underline or highlight the text, since you do not yet know

what will be emphasized by the instructor. - Right before the beginning of class, check your notes from the last class.

Reading your notes will prepare you to listen to the new physics class as part

of an integrated course and will help you to see the broad development of

themes.

## During class:

**Come to the class on time and stay till the very end.**Often

teachers give helpful hints in the first and last minutes of the lecture.

Unfortunately, these times are when a lot of people are not listening.**Take good notes**. It’s helpful to draw up a set of

**abbreviations**and use them consistently in taking notes. Keep a list of

them for later reference. Leave ample margins for later comments and for

questions or write on only one side so that you can use the opposite side for

comments and questions (see After Class, below).- When you copy
**drawings**, completeness is worth more than careful

artwork. You should not only copy what is on the board but also record

important points that the teacher makes orally about the diagram. - If you get behind in your note-taking,
**leave a space**in your notes

and go on. You can fill in your notes later with the help of a classmate or

your textbook. **Ask questions.**Don’t be embarrassed to ask your teacher questions.

Many teachers depend on feedback from students to help them set a proper pace

for the class. And of course it can happen that the teacher does not explain a

step he or she takes, or even makes a mistake when writing something on the

board.

## After class:

- Immediately after class, or as soon as possible,
**review**and edit

your notes. You need not rewrite them. Rather, you should look for important

ideas and relationships among major topics. Summarize these in the margin or

on the opposite side if you’ve taken notes only on one side, and at this time

you may want to add an outline to your notes. Also, this would be a good time

to integrate notes from your textbook into your lecture notes; then you will

have one set of integrated notes to study by. - As you review your notes, certain
**questions**may come to mind. Leave

space for recording questions, and then either ask the teacher or even better,

try to answer these questions for yourself with your friends and with the help

of the text.

# Reading Your Physics Textbook

Reading the text and solving homework problems is a cycle: Questions lead to answers that lead back to more

questions. An entire chapter will often be devoted to the consequences of a

single basic principle. You should look for these basic principles. These Laws

of Nature give order to the physicists’ view of the universe. Moreover, nearly

all of the problems that you will be faced with in a physics course can be

analyzed by means of one or more of these laws.

When looking for relationships among topics, you may note that in many

instances a specific problem is first analyzed in great detail. Then the setting

of the problem is generalized into more abstract results. When such

generalizations are made, you should refer back to the case that was previously

cited and make sure that you understand how the general theory applies to the

specific problem. Then see if you can think of other problems to which that

general principle applies. Some suggestions for your physics reading:

- Make use of the
**preview**that you did prior to the class. Again,

quickly look at the major points of the chapter. Think back to the points

stressed in class and any questions you might have written down. **Read the homework problems first.**If specific homework problems

have not yet been assigned, select several and look these over. Critically

assess what principles seem to be most significant in the assigned chapter.

Based upon your brief review of the class and your examination of the

problems, try to generate questions in your mind that you want the chapter to

answer.**Read actively**with questions in mind. A passive approach to reading

physics wastes your time. Read with a pencil and paper beside the book to jot

down questions and notes. If you find that you are not reading actively, once

again take a look at the problems and the lecture notes. Read to learn, not to

cover material.**Stop**periodically and pointedly recall the material that you have

read. It is a good idea to repeat material aloud and especially to add notes

from the textbook into the margins of your class notes.- During your reading you will notice sections, equations, or ideas that

apply directly to assigned problems. After you have read such a section, stop

and analyze its**application**to a homework problem. The interplay of

reading and problem solving is part of the cycle of question ➞ answer

➞ question. It helps you gain insights that are not possible by reading

alone, even careful reading alone. Passive reading is simply following the

chain of thought in the text. Active reading also involves exploring the

possibilities of what is being read. By actively combining the questions that

are inherent in problem solving with your reading, you enhance both your

concentration while reading and your ability to recall and to apply the

material.

# Problem Solving in Physics

You may now be like many students a novice problem solver. The goal of this section is to help you become an expert

problem solver. Effective, expert problem solving involves answering five questions:

- What’s the problem about?
- What am I asked to find?
- What information am I to use? What principles apply?
- What do I know about similar situations?
- How can I go about applying the information to solve the problem?
- Does my solution make sense?

You, the expert, will decide, “this is an energy problem,” or, “this is a

Newton 2 problem.” A novice is more likely to decide, “this is a pulley

problem,” or, “this is a baseball problem.” The novice concentrates on the

surface features of the problem while you concentrate on the underlying

principle. You, an expert problem solver, will answer these questions, play

around (briefly) with the problem, and make drawings and sketches (either in

your mind, or even better, on paper) before writing down formulas and plugging

in numbers. A novice problem solver, on the other hand, will try to write down

equations and plug in numbers as soon as possible. A novice will make many more

mistakes than you will when you become an expert.

In a physics course it’s important to remember a couple of things about

physicists and physics professors:

- A physicist seeks those problems that can be modeled or represented by a

**picture or diagram**. Almost any problem you encounter in a physics

course can be described with a drawing. Such a drawing often contains or

suggests the solution to the problem. - A physicist seeks to find unifying principles that can be expressed

**mathematically**and that can be applied to broad classes of physical

situations. Your physics text book contains many specific formulas, but you

must understand the broader Laws of Nature in order to grasp the general

overview of physics. This broad understanding is vital if you are to solve

problems that may include several different principles and that may use

several different formulas. Virtually all specific formulas in physics are

combinations of basic laws.

## General outline of how to approach a physics problem:

**Read the problem.**Look up the meanings of any terms that you do not

know. Answer for yourself the question, “What’s this about?” Make sure you

understand what is being asked, what the question is. It is very helpful if

you express the problem in your own words or if you tell a friend what the

problem is about.- Make a
**drawing**of the problem. Even a poor drawing can be helpful,

but for a truly good drawing include the following: - Give a
**title**that identifies the quantity you are seeking in the

problem or that describes the problem. **Label**the drawing, including the parameters or variables on which

the solution depends and that are given in the problem. Write down the given

values of these parameters on the drawing.- Label any
**unknown**parameters that must be calculated along the

way or obtained from the text in order to find the desired solution. - Always give the
**units of measure**for all quantities in the

problem. If the drawing is a graph, be sure to give both the**units**

and the**scale**of the axes. - Include on the drawing information that is
**assumed**and not given

in the problem (such as g, the value of the acceleration due to gravity),

and whether air resistance and friction are neglected. - Establish which
**general principle**relates the given parameters to

the quantity that you are seeking. Usually your picture will suggest the

correct techniques and formulas. At times it may be necessary to obtain

further information from your textbook or notes before the proper formulas can

be chosen. It often happens that further information is needed when the

problem has a solution that must be calculated indirectly from the given

information. If further information is needed or if intermediate quantities

must be computed, it is here that they are often identified. - Draw a
**second picture**that identifies the coordinate system and

origin that will be used in relating the data to the equations. In some

situations this second picture may be a graph, free body diagram, or vector

diagram rather than a picture of a physical situation. - Even an expert will often use the
**concrete method**of working a

problem. In this method you do the calculation using the given values from the

start, so that the algebra gives numerical values at each intermediate step on

the way to the final solution. The**disadvantage**of this method is that

because of the large number of numerical calculations involved, mistakes are

likely, and so you should take special care with significant figures. However

this method has the**advantage**that you can see, at every step of the

way, how the problem is progressing. It also is more direct and often makes it

easier to locate a mistake if you do make one. - As an expert, you will more and more use the
**formal method**of

working a problem. In this method, you calculate the solution by doing as much

as possible without using specific numbers. In other words, do as much of the

algebra as you can before substituting the specific given values of the data.

In long and complicated problems terms may cancel or expressions simplify. Our

advice: gain experience in problem solving by substituting the numbers when

you start physics, but gradually adopt the formal approach as you become more

confident; many people adopt a compromise approach where they substitute some

values but retain others as symbols (for example, “g” for the acceleration due

to gravity). **Criticize your solution**: Ask yourself, “Does it make sense?”

Compare your solution to any available examples or to previous problems you

have done. Often you can check yourself by doing an approximate calculation.

Many times a calculation error will result in an answer that is obviously

wrong. Be sure to check the**units**of your solution to see that they are

appropriate. This examination will develop your physical intuition about the

correctness of solutions, and this intuition will be very valuable for later

problems and on exams.An important thing to remember in working physics problems is that by

**showing all of your work**you can much more easily locate and correct

mistakes. You will also find it easier to read the problems when you prepare

for exams if you show all your work.- In an
**examination**, you may have to do problems under a strict time

limitation. Therefore, when you are finished with a homework problem, practice

doing it again faster, in order to build up your speed and your confidence.

When you have completed a problem, you should be able, at some later

time, to read the solution and to understand it without referring to the text.

You should therefore write up the problem so as to include a **description**

of what is wanted, the **principle** you have applied, and the **steps**

you have taken. If, when you read your own answer to the problem, you come to a

step that you do not understand, then you have either omitted a step that is

necessary to the logical development of the solution, or you need to put down

more extensive notes in your write-up to remind you of the reasons for each

step.

It takes more time to write careful and complete solutions to homework

problems. Writing down what you are doing and thinking slows you down, but more

important it makes you behave more like an **expert**. You will be well paid

back by the assurance that you are not overlooking essential information. These

careful write-ups will provide excellent review material for exam preparation.

# Examples of the Application of the Problem-Solving Principles

## Sample Problem #1:

This problem is stated and the solution written down as you would work it out for homework.

In 1947 Bob Feller, former Cleveland pitcher, threw a baseball

across the plate at 98.6 mph or 44.1 m/s. For many years this was the fastest

pitch ever measured. If Bob had thrown the pitch straight up, how high would

it have gone?

- What does the problem ask for, and what is given? Answer: The speed of the

baseball is given, and what is wanted is the height that the ball would reach

if it were thrown straight up with the given initial speed. You should double

check that whoever wrote the problem correctly calculated that 98.6 miles/hr

is equal to 44.1 m/s. You should state explicitly, in words, that you will use

the 44.1 m/s figure and that you will assume the baseball is thrown from an

initial height of zero (ground level). You should also state explicitly what

value of g you will use, for example, g = 9.81 m/s^{2}. You should

also state that you assume that air resistance can be neglected. Since you

don’t know the mass of the baseball, say that you don’t (you won’t need it,

anyway). - Make a drawing:
- The general principles to be applied here are those of uniformly

accelerated motion. In this case, the initial velocity v_{o}decreases

linearly in time because of the gravitational acceleration. The maximum height

y_{m}occurs at the time t_{m}when the velocity reaches zero.

The average velocity during from t = 0 to t = t_{m}is the average of

the initial velocity v = v_{o}and the final velocity v = 0, or half

the initial velocity. - Make a second drawing. In this case, try a graph of velocity as a function

of time: - The concrete method can now be applied: An initial velocity of 44.1 m/s

will decrease at the rate of 9.81 m/s^{2}to zero in a time

t_{m}given byt _{m}= 44.1 / 9.81 = 4.4954 s .During that time, the average velocity is v

_{av}= 44.1 / 2 =

22.05 m/s. Therefore the height is given byy _{m}= v_{av}t_{m}= 99.12 =

99.1 m .Notice that for all “internal” calculations, more than the correct

number of significant figures were kept; only when the final answer was

obtained was it put into the correct number of significant figures, in this

case three. - To do this problem in a formal method, use the formula for distance y as a

function of t if the acceleration a is constant. Do not substitute numbers,

but work only with symbols until the very end:y = y _{o}+ v_{o }t + a

t^{2}/ 2 ,where y

_{o}= 0 is the initial position, v_{o}= 44.1 m/s

is the initial velocity, and a = – g = – 9.81 m/s^{2}is the constant

acceleration. However, do not use the numerical figures at this point in the

calculation. The maximum value of y is when its derivative is zero; the time

t_{m}of zero derivative is given by:dy/dt = v _{o}+ a t_{m}= 0 –>

t_{m}= – v_{o}/ a .The maximum height y

_{m}is given by putting this value of

t_{m}into the equation for y:y _{m}= y_{o}+ v_{o}( –

v_{o}/ a ) + a ( – v_{o}/ a )^{2}/ 2 =

y_{o}– v_{o}^{2}/ 2a .Now substitute: y

_{o}= 0, v_{o}= 44.1, a = – 9.81. The

result isy _{m}= 0 + 0.5 (44.1)^{2}/ 9.81

= 99.1 m . - Look over this problem and ask yourself if the answer makes sense. After

all, throwing a ball almost 100 m in the air is basically impossible in

practice, but Bob Feller did have a very fast fast ball pitch!There is another matter: If this same problem had been given in a chapter

dealing with conservation of energy, you should not solve it as outlined

above. Instead, you should calculate what the initial and final kinetic energy

KE and potential energy PE are in order to find the total energy. Here, the

initial PE is zero, and the initial KE is m v_{o}^{2}/ 2. The

final PE is m g y_{m}and the final KE is zero. Equate the initial KE

to the final PE to see that the unknown mass m cancels from both sides of the

equation. You can then solve for y_{m}, and of course you will get the

same answer as before but in a more sophisticated manner. - To prepare for an exam, look over this problem and ask yourself how you

can solve it as quickly as possible. You may be more comfortable with the

concrete approach or with the formal approach; practice will tell. On an

actual exam, you might not have time for a complete drawing or a complete

listing of principles. By working this problem a couple of times, even after

you’ve gotten the answer once, you will become very familiar with it. Even

better, explain the problem to a friend of yours, and that way you really will

be an expert!

Notice that the graph is fairly accurate: You can approximate the value of

g as 10 m/s^{2}, so that the velocity decreases to zero in about 4.5

s. Therefore, even before you use your calculator, you have a good idea of

about the value of t_{m}.

## Sample Problem #2:

Again, this problem is stated and the solution

written down as you would work it out for homework. As in Sample Problem #1, we

go through the eight steps of the general outline.

A one kilogram block rests on a plane inclined at 27^{o}

to the horizontal. The coefficient of friction between the block and the plane

is 0.19. Find the acceleration of the block down the plane.

- The problem asks for the acceleration, not the position of the block nor

how long it takes to go down the plane nor anything else. No mention is made

of the difference between static or kinetic coefficients of friction, so

assume they are the same. The mass is given, but you will eventually find that

it doesn’t matter what the mass is. (If the mass had not been given, that

would be an indication that it doesn’t matter, but even in that case you may

find it easier to assume a value for the mass in order to guide your thoughts

as you do the problem.) - Here is the first picture. Note that the angle is labeled θ, and the coefficient of friction

is labeled μ. In

addition, the use of m for the mass and**a**_{||}for the

acceleration down the plane are defined in the picture. - There are two general principles that apply here. The first is Newton’s

Second Law:**F**= m**a**,where

**F**is the net force, a vector, and**a**is acceleration,

another vector; the two vectors are in the same direction. The mass m will

eventually be found not to make any difference, and in that case, you might be

tempted to write this law as**a**=**F**/ m, since**a**is what

you want to find. However, the easiest way to remember Newton’s Second Law is

**F**= m**a**, and so that is the law to work with. - It is now time to draw the second picture. It helps to redraw the first

picture and add information to it. In this case a vector diagram is drawn and

various forces are defined.Note that in the vector diagram, the block has been replaced by a dot at

the center of the vectors. The relevant forces are drawn in (all except the

net force). Even the value assumed for the gravitational acceleration has been

included. Some effort has been made to draw them to scale: The normal force is

drawn equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the component of the

gravity force that is perpendicular to the plane. Also, the friction force has

been drawn in parallel to the plane and opposing the motion; it has been drawn

in smaller than the normal force. The angles of the normal and parallel forces

have been carefully drawn in relation to the inclined plane. This sub-drawing

has a title and labels, as all drawings should. - We will do this problem using the formal approach, leaving the concrete

method for a check (see below). - Now for calculation using the formal approach, where you work with algebra

and symbols rather than with numbers. First state in words what you are doing,

and then write down the equation: - Magnitude of gravity force = weight = m g.
- Resolve gravity force into normal component and parallel component whose

magnitudes are:F _{G||}= m g sin θ and F_{GN}= m g

cos θ. - The magnitude of the normal force due to the plane is equal in magnitude

(but the direction is opposite) to the magnitude of the normal component of

the gravity force:F _{N}= m g cos θ. - The frictional force opposes the motion, and its magnitude is equal to

the coefficient of friction times the normal plane force:F _{f}= μ m g cos θ . - The net force (which is along the plane) is the difference between the

parallel component of the gravitational force and the friction force; its

magnitude is:F = m g sin θ – μ m g cos θ. - The acceleration is net force over mass:
a _{||}= g sin θ – μ g cos θ = g ( sin θ – μ cos θ). - The numerical answer is (given to two significant figures since the

given numbers have two):a = (9.8 m/s ^{2}) (sin 27^{o}–

0.19 cos 27^{o}) = (9.8) (0.454 – 0.19 x 0.891) = 2.79 = 2.8

m/s^{2}. - When you look over this answer to see if it makes sense, try doing the

problem by substituting numbers in at each step (the concrete approach). The

weight of a kilogram, for example is 9.8 N. The normal (perpendicular to the

plane) component of the gravitational force is 9.8 times cos 27^{o}or

8.73 N. This makes sense, for if the angle were very small, the normal

component of the gravitational force would be almost equal to 9.8 itself.

Notice that although the final answer should be given to two significant

figures, you should keep three in these intermediate calculations. - Now anticipate how you’d do this problem on an exam. Is the concrete

approach faster and easier for you? Or would you be more comfortable using the

formal approach on an exam? It is a good idea to practice doing this problem

when you study for an exam, if you think a similar problem will be asked.

The second principle is that the frictional force is proportional to

the normal force (the component of the force on the block due to the plane

that is perpendicular to the plane). The frictional force is along the plane

and always opposes the motion. Since the block is initially at rest but will

accelerate down the plane, the frictional force will be up along the plane.

The coefficient of friction, which is used in this proportionality relation,

is .

The parallel component of the gravitational force is 9.8 sin 27^{o}

= 4.45 N. The normal force due to the plane is equal in magnitude to the

gravitational normal force (but opposite in direction), and so the frictional

force is 0.19 times 8.73 or 1.66 N. The net force is down the plane and equal

to the difference 4.45 – 1.66 = 2.79 N. Divide this value by 1 kg to get the

acceleration 2.79 m/s^{2} (which is rounded off to 2.8

m/s^{2}).

Again examine your solution. It says that the block does accelerate down

the plane because the final answer is positive. The acceleration is less than

g, again a reasonable result. Notice that if the angle were more than

27^{o}, then its sine would be larger and its cosine smaller, so the

acceleration would be greater. If the angle were less than 27^{o} then

the opposite would be true, and the acceleration, as calculated above, could

become negative. But a negative value for acceleration would be wrong, because

that would say that the block would accelerate up the plane because the

frictional force dominates, and that is impossible. Instead, if the

calculation had produced a negative value for a, you would have had to change

the solution to a = 0, meaning that the frictional force was enough to prevent

sliding.

# Effective Test Preparation

If you have followed an active approach to study similar to the one suggested in this handout, your preparation

for exams will not be overly difficult. If you haven’t been very active in

studying, your preparation will be somewhat harder, but the same principles

still apply. Always remember: Physics courses, and therefore physics exams,

involve **problem solving**. Hence, your approach to studying for exams

should stress problem solving.

Here are some principles:

- In the
**week prior**to the exam, follow the three steps below. These

steps should give you a reasonably good idea of what has been stressed and on

what you can expect to be tested. - Review your
**notes**and recheck the course outline. Your goal at

this point is to make sure you know what has been emphasized. - Reread your solutions to the
**homework**problems. Remember that

these solutions, if complete, will note underlying principles or laws. - Review the assigned
**chapters**. Once again, your purpose in this

early stage of exam preparation is to make sure you know what topics or

principles have been emphasized. - From this rapid overview, generate a list of
**themes**,

**principles**, and types of**problems**that you expect to be covered.

If samples of previous exams are available, look them over, also, but do not

assume that only previous types of problems will be included. It definitely

helps to**work with others**at this stage. **Review actively**. Don’t be satisfied with simple recognition of a

principle. Aim for actual knowledge that you will be able to recall and to use

in a test situation. Try to look at all the possible ways that a principle can

be applied. Again, it helps to work with others and to explain things to

others (and have them explain things to you).For example: If velocity and acceleration principles have been emphasized

in the course, look over all of your homework problems to see if they

illustrate these principles, even partially. Then if you also can anticipate

an emphasis on friction and inertia, once again review all of your homework

problems to see if they illustrate those principles.- Effective examination preparation involves an
**interaction**among

homework problems, the classes, your notes and the text. Review actively,

including self-tests in which you create your own problems which involve a

combination of principles. You need to be sure that you can work problems

without referring to your notes or to the textbook. Practice doing problems

using both the concrete and the formal approaches, to see which you are more

comfortable with. - Remember that exams will include a
**variety**of different problems.

You want to look back on an exam and say, “I know how to do friction problems

so well, that even though they were asked in a weird way, I could recognize

them and solve them.”

# Weekly Flow Chart for Studying Physics

# Tips

These tips are based on a list “17 Tips that UT Seniors

Wish They’d Known as Freshmen” by Dr. John Trimble, a professor in the English

Department. He is a member of The University of Texas’s Academy of Distinguished

Professors. These tips have been adapted to fit physics courses, but they are

good tips for any university student.

- Get to know your professor. Go to his or her office hours early in the

semester and often. Get to know your TAs. Go to their office hours early in

the semester and often. UT Austin has faculty and graduate students who are

among the best in the world; get to know them. - As soon as you can, trade names and phone numbers with at least two

classmates. Don’t ask the professor what you missed if you happen to miss

class; ask your classmates. - Make sure you are enrolled in the course you think you are enrolled in.

Correct any enrollment mistakes as soon as you can. - Read and study your course policy statement (the first day handout or the

syllabus). It is a legal contract! - Buy and use an appointment book.
- Keep a notebook of unfamiliar words and phrases. Look them up or ask what

they mean. Buy and use a good dictionary. - If you haven’t yet learned to use a computer, do so. If you don’t have a

good calculator, which you know how to use easily, buy one and learn to use

it. A particular calculator may be required for class; be sure you get the

right one. Study its manual and practice using it until you can do so quickly

and accurately. - Learn to touch-type. If you hunt-and-peck, you will be at a disadvantage.

Learn either through a computer program or at Austin Community College. - Bring two calculators to each exam or one calculator and extra batteries.

Bring your text book to each exam. Bring extra paper to each exam. Bring two

pencils and two pens to each exam. Bring two blue books if required. Ask which

of these you are allowed to use, but of course don’t use the items that aren’t

allowed. - Go to each and every class session. Be punctual. Look professional. Don’t

disturb the class by talking. But do ask questions! - Exercise at least every other day.
- When you write papers, do so in at least two editing stages, with a few

hours or a day or two between drafts. Type your papers. When you write up

homework problems, do so neatly and carefully. If possible, ask your

professor, TA, or the grader for feedback before you turn in the final version

of an assignment.

- Understand that you are reinventing yourself. You are defining what and

who you are for many years to come (you may want to reinvent yourself

later, at 30 or 40), so be careful about how you go about it. - Hang out with the smartest, most studious people you can find. Watch how

they work. Eventually people will be watching you; help them in developing

good study habits. - Take the teacher, not the course. Shop for the best teachers by asking

older students who they are and by reading the Course/Instructor student

evaluations at the UGL’s Reserve Desk. Try to meet prospective teachers before

enrollment. Keep a “Best Teachers/Best Courses” notebook. - Assume responsibility for your own education. Exercise initiative. Learn

to love the whole process of education, not just the end-product. - Dr. Trimble’s seven reasons for going to college:
- To meet a lot of interesting people, some of whom will become lifelong

friends. - To gain an enlarged view of an enlarged world.
- To learn better how to learn. (Most of what you later learn, you’ll

teach yourself.) - To reinvent yourself — that is, to discover and explore more of

yourself than you normally could at home. - To acquire at least a dilettante’s knowledge about a lot of different

things, since being informed beats the hell out of being ignorant. - To learn how to handle adult responsibilities while still enjoying a

semi-protected environment. - To identify and explore career options.