Whether you’re still deciding what subjects to choose for your senior studies or are already in your final year, this post should give you the best insight on what you can do to set yourself up for your future. If you’d like to engage with tutoring after reading, you can view our tutors here.
So, what is Physics?
Before beginning to get any more specific, it’s worth discussing what physics is, how does it differ to other sciences? At its core, physics is the study of matter and energy. This may take the form of mechanics (the study of motion), electromagnetism (the study of electrical and magnetic systems), or even the standard model (the fundamental structure of our universe). Whether you’re interested in exploring the deep secrets of the universe or applying your skills to the realm of engineering, this is the field to pursue.
How do I get assessed?
Now that we understand what physics is, it’s time to get to know the subject itself. Now, I know, assessment is that big scary task you just must do and causes all your stress. Before I even get to what assessment is involved, I’ll give my first big tip for studying: It’s all about mindset. What do I mean by that? Basically, your subjects are only as bad as you let yourself think they are. Sure, you don’t have to love every little thing that you cover in every subject. You chose your subjects for a reason, engage those passions of yours when doing the work and recognise that so much of what you cover is truly fascinating. When you approach what you study through this lens, it is easier to appreciate and focus on what you’re learning.
Alright, now that we understand each other, I’ll tell you what opportunities there are to engage with your learning. In physics, as with the other sciences, there are four pieces of assessment each year: the data test, the student experiment, the research investigation, and the final exam.
The data test comes first and makes up 10% of your grade. It presents a great opportunity to lock in some early marks and show off your analytical skills without having to understand a lot of content.
Up next is the student experiment, accounting for 20% of your grade. This task gives you the chance to modify an experiment that you’ve conducted in class to explore what you’ve already learnt in new ways, deepening your understanding.
The last of the internal assessment is the research investigation, making up a further 20% of the grade. This task gives you the opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in vast detail, related to what you’ve already learned.
The final assessment that you’ll undertake is the external examination, which accounts for 50% of your grade. With its hefty weighting this is the task that (understandably) causes the most stress for the average student. It works to engage all the knowledge that you’ve accumulated over the past year and apply it to solve problems.
Tips and Tricks for Success
Now that you understand exactly what it is that you’ll be working towards, I’ll finally get to what I’m sure it is that got you here in the first place – how to succeed. Now it should go without saying, but this isn’t going to be a magic bullet to help you knock it all out with no effort. You still must put the work in!! The goal of these tips is to help you learn from my experience to set yourself up to make the most of the work that you do. So without further ado, here they are…
1. Mindset is Magic
Yes, I know, I covered it earlier, but it is probably the most important thing to consider with your studies in general (physics or not). If you come into your studies without a legitimate interest or if you just think of it as work that you ‘have to do’, it will be so much less enjoyable and in turn, very difficult to motivate yourself to succeed.
2. Bank Those Marks
One of the things you may have taken away from the assessment that it involved is that as you move through the year, the assessment is worth more. You may instantly connect that to a thought like ‘my data test is worthless’. THIS IS NOT THE CASE! Sure, it’s only a couple percent, but this adds up. Your ATAR depends on how your mark compares to everyone else, so make the most of these early marks, they will give you the edge when it comes to your external exam performance.
3. Keep That Knowledge Updated
Obviously, your external exam will be very important, so this should be something that you work towards for the whole year. I’m not saying you need to spend every waking moment studying, in fact this tip is meant to free up time. The last thing you want to do is get to a month before the exam period and realise that you have a whole year’s worth of content to revise for every subject. Trust me, it can be gruelling if you let it build. Spend the time throughout the year to do some quick revision and make sure that everything you’ve covered so far is up to date.
4. Early-Bird Gets the Worm
This goes hand in hand with the last point but get started as early as you can. When an assignment comes out, don’t leave it for a week before you get started. If you get a start made within a day of receiving the task, you will have so much more motivation to keep going. After all, a body in motion stays in motion (if you haven’t covered inertia, it’s just one of the things to look forward to).
So those are the tips I’d give to you to enhance your studies, inspired by my own senior experience. I hope this article has given you some insight as to what to expect and how to set yourself up for success.
Written by KIS Academics Tutor for QCE Physics, Quinn Horton. Quinn is currently pursuing a Bachelor (Honours) and Master of Engineering [Mechatronics] at the University of Queensland. You can view his profile here if you would like to find out more about him or request him as a tutor.