Is physics hard in high school? Here’s what you need to know.

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Gravity, energy, the laws that govern the universe: easy peasy, right?

With such an immense mass of material to explore, perhaps not. 

Physics appears in many students’ high school careers as a scientific essential and as a stepping stone to solving problems in other fascinating subjects, cutting-edge career paths, and more. If your child is interested in pursuing science in college or eventually a STEM career (science, technology, engineering, and math), there’s no doubt that a solid foundation in physics will get them ready for blast off.

Plus, if you’re looking for ways to spark your child’s interest in STEM, unlocking the secrets of the universe could be just the thing to ignite their imagination and motivation. 

There’s no denying, however, that physics can be challenging to learn. 

The best way to master physics 

High school students embarking on their physics studies might be nervous to dive into this branch of advanced science. Like mastering any content for the first time, the secret to how to pass physics lies in practice and having a few great strategies up your sleeve. 

Here are three tips for acing physics and blasting off to academic success.

1. Learn the calculus fundamentals for physics

Yep, calculus and physics go hand in hand. In fact, it’s the simple answer to many students’ question, “What is calculus used for, anyway”? Well, it provides answers to big questions about how motion and electricity work, plus (literally) far out areas of study like astronomy. 

Throwing in an extra layer of math on top of the scientific content students will need to know does add complexity to this subject. But with practice, it’s nothing that can’t be mastered! 

The help of a great calculus tutor can go a long way towards that mastery, as does a solid head start in pre-calculus. That way, students can learn the new scientific material while practicing the necessary math, rather than learning both topics simultaneously. 

2. Understand that physics is a subject that "builds"

In English class, you can pass an exam on The Great Gatsby even if you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Physics simply doesn’t work that way.

Most often, physics teachers and professors will approach the subject matter in a way that isn’t just sequential but also layers key concepts. Think of studying physics like climbing a flight of stairs, rather than walking down a straight path.

With that in mind, keeping up with the materials is essential to success. Take thorough notes, participate in labs and class, and make sure students ask for help if they need it. 

If you find them stuck on the whole asking for help step (not one to be underestimated), this guide to how to get extra help and support in school can help them get “unstuck!”

3. Try your hand at physics practice problems

While reading and rereading notes might seem like a good idea, that should be students’ first step of many in studying and practicing key concepts. A highlighter and memorizing does not guarantee productivity, after all!

As I previously mentioned, it’s important to keep up with assigned readings, labs, and lectures, then the real practice begins. Physics Classroom is a great resource for solving practice problems, finding example solutions, and more to actually see how those skills are coming along.  Make practice problems a regular part of your student's study routine, and you will absolutely thank yourself later!

May the force(s of physics) be with you!

Physics is a fascinating area of STEM that can be as rewarding as it is intellectually challenging to learn. For more support and inspiration on your learning journey, check out our list of 2023 STEM competitions!

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Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains. 

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