PHSI 191 Advice

Have your calculator at the ready. And a spare battery or three. While not so much CHEM 191's evil twin as his well-intentioned but mathematically obsessed little brother, Physics 191 is sure to give the left side of your brain (and your index finger) a serious workout. PHSI 191 arose from the ashes of PHSI 110 ("Introduction to Physics") in the great curriculum change of '07 replete with a new name ("Biological Physics"), and despite remaining suspiciously similar to his predecessor, impressed many with his ability to slim himself down into one semester.

If you have studied Physics at high school you are likely to be pleasantly surprised that much of PHSI 191 overlaps with your NCEA learning. If you have not, then you may be in for a surprise of a more unpleasant kind: the course kicks off with a two-week hurtle through "basic" mechanics, as they are (naturally) forced to assume that you can handle such equations in your sleep. To their credit, the Physics department make a genuine attempt to help out in this regard, and if you missed their catch-up course over summer it's very highly advised that you give yourself your own 'jumpstart' on this section of the course by completing the readings (and the corresponding problems) from the (old) set text that they have helpfully listed on their website here.

Fortunately for all involved, the assessment for PHSI 191 is 100% multiple choice (which means you have already scored 20%), and yes, you are allowed to take an A4 sized study-sheet with absolutely anything at all you feel like writing on it into your exam. Add this to the fact that the mid-term exam is "optional" and operates under "plussage" (only counts as a part of your mark if you do better in it than you do in the final exam), and one could be forgiven for thinking that PHSI 191 is going to be a veritable walk in the park. However, the Physics department are no chumps and you had better believe that the only reason these allowances are made is that they still obtain the lovely bell-shaped distribution of scores from PHSI 191 students regardless (i.e. plenty still fail, and few obtain A+ grades).

If you want to compete with the students applying for the professional courses, and did not ace your NCEA level Physics classes, PHSI 191 is unfortunately going to require some hard work. As, obviously, it is highly "skills" or "problem" based, the best way to study is to be practicing questions. We recommend that you start putting together your A4 study sheet from day 1 (don't waste any time or precious memory space learning formulae), and make sure you practice doing problems on a daily basis. Make sure you can work through and understand problems you see in class, make good use of any you can find in the new textbook, and answer previous exam questions. Not all previous exam questions are still relevant, so the Physics department have set up an extremely helpful web page where you can test yourself on those that are, which will also give you scores and even workings and explanations for some questions. FIND OUT where this is (we are unsure whether they desire it to be publicly available) once the course starts and make it part of your training. You will also be asked questions about concepts in Physics and for these you will have to rely on your understanding of the major principles you are taught about in lectures. However, these questions make up a relatively small part of your assessment and can at least on the odd occasion be guessed through common sense, so we do not recommend concerning yourself with these too much. Ensure you master the calculation type questions first - you MUST be able to do these well under pressure to stay in the running for the professional courses, or to simply pass.