problem-solving guide(1)

4 check your answer whenever you solve a physics

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Unformatted text preview: see if you know what you’re doing. In order to prove you know what you’re doing, you have to communicate solutions to problems to the graders. So tests are all about communicating knowledge. What we, the graders, are looking for, is evidence that you understand what’s going on. So write your answers in a way we can understand; specifically, • explain – in words! – what you’re doing • write out your steps clearly, so that your work progresses logically to the answer • write legibly We check your work for the right equations and the right answer, but we also check for understanding of what’s going on and a clear progression of thought. Our ideas of what we want to see in your test manifest themselves in the way we grade: • We give partial credit if you have the right equations and the right reasoning for using those equations. If you have the right ideas, we want to reward you for that. If you have the right equations but the wrong reasoning, we’re going to penalize you. (It’s risky to put down equations without saying anything about what they’re for or why you’re using them; you could lose a lot of points for that.) • Usually algebraic or calculational mistakes will cost you only a few points, because what we really care about is that you understand the physics. • We are very happy when you explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you get stuck, you should write down what you know and why you’re stuck. That will definitely get you partial credit – maybe half or more of the points in some cases. And it could help get you unstuck. • We facepalm whenever your units are incorrect, or you use equations that don’t apply, or you write down nonsense. We can absolutely tell when you don’t know what you’re doing: we show little mercy to the student who simply writes down every equation on his formula sheet, and we hate it when you grub for points. • If we can’t understand what you’re doing, you’re probably going to lose a lot of points. The moral here is really that you should always explain what you’re thinking. We test you because we want to see whether you’re thinking the right things. If you’re thinking the right things but make some mistakes, you’ll still get a lot of the...
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