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    Hi, am slightly apprehensive about all the practicals I'll be doing in my Physics course starting October! I enjoy the one's we do at school, but haven't really had that much practise (esp. compared to chemistry a-level!!!) and am worried that I'll be thrown in at the deep end (I'm such a worrier!!!). Generally, do they ease you into them? and do most people learn to really thrive in them and find they are actually their favourite part of the course? Just wondering - perhaps any scientist (doesn't have to be physics) cld put my mind at rest?
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    Why don't you specialise in string theory - then you won't have to do practical because they'll be impossible.

    MB
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    (Original post by musicboy)
    Why don't you specialise in string theory - then you won't have to do practical because they'll be impossible.

    MB
    LOL! Actually that is what I'm really interested in!!! However, I do enjoy my practicals, just worry well have to use all this strange and new equipment and be locked in a room all alone and be expected to get perfect results in our very first day of practicals!!!!
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    (Original post by Hoofbeat)
    LOL! Actually that is what I'm really interested in!!! However, I do enjoy my practicals, just worry well have to use all this strange and new equipment and be locked in a room all alone and be expected to get perfect results in our very first day of practicals!!!!
    Don't be silly! Why would they do that?
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    (Original post by Helenia)
    Don't be silly! Why would they do that?
    I don't know! just the fact that we have 1/2days a week dedicated to practicals makes them sound immensely important (as in our findings, not the learning aspect) and scary!
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    Yeah, unless universities have billion pound particle accelerators, you won't be doing many practicals on string theory. :cool:
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    I'm not a physicist but you don't seem to be getting much helpful info so I'll tell you what I know. Chemistry is as close to physics as I can get from personal experience, and there you're definitely led by the hand (how much depends on which demonstrator you get). I've heard from my physicist friends that physics practicals are very busy - you're not bored and you never finish early. This is a bit of a bummer as most people's aim is to get the prac done and get home as soon as possible Your findings won't be that important, they don't expect perfection. I think the pracs for physics are assessed (the chemistry ones definitely are) but I promise that as exams loom you realise this is infinitely preferable to a practical exam... Plus the pracs are only every other week so it isn't as horrific as it may seem. As for perfect results... naaaah! No-one gets perfect results in chemistry. As for physics, you just draw the line first and then plot your points and you're sorted, right?
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    (Original post by MadNatSci)
    you're definitely led by the hand (how much depends on which demonstrator you get). I've heard from my physicist friends that physics practicals are very busy - you're not bored and you never finish early
    Indeed, they're always rushed for time and it's normally a case of whether you can actually finish! They give you a booklet that explains nearly everything you need to know, and there's a demonstrator between about every 10 people or so. When you get options for the last two Physics practicals in the first year there are a couple that are distinctly fun and one that can be done in about half an hour if you want to get out early for once.

    (Original post by MadNatSci)
    Your findings won't be that important, they don't expect perfection. I think the pracs for physics are assessed
    They assess your lab book after every practical (you write it as you do the practical and hand it in at the end), then you also have a head of class write up to do at Easter time about one of the experiments you've already performed. The marks you get for the practicals in Physics in the first year aren't really significant, just like everything in the Tripos, they just want you to have a broad viewpoint and not specialise early.

    Alaric.
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    (Original post by Alaric)
    just like everything in the Tripos, they just want you to have a broad viewpoint and not specialise early
    doesn't the tripos refer to Cam's natural science course?! If so, thanks for the info, but I'm actually just doing Physics @ Oxford!

    Cheers for the info! They don't sound so bad now!
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    (Original post by Hoofbeat)
    doesn't the tripos refer to Cam's natural science course?! If so, thanks for the info, but I'm actually just doing Physics @ Oxford!

    Cheers for the info! They don't sound so bad now!

    Ok here you go - info from someone who's actually done the 1st year Physics practicals at Oxford. At Oxford as a Physicist in 1st year you'll be studying towards Prelims ('Preliminary examination in Physical Sciences') rather than Mods ('Honour Moderations in <subject>'). What this means is you don't have the same gading system. In Mods you have the full range of grades: fail, 3rd, 2.2, 2.1, 1st. In Prelims you have only pass (=3rd-2.1), fail or distinction (=1st). Practicals are assessed but as I'm sure you can see 'S' (satisfactory = pass) covers a huge range of stuff.

    So what happens - Oxford terms run for 8 weeks, your prelims are usually 7th or 8th week of summer term. You have 16 weeks of practicals, 1/week starting *I think* in 5th week of 1st term - hence finishing in 4th week of Summer term. You need to get 16 'S' or 'S+' to pass the practical part of prelims. If you fail a practical then you can redo it after 4th week of Summer term.

    There are 5 sets of Practicals - 4 of them cover the core material such as mechanics, electromagnetism etc. and 1 covers Astronomy which is an option and can be used to replace 1 of the core subjects (I forget which one). Each college starts off in one of the subjects and then spends 4 weeks in that subject before moving on in rotation. You'll have a practical partner (sorted out between yourselves within college usually), generally people of similar abilities tend to end up as partners, which is a good think really. Obviously if 1 of you is doing the astronomy option and the other not, you may be working alone for 4 weeks. Within each subject there may be more than 4 practicals to choose from, others might only have 4 hence you have to do them all. Sometimes, certain practicals need to be done in a certain order.

    The practicals run something like 10am -5pm - you're free to come and go but what usually happens is there's a run-down of what to do at the beginning so its good to turn up on time. During the practicals there's always plenty of lecturers on hand to check that you're not disappearing off on a tangent and 'demonstrators' - Graduate students who are paid to turn up and help the undergrads. It's busy, yes and there's always times when you do something for half an hour before realising it was wrong but I never had any problems finishing in time and getting an S, despite having the world's worst hangover on more than 1 ocassion. Obviously it's possible to fail a practical but to do that you would have to turn up at midday, then leave for lunch before coming back, having a big dump and starting to work at about 4:30. It's a lot of hassle having people redo practicals so they bend over backwards to (a) help and (b) let you through even if it isn't exactly the best piece of work they've ever seen.

    Don't worry.
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    (Original post by Hoofbeat)
    doesn't the tripos refer to Cam's natural science course?! If so, thanks for the info, but I'm actually just doing Physics @ Oxford!

    Cheers for the info! They don't sound so bad now!
    Yeah I realised when I finished writing it and read another thread, but it was late and I couldn't be bothered to post again explaining what a muppet I am
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    Thank you davey_boy! That was excatly what I wanted to know and you've reassured me now, that generally it's fairly reasonable to pass the practicals!
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    (Original post by Alaric)
    Yeah I realised when I finished writing it and read another thread, but it was late and I couldn't be bothered to post again explaining what a muppet I am

    Oh yeah.

    Me=dumb.

    Still, at least it was a response from a scientist... I tried!
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    (Original post by Hoofbeat)
    Thank you davey_boy! That was excatly what I wanted to know and you've reassured me now, that generally it's fairly reasonable to pass the practicals!
    Rather than worrying about the course, I'd be more worried about having 170 slightly nerdy guys chasing after the 20 laydeeeees on their course, of which you'll be one....
 
 
 
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