FAQs - General & Engineering Physics

Computing Your Grade

How are grades calculated?

If you have a score of C or higher in both the lecture and lab, it is 75% Lecture + 25% Lab.

If you have a D or lower in either the Lecture or Lab, then you will get a D or an F, depending on your overall average.

Here is an example for a semester with three quizzes (summer sessions have two quizzes):

Quiz Scores: 78, 89, 90. Final Exam 85.

First replace the 78 with the Final Exam Score.

Exam average = (85+89+90+85)/4 = 87.3%.

Homework scores: 7, 9, 9, 10. Homework average 90.0%.

Lecture score = (0.90)(87.3) + (0.1)(90.0%) = 87.57%.

Lab score 96. Since both Lecture and Lab are C or above we compute as follows:

Class score = (0.75)(87.57) + (0.25)(96) = 89.7. Rounded up, this is an A.

Can you tell me what grade I am getting right now? Overall class grades are not calculated during the semester. You can compute a mid-semester grade estimate yourself by projecting something about what you think might happen, for example, that your averages remain the same for the rest of the semester. To do this, simply put your projected averages into the appropriate places in the example above.

Are the exam scores curved? No, but exams may be curved upward based on the higher scores values.

Are the exams just like the homework? Yes and No. However, even when they are the same, the questions are perceived as different, harder, etc, due to the stress of taking a test. See the Success and Studying FAQs below.

If I do all the homework problems will I get an A in the class? The answer depends on how you did the problems. If you use the problems to improve your understanding and work them over and over till you have mastered the material then you will have given yourself your best chance for an A.

Do you limit the class to just one or two As? No. Anyone who earns an A will get one.

I got less than 70 on my quiz, should I be concerned? Yes. You will need to have a quiz average very near 70 in order to earn a C in the class.

Do I have to take the Final Exam? Unfortunately, yes. The department requires that you take a final exam during the last week of class that is worth a minimum of 20%.

How do students usually do on the Final Exam? In general students do not do as well on the Final Exam as they do on regular quizzes. This is why it is so important to do well during the semester and build up a nice average.

How can I find out my grade? Grades are accessible online at ACCs home page, student online access. Registration is required.

Success and Studying
How should I study for the exams? Prepare for and participate in every class and lab and take notes. Study regularly and start reviewing your notes a week before the exam. Any topic or point in the notes you are unsure of should be studied over again. Find problems that deal with your weakest areas and work them over and over with variations. Read and review problems dealing with your strong areas, making sure you remember how to do these. Repeat this process until you feel confident. The single most important thing you can do to improve your exam scores: practice solving problems under test conditions with limited time.

I don’t understand the book, any suggestions? Yes. Reading a physics book is closer to memorizing a poem or learning a language than it is to reading a novel. Read a little bit, then stop and look away, and think about what it means. When and where is it true? Does it relate to anything you have experienced? Take a break after reading a several pages, then go back over what you just read. Repeat this process over sections and then finally over the whole chapter.

What is the right way to solve problems? Make a sketch. Think about the information given and how it relates to the situation. Write this information in a meaningful way, e.g., at the appropriate place on the sketch. Think about what the relationships between these values should be. Think about what was asked about and what other things you might need, e.g. do you need a constant from the front of the book? You may also need to re-read some areas in the textbook. For problems in one of your weak areas you may need one week of reflection and repetition on this problem until you can work it under test conditions.

How many hours a day should I study on average if I want an A? One to two hours per day during a 16 week semester is enough for many experienced and well prepared students. Multiply this by three for a short summer session.

How much time do I have to spend studying to get a C? Surprisingly, almost as much time as it might take to get a low A. In order to get a C you have to get over the hump. Once you are proficient, it does not take much more to reach the first level of mastery.

If I do all the homework problems and understand them all, will I get an A on the test? Not if you do the homework by looking at the answer in the back and figuring out which numbers in the problem, plugged into some formula, gives the answer. Copying an available solution is even less effective.

I did most of the problems, is that good enough? Skipping one or two problems per chapter can lower your test scores by one or two letter grades.