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Learn Physics! How to Self Study Physics – A Complete Guide For Beginners

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Jason Kuma

Writer | Coach | Builder | Fremont, CA

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My name is Jason and I’ve helped over 1000 students (1 to 1) learn Physics from scratch. I created nerd-notes to accelerate your Physics learning journey with tools and materials that actually help!

This guide will show you how simple it can be to learn Physics from scratch.

Pick Your Physics Curriculum

Regular, Honors, or Advanced Physics. AP Physics 1 or C. IB Physics. Introductory College Physics (the same as AP or IB).

All these curriculums share the same core topics (note that IB Physics typically covers more topics like thermodynamics).

This self-study guide is primary based of AP Physics 1. However you can use this guide to learn Physics for any of the curriculums listed above.

General Topics and Time Frames

In general there are around 6 topics you will need to master for a Physics course.

  1. Vectors and Motion
  2. Linear Dynamics (Forces)
  3. Energy
  4. Momentum
  5. Rotational and circular dynamics
  6. Oscillations
  7. Fluids

As mentioned, IB Physics typically covers more topics, (nerd-notes doesn’t yet cover) such as:

  1. Waves
  2. Fields
  3. Particle Physics
  4. Astrophysics
  5. Electromagnetism

In terms of timing, it usually takes me ~1.5 hrs to cover each topic during a 1 to 1 zoom session.

This is absurdly fast. And since I won’t be teaching you directly, I’ve re-created many resources so you can have a similar experience.

As you work on your own, it will take a longer, but give yourself around 5 to 6 hrs to cover each topic in depth. The guides I created (I talk about this in the next part) will help speed up the learning process.

If you dedicate around 4 hrs per weekday, you can easily cover all the material within a month and half.

What you need to do to learn physics

Now let’s go over how you will learn. Keep in mind Physics is a combination of conceptual and mathematical problems. So you will need to do just two things to quickly master topics:

  1. Read through the free articles I’ve created for each Unit. I’ve broken it down into digestible sections and included videos to help with problem solving.
    • You don’t need to take notes, but you MUST to all the practice questions within each article.
  2. Practice even more problems. As you come to the end of a unit, use the Ultimate Question Bank (UBQ) to find harder questions. This is a must! If you skip this part then you will never truly push yourself to understand the nuances of each topic.
    • I’ve hand picked these questions just for you. So correctly solving UBQ questions is the quickest path to mastery.
    • As a general rule of thumb, for every topic, aim to do at least 60 questions for a solid understanding. It will take time, but is very much worth doing.

What about Khan Academy or textbooks?

Yes, there’s tons of resources online.

Many of my student have tried using them. The general connesus is that:

Textbooks have too much “fat” (aka information not needed to actually learn the topic at hand). Khan Academy articles, on the other hand has too little information to thoroughly learn.

So to learn Physics in the fastest time possible, you only need two things:

  1. A guide to learn concepts
  2. A question bank to practice questions

As already mentioned, you can find the guides here, and the question bank (UBQ) here. Both are free to use.

That said, if you like learning from a textbook, don’t let anyone stop you!

Youtube videos are also a great way of learning but often time videos are long and topics are unorganized.

The videos I’ve created are short and relevant to the article content I create. I’ve embedded them into articles so you know which ones to watch.

Is learning physics that simple?

Yes, learning Physics is dead simple if you have the right materials and follow the steps I’ve outlined.

To recap: Learn from nerd-notes unit guides, practice using UBQ.

The hard part is sitting down and doing the practice questions. Often times you will get stuck. We offer elite 1-to-1 tutoring for accelerated help, but spots very are limited.

So to help you out even further, I built Phy — the world’s most advanced Physics helper.

You can chat with Phy here. But it’s built right into UBQ to help grade your free responses and so much more. And the more you ask Phy the better it will adapt to your learning style!

It’s an incredible tool and I hope you find it useful.

More materials to help you learn physics

As you continue to learn, keep an eye out for out new review videos, group sessions, and more. We post announcements on Nerd-Notes.

Lastly after completing each unit, go over the unit speed reviews. This is a recap of everything you should know to ace that unit’s exam.

Learn in days with an expert

Want a stress free path to learning Physics in the fastest time possible?

Check out our elite 1 to 1 programs. We been ranked the world’s best Physics help for the last 3 years!

With us, the average student takes around 3 weeks to learn all of Physics — in depth! We don’t cut corners, but we make the material extremely understandable for maximum learning efficiency.

Picture of Jason Kuma
Jason Kuma

Writer | Coach | Builder | Fremont, CA

Programs

Units in AP Physics 1

Unit 1 – Linear Kinematics

Unit 2 – Linear Forces

Unit 3 – Circular Motion

Unit 4 – Energy 

Unit 5 – Momentum 

Unit 6 – Torque 

Unit 7 – Oscillations 

Unit 8 – Fluids

Reading Key

LRN
RE
PS
PQ
Black
White
Blue
Orange

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KinematicsForces
\Delta x = v_i t + \frac{1}{2} at^2F = ma
v = v_i + atF_g = \frac{G m_1m_2}{r^2}
a = \frac{\Delta v}{\Delta t}f = \mu N
R = \frac{v_i^2 \sin(2\theta)}{g} 
Circular MotionEnergy
F_c = \frac{mv^2}{r}KE = \frac{1}{2} mv^2
a_c = \frac{v^2}{r}PE = mgh
 KE_i + PE_i = KE_f + PE_f
MomentumTorque and Rotations
p = m v\tau = r \cdot F \cdot \sin(\theta)
J = \Delta pI = \sum mr^2
p_i = p_fL = I \cdot \omega
Simple Harmonic Motion
F = -k x
T = 2\pi \sqrt{\frac{l}{g}}
T = 2\pi \sqrt{\frac{m}{k}}
ConstantDescription
gAcceleration due to gravity, typically 9.8 , \text{m/s}^2 on Earth’s surface
GUniversal Gravitational Constant, 6.674 \times 10^{-11} , \text{N} \cdot \text{m}^2/\text{kg}^2
\mu_k and \mu_sCoefficients of kinetic (\mu_k) and static (\mu_s) friction, dimensionless. Static friction (\mu_s) is usually greater than kinetic friction (\mu_k) as it resists the start of motion.
kSpring constant, in \text{N/m}
M_E = 5.972 \times 10^{24} , \text{kg} Mass of the Earth
M_M = 7.348 \times 10^{22} , \text{kg} Mass of the Moon
M_M = 1.989 \times 10^{30} , \text{kg} Mass of the Sun
VariableSI Unit
s (Displacement)\text{meters (m)}
v (Velocity)\text{meters per second (m/s)}
a (Acceleration)\text{meters per second squared (m/s}^2\text{)}
t (Time)\text{seconds (s)}
m (Mass)\text{kilograms (kg)}
VariableDerived SI Unit
F (Force)\text{newtons (N)}
E, PE, KE (Energy, Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy)\text{joules (J)}
P (Power)\text{watts (W)}
p (Momentum)\text{kilogram meters per second (kgm/s)}
\omega (Angular Velocity)\text{radians per second (rad/s)}
\tau (Torque)\text{newton meters (Nm)}
I (Moment of Inertia)\text{kilogram meter squared (kgm}^2\text{)}
f (Frequency)\text{hertz (Hz)}

General Metric Conversion Chart

Example of using unit analysis: Convert 5 kilometers to millimeters. 

  1. Start with the given measurement: \text{5 km}

  2. Use the conversion factors for kilometers to meters and meters to millimeters: \text{5 km} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{m}}{1 \, \text{km}} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{mm}}{1 \, \text{m}}

  3. Perform the multiplication: \text{5 km} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{m}}{1 \, \text{km}} \times \frac{10^3 \, \text{mm}}{1 \, \text{m}} = 5 \times 10^3 \times 10^3 \, \text{mm}

  4. Simplify to get the final answer: \boxed{5 \times 10^6 \, \text{mm}}

Prefix

Symbol

Power of Ten

Equivalent

Pico-

p

10^{-12}

Nano-

n

10^{-9}

Micro-

µ

10^{-6}

Milli-

m

10^{-3}

Centi-

c

10^{-2}

Deci-

d

10^{-1}

(Base unit)

10^{0}

Deca- or Deka-

da

10^{1}

Hecto-

h

10^{2}

Kilo-

k

10^{3}

Mega-

M

10^{6}

Giga-

G

10^{9}

Tera-

T

10^{12}

  1. Some answers may be slightly off by 1% depending on rounding, etc.
  2. Answers will use different values of gravity. Some answers use 9.81 m/s2, and other 10 m/s2 for calculations.
  3. Variables are sometimes written differently from class to class. For example, sometime initial velocity v_i is written as u ; sometimes \Delta x is written as s .
  4. Bookmark questions that you can’t solve so you can come back to them later. 
  5. Always get help if you can’t figure out a problem. The sooner you can get it cleared up the better chances of you not getting it wrong on a test!

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