How to deal with troublesome questions

There will always be questions that will cause you some stress and make you feel as if your grade is slipping away. Did you think everything would be easy? Not likely! However, if you have prepared adequately, there are always strategies to tackle these types of troublesome problems.

The first step is to write down your goal: what are you trying to solve at the end? What are they asking for? From the main goal, you need to identify any intermediate steps to attain the goal.

Your next step is to write down the things you know: the equations, the givens. In many exams (especially in senior physics, math, and chemistry) there will be multiple equations involved in tough problems. But keep in mind that each given in the question will be used. Ask yourself: “How can I use this, and why is this information given to me in this way?” Think of the solution to the tough problem as a chain. The end of the chain is the answer, the beginnings are the givens, and the links are the intermediate steps. What you don’t know are the missing links.

Ask yourself further: “What information do I need to attain the goal, and how do I get that information using the equations I have? What information am I missing?” The information you are looking for could well be the intermediate steps to attain the final answer.

Your task is to put together different pieces of the puzzle. Identify where the problem area is: did you get stuck because you didn’t know how to start? In this case, the problem might due to a lack of preparation or inadequate knowledge. If you are stuck with a certain part of the problem, try using all the applicable equations on that part. Attempt to find out what variable is missing and see if you can use your givens to solve it.

However, you always have time working against you. Give yourself a deadline on the question (i.e. “I will try to solve this problem within 10 minutes, otherwise I will leave it”). If you still cannot find the solution at the end of the time deadline, write down as many steps as possible to gain your maximum part marks. Never leave the answer blank.

The post is originally written by Queen Elizabeth AcademyTutoring Mississauga.


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