If you approach any Physics student revising to either catch up with the school syllabus or for their school exams and ask them what is the single most important thing that they will need to keep in mind to do well in their Physics exam, 8 out of 10 students will probably reply by stating that Physics formulae will come to mind.
What makes Physics stand out from other subjects?
Unlike Maths or Chemistry, the fact is that there are many Physics questions that will require students to incorporate or apply formulas from the individual topics as part of their answer and yet, there is no formulae list provided unlike Mathematics exams.
Right off the bat, the first heavy topic found in Physics is Kinematics, where there are formulas that showcase the relationship between distance, speed and acceleration. Subsequent topics do not allow students to take a breather as even more formulas are being introduced to students as school teachers move on with the syllabus. What makes it worse is that some formulas actually resemble each other, such as the formula for work done or energy and moments. Both are taking the magnitude of force multiplied with distance, only that one is taking into account distance in the same direction of the force and the other is the perpendicular distance to the line of action of the force. This is further differentiated by the unit of measurement that represents either concepts, with one using the units of Joules while the other is Newton-meters. If students are not careful, they may end up confusing themselves or applying the wrong formula in their Physics exams.
As the Physics formulas pile up throughout the academic year, students will have difficulty catching up with the syllabus if they do not have a proper study system in place to account for the various Physics formulas that they have to memorise by hard. It is recommended that students start early by compiling the different Physics formulas as they come along and distinctly separate the formulas by their respective chapters so that they know when to apply what formulas. Some Physics tuition teachers will actually do this with their students and this is a good study habit to inculcate.
What else do students need to take note when they study Physics besides formula?
In addition, besides just copying and transferring the different Physics formulas, it is also important to indicate the unit of measurement as a reference since there may be interchangeable units that students will encounter over the course of their study of the subject. Having a good grasp of the unit of measurement for each formula will allow students to sometimes decipher or piece together the different information provided by the question even if their concept is not strong for that particular chapter. This is especially useful for MCQ questions where a simple understanding of units can help to kickstart the calculation of questions and aid the student to eliminate the wrong choices early on. With proper guidance from your Physics tutor or teacher, you can quickly get the hang of answering calculation questions and knowing when to apply what formula.
To answer the initial question, Physics formulas are definitely a heavy yet essential component in answering Physics exam questions, and acquiring the knack and proper usage of the formulas will help students to be closer towards achieving the desired A grade for their O or A level Physics exams.