Scholarship Physics, 2013-style

Last year, Sam Hight and I made a collection of videos on tackling the 2012 Scholarship Physics exam. Well, to be precise, Sam did the videoing, editing, and distribution, and I just did the exam. The key thing, though, was that I did the exam 'live'. I was seeing the questions for the first time. I didn't give myself a few days to work out carefully composed and presented answers, like some of the slick model answers you find online. The idea was to give students an idea of what scholarship is like to do (answer: hard!)  but also how I think through a physics problem and come up with my solutions. Often what is lacking on a 'slick' model answer is any indication of how the writer 'knew' to tackle the question in the way she did. (Answer to that one – probably because she'd spend a few days looking at it, or wrote the exam question in the first place – neither terribly helpful to a student.)

By popular request, I did the same yesterday. Video camera in front of me, whiteboard, three hours with a scholarship paper. My conclusion? The 2013 paper was hard-as. (You can see for yourself here.) I'd rate it a good step up from the 2012 one. To be fair, different people have different strengths. It may have been that there was a 'bad' lot of questions for me in the 2013 paper, but it might have been a 'good' lot for someone else. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one – do you think it's harder?

One thing I noticed was there was a lot of algebra and calculation in the 2013 paper, and there wasn't so much in 2012. The question about the A-frame ladder had a derivation involving three simultaneous equations to solve. But I got it! In the end. 

Sam and I will get the videos distributed in due course, probably via PhysicsLounge   If nothing else, you can watch me fumble around with a couple of questions which, 24 hours on, I realize weren't as difficult as I was trying to make them out. But if I showed you the answer today, it would be slick, and you'd be stuck wondering how I came up with it.  

Will they be helpful? You decide. If not, you can always have a good laugh at me squaring a number twice because I wasn't paying attention to what I'd written, and getting my notation in a muddle.  Whatever, I'd like to offer my congratulations to those who landed Scholarship Physics in 2013, because you most certainly deserve it!

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