Physics Problem Solving - PH602

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 6 15 (7.5) DR G Mountjoy checkmark-circle


Aims: After taking the classes students should be more fluent and adept at solving and discussing general problems in Physics (and its related disciplines of mathematics and engineering)

There is no formal curriculum for this course which uses and demands only physical and mathematical concepts with which the students at this level are already familiar. Instruction is given in:

  • Systematic and effective problem formulation
  • Approximation and simplification methods as they pertain to allowing viable solution methods.

    Problems are presented and solutions discussed in topics spanning the entire undergraduate physics curriculum (Mechanics and statics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, wave mechanics, relativity etc)
    Problems are also discussed that primarily involve the application of formal logic and reasoning, simple probability, statistics, estimation and linear mathematics.


    This module appears in the following module collections.

    Contact hours

    20 workshop classes. These include discussion and presentation of a variety of problems and their solution and guidance on a mini-project which forms part of the syllabus. This module is expected to occupy 150 total study hours, including the contact hours above.


    This is not available as a wild module.

    Method of assessment

    Coursework 40% including class tests and mini-project;
    Final (written, unseen, length 3 hours) examination 60%.

    Indicative reading

  • Oman and Oman, Physics for the Utterly Confused, McGraw Hill [QC23]

  • 3000 Solved Problems in physics, Alvin Halpern (ISBN 978-0-07-176346-2

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    Learning outcomes

  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with physics problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • Competent use of appropriate C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and the retrieval of appropriate information for problem solving.
  • An ability to present and interpret information graphically to solve problems.
  • An ability to communicate scientific information about problem solving, in particular to produce clear and accurate scientific reports.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems; an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and to identify key issues, and the confidence to try different approaches in order to make progress on challenging problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.
  • Personal skills – the ability to work independently, to use initiative, to organise oneself to meet deadlines.


    1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
    2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
    3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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