Here is advice from fellow-students on how best to approach problem sets.
- Read the problem set when you first get it. If you can't start the problems without referring to your notes or the textbook, put the pset down and study the concepts again.
- Don't be intimidated about not being able to do a problem set. Start each problem but don't spend too much time yet. Make notes of your questions and where you get stuck. Take those to a study group and to recitation. Asking questions is how you learn.
- Don't start your pset late at night. Start at least two days before the deadline, so you'll have ample time to ask your TA and peers for help.
- Do all the psets and don't hand them in late. This way you make sure you're on track with class material and you won't be super overwhelmed when the test rolls around.
- Don't spend too much time on a single problem. Go on to another one and circle back the next day.
- Use the textbook and other resources to help you with pset questions. Ask for help in recitation or 1:1 with your TA.
- Finish each problem on your own after working on it at a pset party or in your study group. Working in groups is fine, but make sure that you understand how and why your partners got the answer for the problem. Copying answers might seem like a quick fix for late-night studying, but it will not serve you well on the test.
- If you're really stuck, check MIT OpenCourseWare for previous years' problems and solutions, go to tutoring, or go ask a knowledgeable upperclass student.
- To be frank, the Internet holds a lot of answers, and if you can find a good explanation to a similar problem online you can learn a lot. (I'd use the Internet as a last resort, though).
- Remember, problem sets exist to help you learn and usually contribute only a small percentage to your final grade, so do the best you can and don't stress about not knowing every answer.
- Practice problems are your new best friends!
- Where to find practice problems:
- Lecture handouts
- Websites for textbooks
- Old psets in fraternity/sorority libraries
- Past exams (some classes have archives)
- Find ways to make practice problems more interesting:
- Use a chalkboard or a whiteboard instead of paper
- Have a competition with your roommate
- Work practice problems in your study group
- Use what you learn to make your own study guides. Even if you are not allowed to use cheat sheets on the exam; just writing the information down can be helpful.
- Study in reasonable chunks of time: don't cram.