Electrodynamics Exam Problems Of Essay



Essay exams require more than just knowledge recall and application.  They also require students to demonstrate their analytical skills, that is their ability to use good reasoning in analysing a situation or solving a problem.  There is an expectation that students will not only explain key concepts, but also that they will use key concepts to interpret, make connections, see relationships, draw comparisons and synthesize information in support of their argument or assertion.


Before the Exam

  1. Revise key concepts and ideas
    Go over concepts that were emphasised in tutorials and lectures, as these are, most often, the key concepts that course organisers want you to understand and critique.  Course profiles are another useful source in determining key concepts.
  2. Practise
    Study sessions should include practice exams.  Begin your study by anticipating what essay questions will be included.  There are several sources for possible essay questions, including major headings in textbooks, course profiles, study guides, end of chapter questions from textbooks, as well as tutorial questions.
  3. Prepare study sheets
    Review lecture, study guide and textbook notes.  Record the relevant and important material from these sources on your study sheet.  Use these to plan out how to answer your practice questions
  4. Organise
    Organise all your material.  Decide on the best way to present your ideas in a written form.  This not only helps you plan an effective essay, it will also help you to remember key ideas.

Sitting the Exam

  1. Allocate time
    Take note of the way marks are allocated and allocate time accordingly.
  2. Read questions thoroughly
    Identify what the question is asking you to do.  This can be done by circling any verbs or doing words, underlining the key terms, and identifying any limiting phrases. 
  3. Read questions more than once
    It may be beneficial to read the question 3 times to ensure that not only do you know what is expected, but you can also identify whether you have choices.  For instance, do you have to answer all questions, or do you have a choice?
  4. Give yourself space
    Leave every second line blank in your answer booklet.  This gives you room to fix up mistakes and add any extra ideas.
  5. Plan before you write
    Spend a few minutes gathering your thoughts before writing.  This will allow you the time to consider the most effective way to present material and will ensure that you cover all the necessary components.
  6. Aim for clarity
    Your introduction should give your reader clear direction.  Ensure that you have a clear argument or thesis in your introduction, that you link all paragraphs to that argument, and that you reinforce the main points in your conclusion.  Remember that one sentence should equal one idea.

David Tong: Lectures on Electromagnetism

These lecture notes provide a comprehensive introduction to Electromagnetism, aimed at undergraduates. Individual chapters and problem sheets are available below. The full set of lecture notes come in around 210 pages and can be downloaded here. Please do email me if you find any typos or corrections. Last updated April 2015.

PostScript      PDF

The lecture notes for the IB course alone, which cover only the first half of this material, can be downloaded here.


  • Div, Grad and Curl:   Postscript    PDF

  • 1. Introduction and Electrostatics:   Postscript    PDF
    Introduction; Charge, Current and Conservation; Forces and Fields; Maxwell Equations; Gauss' Law; Coulomb Law; Electrostatic Potential; Electrostatic Energy; Conductors.
  • 2. Magnetostatics:   Postscript    PDF
    Ampere's Law; The Vector Potential; Magnetic Monopoles; Gauge Transformations; Biot-Savart Law; Magnetic Dipoles; Magnetic Forces; What is a Magnet?
  • 3. Electrodynamics:   Postscript    PDF
    Faraday's Law of Induction; Inductance; Magnetostatic Energy; Resistance; Displacement Current; Light; Polarisation; Poynting Vector.
  • 4. Electromagnetism and Relativity:   Postscript    PDF
    Review of Special Relativity; Indices; Continuity Equation; Magnetism and Relativity; Maxwell Equations in Covariant Form; Gauge Transformations in Covariant Form; Lorentz Force Law; Relativistic Motion of Particles in Background Fields.
  • 5. Electromagnetic Radiation:   Postscript    PDF
    Retarded Potentials; Green's functions for Helmholtz and Wave Equations; Dipole Radiation; Larmor Formula; Pulsars; Thomson Scattering and Rayleigh Scattering; Lienard-Wierchert Potentials; Bremsstrahlung, Cyclotron and Synchrotron Radiation.
  • 6. Electromagnetism in Matter:   Postscript    PDF
    Polarisation; Electric Displacement; Bound Currents; Macroscopic Maxwell Equations; Reflection, Refraction and the Fresnel Equations; Dispersion; Atomic Polarisability; Kramers-Kronig Relation; Drude Model for Conductors; Plasma Oscillations; Screening, Debye-Huckel Model, Thomas Fermi Theory, Lindhard Theory and Friedel Oscillations.

Problem Sheets

  • Problem Sheet 1:   Postscript    PDF    Electric Fields

  • Problem Sheet 2:   Postscript    PDF    Magnetic Fields

  • Problem Sheet 3:   Postscript    PDF    Electromagnetic Waves and Relativity

Electromagnetism on the Web

Some Classic Resources

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