Suggestions for Coping with Chemistry 5
By Prof. Fred Kull
I have frequently been asked how one should study for success in Chemistry 5. This is not an easy question to answer. Not everyone studies alike and what makes complete sense to one person makes absolutely none to another. However, I always make a stab at answering, and it goes like this.
- Read the book before lecture. This need not be a comprehensive
read. Just read the topics to be covered (see the course outline
in the syllabus) and when done ask yourself what the overall thrust
of the lecture is meant to be. If you can't come up with an answer
you should look it over again until you can.
- Attend lecture! It's certainly not mandatory to do so
and many students pass the course, some rather well, without coming
to many lectures. However, the students who excel in the course
come each day and in general sit toward the front. There are distinct
advantages in attending. These include: seeing all the demonstrations,
many of which demonstrate a concept; hearing take-home questions
that are often spur of the moment; getting hints about what will
be emphasized on tests and quizzes; learning what the instructor
emphasizes; attempting to understand the thought patterns of the
instructor; becoming familiar with specialized jargon and nomenclature
not always given in the text, but commonly in lecture.
- Take careful notes. Some of the better students try to
take down every word. Others just form an outline and write down
digressions and points of emphasis.
- Go over your notes as soon as possible after class. As
you go through them, fill in missing words and ask yourself if
you understand what they are about. If you don't understand, go
to your text and read the section pertaining to the subject to
gain the author's perspective. It's better to write too much than
too little. Rewriting a difficult section in your own words promotes
understanding and fixes information in your mind. Count on spending
two hours studying for each hour spent in class.
- Work the examples (again using paper and pencil) in the text.
Ask yourself why the example is being given. Work the assigned
problems. Try to solve these problems several different ways.
Use the solutions given in the Study Guide and Student Solution
Manual to check only your answers and don't look at how the problem
is worked until you've tried again to do it on your own. After
you've finished write down the concept the problem has illustrated.
Work as many problems as you can.
- Work with your peers. Join a study group. Some are excellent.
Get a tutor. Some are excellent. Form your own study group.
- Ask your instructor questions, if you are having trouble.
It's good practice to write out your questions before coming to
office hours. It's also good practice to get to know your instructor.
Asking for advice and for occasional help carries no stigma. No
one is an island. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The
wise person learns to use all the resources that are available.
Comments Concerning Tests and Quizzes
- Come to exams and quizzes as early as possible. Set your alarm
clock! Check out rooms in advance if you're not familiar with
- Bring plenty of pencils and erasers. Pens are messy and graders
faced with lots of papers really appreciate neatness. Use the
backs of blank pages to work out problems if you are "feeling
your way" through the problem. Then, copy a legible answer
onto the provided space.
- Make certain your calculator is working and buy an extra battery.
- Try not to panic. Try to understand what the question is asking
before diving into it. What concept is being explored? What information
is given? What is required for solution?
- Ask for translation if you have trouble understanding what the
question is all about.
- Get up and walk around awhile if you're stumped. Get a drink
of water. Go out in the fresh air.
- Try to begin all problems. Partial credit can be a lifesaver!
- Despite our best efforts, students sometimes find mistakes,
typos, missing information, different interpretations, etc. in
exams. Therefore, be sure to read what is written on the blackboard
during tests, in case a correction or clarification has been posted.
Many of these suggestions are repeated and discussed in depth on the video Learning Strategies for General Chemistry available on the Academic Skills Center website.