General Chemistry

Suggestions for Coping with Chemistry 5

Based on suggestions from Prof. Fred Kull

Studying skills vary from person to person, but it is important that you find out what works best for you and stick to a routine that will help you day after day. Some general suggestions are collected here, and a one-page pdf of study tips produced by the Teaching Fellows program associated with the Health Professions Program office is available if you click here.

General Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 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.

  3. Take careful notes. Some students try to take down every word. Others just form an outline and write down digressions and points of emphasis. Choose the approach that works for you, but remember: learning demands that you are engaged with the material! Don't be a passive listener.

  4. 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 mean. 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.

  5. 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 or 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.

  6. Work with your peers. Join a study group. Some are excellent. Get a tutor. Some are excellent. Form your own study group.

  7. 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

  1. Come to exams and quizzes as early as possible. Set your alarm clock! Check out rooms in advance if you're not familiar with their location.

  2. 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.

  3. Make certain your calculator is working, and bring an extra battery.

  4. 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?

  5. Ask for translation if you have trouble understanding what the question is all about.

  6. Get up and walk around awhile if you're stumped. Get a drink of water. Go out in the fresh air.

  7. Try to begin all problems. Partial credit can be a lifesaver!

  8. 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.

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