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Mastering Chemistry


Tips for Mastering Chemistry:


-Learn your formulas. This might be the most important step, so make sure you do it right. With a little practice, you will be able to memorize them and use them on your own. The number one rule of chemistry is to always keep it balanced!

-You don't need to know everything about every single topic in chemistry or science; pick out the topics that interest you and go from there. For instance, if you're interested in plants then knowing about biochemistry probably won't help much for you. You will have no problem understanding what's going on because chemistry is its own individual subject with specific vocabulary words and concepts that are different from other classes or sciences (even physics!).

-Be sure to do the assigned reading on time; most people tend to think that they can just "give it a quick skim" and then be able to do the homework. The problem is that you might have missed something and then will be totally lost in class. One of my favorite chemistry teachers told me once, "I'm not going over things I covered in class, I'm making sure you understand them!"

-Ask questions! You will never get better if you don't use your resources. Chances are someone else has had the same question and the teacher probably has an answer for you. It's always better to get the answer from a source that gets you to understand it on your own rather than someone simply giving you the answer.

-Go over your homework each night. I know that this is probably REALLY annoying, but its really important. Most teachers will actually outline their homework assignment so its not a waste of time the next day in class; going over it allows you to look for mistakes and allows you to think about the problems at your own pace.

-Do the extra work! If you can't do the assignments, then you can't get any better at chemistry. It doesn't matter how good your school grades are, if you're not studying, then you're not going to know what's going on in class. Focus on chemistry and watch as your grades go up!

-Get advice from people other than your teacher! I know this might be hard to do and that most people would rather just go it alone (I'm certainly no exception), but most people have experience in what they're currently learning about and have a wealth of knowledge that could help you out. Talk to your peers who are having trouble in chemistry and you'll likely find that there are some things that you don't understand that they struggle with.

-Find out how to study, not just how to cram for an exam. I've heard too many times, "I'm just going to study harder." This is only a temporary solution because if you are pouring all of your time into studying for an exam, then you won't have enough time to help yourself once the exam is over. It's better to learn the way to study so that you will never have this problem again. If reading material is difficult, then find other ways to get it done like on tape or in a different format (in the future).

-Be sure to do your homework! Homework is so important because it allows you to see how well you understand a specific topic. Going over it also is an important part because if you know that your answer could've been worded better or was incorrect, then you can focus on solving it right the next time. Homework assignments are also crucial in helping you understand how long a specific type of problem takes; if you can learn this then solving the problems quickly becomes much easier.


-Take notes! Writing down notes not only helps pull information into your brain, but it allows for everything to be organized and in its own place. So, when it's time to study it's much easier to just refer back to what you wrote and understand the concepts that were given to you.

-Don't play around with a problem until after you've answered it! I like to work a problem out on my own when I'm trying something new, but I've never understood the formula for acid-base titrations until I saw them in class later on. As soon as I can just figure out a formula, it makes sense and is perfectly understandable because I understand what's going on.

-Small mistakes can make big differences! My teacher always told us that making one little mistake can make a huge difference in solving a problem. For example, if you make a mistake on your chemistry homework problem and use the wrong amount of base in titration, then it's going to be very difficult to get that same problem correct because you're just going to be guessing on what the correct answer will be. So instead of making small mistakes, try not to even make any errors.

-Get a good teacher! Chemistry is a VERY competitive subject when it comes down to studying for exams however if you have one that teaches in a way that suits you, then it will definitely make the subject much easier. If a teacher is able to explain material in a way that you can understand then it's much easier to retain what they're saying and will put less time onto studying because you already know the material.

-Don't just read the book; if you have a problem with reading (or are just kind of slow at it), then DO the problems in the back! This is one of my biggest struggle; I always try to find another way around doing problems, but I always end up getting more confused because I didn't know what was going on while I was doing them. When you do them yourself it allows for every single concept and formula to sink into your head as opposed to merely having read about it somewhere else.

-If you don't understand anything then ask your teacher! It's a lot better if you understand what's going on rather than having a really great understanding of chemistry symbols. If a teacher gives you something to do that you don't understand or they give you something that doesn't make sense and are not able to explain it, then talk to them. You won't be hurting their feelings and they'll probably give you some insight into how to solve the problem or how to understand the problem so that it makes sense. This can also go for your peers that you're working with, they may be able to help you understand a certain concept.

-Don't expect to understand everything right away; I know that this sounds like something that nobody would ever say, but it's true and it's very important to remember. You can't expect to understand everything shown to you in class the first time and even if you're doing everything else right, then you'll be fine! Chemistry is a very hard subject and it will take some time for you to really get the hang of it. It's not a good idea to try and rush it, as it won't be worth the effort.

-Read the book and do the problems! Read through it and do all of the problems your teacher gives you. This is a very important step because if you don't understand what's going on in any given chapter then you can go back to this section and reread what you didn't completely understand or work out similar problems so that you have an understanding of what the topic is about. Also, if a certain problem gives you trouble, then read through the chapter until something gets all of of somewhat clear (or until there is nothing left to learn). By the time you've finished reading through that section and all of the problems, you should be able to understand how they're doing things.

-Don't waste your time on looking up the answers to problems that you're having trouble with; I know it's difficult to not be able to look something up and solve a problem right away. However, this is a habit that I NEVER follow because after a while, it becomes useless! The only reason that temporarily helps is because it does help you understand what's going on with each specific problem. However, after some time if I'm still having issues then I need to change my process and not rely on a quick fix.

-Work all of the problems in the book; don't just work the ones that you think you know what the answers are. You never know, there could be something that you missed or missed a step that could completely change everything. It's also important to remember what kinds of mistakes a problem can give because this can help you learn and understand what went wrong and how to fix it for future problems.

-Take good notes; when I'm reading through a chapter, I always make sure to take good notes. This is very important because it allows me to pause if I don't understand something or need more time to work out the problem. It also allows me to look back at what I had been working on and makes sure that I remember all of the important information that is given to me.

-Solve problems quickly; I like to solve problems as quickly as possible because if it's get too hard then it's best for me to just leave it alone because I'll end up getting more confused! If you're having trouble with a certain problem, try and take a look at how they solved similar problems before in the book and try and figure out where you made your mistakes or how to solve this problem. Remember, speed doesn't mean perfection, but rather a method that will get you almost there without too much confusion.

-Be careful with the stoichiometry of moles when solving problems; this is a huge mistake I made many times in the beginning. However, you CAN NOT do one mole of any element and then multiply or divide it by the amount you want! When you do things such as add or subtract atoms of different elements, it changes their oxidation states, so what you did isn't exactly what's given to you in the problem. Just remember that everything must be given to you in moles and/or grams (lets say 5 moles of an element, then 5 grams is 1 mole...and so on).

-Be confident in yourself and your work; everyone makes mistakes and everyone will get confused. If you make a mistake or if you don't understand something, then talk to someone or fix it because you didn't do any work for nothing! Your confidence is very important in the classroom. If your teacher or another student asks if you understand something, don't be afraid to admit that you don't completely understand what's going on because that shows that you're willing to learn something new and are putting effort into the subject instead of just coasting through. It also shows them that they should help you out so as to make sure that you know what's going on.

-Do not be afraid to ask questions: If you're going through some problem and you're completely stuck, then ask the teacher or another student to help you out. Don't be afraid to say, "Hey, I'm having trouble with this problem.", because it's better than spending days on a problem that you have no idea how to solve! If it's a group project then don't feel like your homework is done if you don't understand how to do something.

-Talk to your teacher when there's a problem: Most teachers in college want their students to succeed and will do anything they can so as to help them learn. If you have a problem and you can't figure it out by yourself, then ask your teacher or professor. They can answer questions, learn from your mistakes and help you make sure that you understand in the future.

-Work together with your group; this may seem silly at first (especially for freshmen), but if everyone in the group is trying to work on the same thing at once then it's hard to understand what's going on with each other because everyone will be talking over each other and their papers will never match up. So often times, it might be better to take turns explaining your part of the problem.

-Don't get too frustrated: Students sometimes get very frustrated with chemistry because they find it too complicated and hard to grasp. However, if you're willing to work hard and put in the effort then you will succeed! It all gets easier the more you learn and when you are truly determined to learn that topic.


Thank you so much for reading this document! I hope that I helped out a few people by giving them my knowledge on how to do well in a chemistry course.



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