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Chemistry Study Tips

Ideas to Help you Succeed in Chemistry

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Student Studying Chemistry

Student Studying Chemistry

Anne Helmenstine
There is no 'magic formula' for learning chemistry. Basically it involves not getting behind, doing your own work, and not psyching yourself out:
  • Don't procrastinate!
    Cramming does not equal learning. Yes, yes, I am a hypocrite... the queen of putting-off-until-tomorrow. Take it from someone with experience: if you wait until the night before a test to start studying you will suffer, your grades will suffer, etc.

  • Don't Procrastinate
    It's worth repeating! In chemistry you build from one concept onto the next. You need a solid knowledge base to progress.

  • Try Flash Cards
    Hey, they are used in elementary and primary school because FLASHCARDS WORK. Some of the information gets learned while making the cards and the rest can be learned during practice. You get to switch around the order in which you view topics, which is something most notebooks don't provide. Get some index cards and give it a try!

  • Try a Highlighter
    Use it judiciously. The goal is not to turn your book or notes fluorescent. Most texts already have important concepts in bold typeface. Unless your teacher is very unusual, he or she will almost always mention likely test questions, answers, and concepts. Highlight them! Some teachers take questions from a test bank, but those who write their own are usually keeping a mental tally of concepts while teaching.

  • Make Mnemonic Devices
    What you are doing here is taking the first letters of words in a sequence you are trying to memorize and making a phrase from them to serve as a memory aid. Example: the sequence of the first few elements in the periodic table H, He, Li, Be, B, C, N, O, F, Ne could be (well, the one that came to my mind was actually dirty, which is easier to remember) Hi Henry, Lookin' Big, Bad, Certainly Nasty, Old Friend - Not! Ok, it isn't great literature. One popular mnemonic device is for metric prefixes: Kilo- Hecto- Deca- Meter (liter, gram) deci- centi- milli- Kangaroos Hopping Down Mountains Drinking Chocolate Milk. Also, such phrases are even easier to memorize if you put them to music.

  • Know Your Text
    Do you have a glossary? Answers to problems in the back? Self-quizzes? Appendices full of useful information? Find that out sooner rather than later. Use the glossary. You can't communicate about a subject without learning the terminology.

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