Plan To Learn Chemistry FastThe first step is to determine exactly how long you have to learn chemistry. You'll need a lot more discipline to learn chemistry in a day compared with a week or a month. Also, keep in mind you won't have great retention if you cram chemistry in a day or a week. Ideally you want a month or longer to master any course. If you do end up cramming chemistry, expect to review the material if you need to apply it to a higher level chemistry course or remember it for a test further down the road.
A Word About Chemistry LabIf you can do labwork, that's fantastic, because the hands-on learning will reinforce the concepts. However, labs take time, so most likely you'll miss this segment. Keep in mind labs are required for some situations. For example, you have to document labwork for AP Chemistry and many online courses. If you are doing labs, check how long they take to perform before getting starting. Some labs take less than an hour start-to-finish, while others might take hours, days or weeks. Pick short exercises, whenever possible. Supplement book learning with videos, which are readily available online.
Gather Your MaterialsYou can use any chemistry textbook, but some are better than others for fast learning. I would use an AP Chemistry book or Kaplan Study Guide or similar book. These are high quality, time-tested reviews that cover everything. Avoid dumbed-down books because you'll get the illusion that you learned chemistry, but won't master the topic.
Make a PlanDon't be haphazard and just dive in, expecting success in the end! Make a plan, record your progress and stick to it.
- Divide your time. If you have a book, figure out how many chapters you're going to cover and how much time you have. For example, you may study and learn three chapters a day. It may be a chapter an hour. Whatever it is, write it out so you can track your progress.
- Get started! Check off what you accomplish. Maybe reward yourself after pre-determined points. You know better than anyone else what it will take to get you to get the job done. It may be self-bribes. It may be fear of an impending deadline. Find what works for you and apply it.
- If you fall behind, try to catch up right away. You might not be able to double your work, but it's easier to catch up as fast as possible rather than have the studying snowball out of control.
- Support your study with healthy habits. Make sure you get some sleep, even if it's in the form of naps. You need sleep to process new information. Try to eat nutritious food. Get some exercise. Take walks or work out during breaks. It's important to switch gears every so often and get your mind off chemistry. It may feel like wasted time, but it's not. You'll learn more quickly if you take brief breaks than if you just study, study, study. However, don't let yourself get sidetracked where you don't get back to chemistry. Set and keep limits regarding time away from your learning.
- Try to review prior material. Even if it's just a quick review, planning a set amount of time to go over old material will help you retain it.
- Work through problems. At the very least, make sure you can work example problems. If you have time (days or weeks instead of hours), work problems. Working problems is the best way to truly learn how to apply the concepts.
- Take notes. Writing down important points helps you learn the information.
- Recruit a study buddy. A partner can help keep you motivated, plus you can offer each other support and put your heads together when you encounter hard problems or challenging concepts.
Helpful ResourcesChemistry Quick Review - Fast review lessons of key chemistry concepts including how to balance equations, how to calculate pH and how to do unit conversions.
AP Chemistry Overview - Even if you aren't studying AP Chemistry, take a look at this list of concepts to make certain you aren't overlooking any important areas.
Worked Example Chemistry Problems - Stuck on a problem or need another example to help understand what's happening? If you're on the fast track, you may not be able to find a teacher or friend to help you out. Online example problems are always available.
Chemistry Videos - See chemistry in action. These videos can supplement your labwork or may help replace it if you have a serious time crunch.
What To Do If You're Failing Chemistry - I'm not implying this applies to you, but if you are cramming for a course, there is a chance it may not end well. Here is a look at some of your options.