Chemistry Study Hints
Students often ask for advice about how to study chemistry. There
single best method for studying, but here are a few suggestions.
suggestions were developed with organic chemistry in mind, but
well to all types of chemistry courses.
Use the Concept
Focus Questions (CFQ) in the course Thinkbook to focus your
the most important
concepts in a unit or chapter. Here is what I have found
- Read the CFQ for that unit.
- Scan the assigned reading for that unit. Read the
chapter(s), as well as the first few sentences of each
usually introduce or summarize key concepts for the chapter.
- Read the corresponding Lecture Supplements.
- Do not focus solely on what is written on the board.
down key verbal points as well. The lecture
podcasts will make this easier.
- Carefully read the assigned textbook reading.
- Write down the solution to each CFQ as it is encountered,
it well. Writing an answer helps you remember the
- Expand and clarify your lecture notes based on the text
Listen to lecture
podcasts and discuss
points that are unclear with your study group.
- Make flash cards for new vocabulary words, reactions, etc.
- Do all of the problems the Thinkbook and textbook.
- Go through the stack of flash cards.
On Using the Textbook and Working Problems
- Make copious use of office hours and discussion section.
- The index is a wonderful tool to help you find answers to
how to use it! It's easier even than sending an email.
- Read the text. Understand the text, do not just skim
Think about the text. Challenge what it says.
- Do the text problems as you come to them. These are
enhance your understanding and learning of the particular
- Do not look at the answer key unless you have an answer or
stumped. Ask a study buddy for a clue first if you can.
Other Useful Tips
Most important: Genius
dedication (i.e, work ethic). Learn more about How
to be a Genius. Enlightenment
- If you get a problem wrong, work through the answer on paper
can reproduce it, and until your understand why each step
it does. Then try another problem of the same type right away!
- Study chemistry for at least one hour of every day of the
ends in -day. An hour every
much better than
ten hours on Saturday alone.
- Start studying early
(i.e., the first day of the quarter). Seek
help early (i.e., as soon as the question occurs, not
later.) A recently published study reveals that students who
these two common-sense study guidelines earn higher grades in
- Do the assigned reading before attending lecture!
- Do not try to write down every word spoken during the
high points, and fill in the details later (see the next
- Rework your notes after each lecture. Work through the notes
and make sure that you understand each concept. Redraw all of
Have the text open, and expand upon each point covered in the
Fill in blank spaces or abbreviated material in your notes.
understand all the material from every lecture. Expand and
notes. Making a fresh but neater copy of your notes without
new is a waste of your valuable study time.
- Keep up with all of the reading. Read (not just skim) the
before you come to class, and read it again after the lecture.
- Organize the material that must be memorized. Make flash
essential memory bank material, especially reactions. The
- Work lots and lots (and lots more) of problems. You should
do every problem in
Get another text or other source of problems if you can.
- Do not scurry to the study guide, another student, TA, or
after deciding that you cannot solve a given problem. Find an
section of the text (use the index!) and read through it
study guide, etc., should be used as a last resort and not a
a reexamination of the text. Getting the 'right answer' is not
point of working the problems; becoming more intimately
concepts is. It is more important to focus on concepts and
- Do not spend more than 15 minutes on any one problem. If you
the problem by that this time, you are probably missing
effort is a waste of valuable study time. A review of the
notes, or another source of material (perhaps even another
for. Go on to other problems, and return to these difficult
have had a bit more practice.
- Do ALL the problems associated with the assigned reading,
seem irrelevant. You must take responsibility for
- Attend office hours. Listen to other student questions. Use
frequently. Students who use office hours regularly
learn more chemistry and this get higher grades. In addition,
know you, I will not write a letter of recommendation should
you ask me
- Form study groups. A small groups of students working
ideas and concepts to the benefit of everyone. Teaching each
ideal way to learn chemistry. However, do not allow these
to turn into pizza parties and gossip sessions. Group study
be all business.
Advice from Organic Chemistry
- Think molecules. That is, think about what is happening on
level. Consider where the electrons are, what they are doing,
are doing it. Chemistry is much more than equations. You will
course difficult if you ignore this way of thinking.
“The sad truth is
that most of your
practice comes from doing problems
and doing the practice midterms. Of course, that sounds bad.
My favorite way of conquering the 7 or 8 practice midterms that he
posts is to do use a couple of midterms as testers where you can
your time doing a couple of problems to get a feel for what he's
questions are like, and so you can go back to the Thinkbook and
areas in which you feel weak in. You can take the next
exams like the actual midterm: take in a quiet place and under a
setting so that you can know how to pace yourself.
Also, I find review Concept Focus Questions always refreshes your
about all the general details that sometimes gets lost when you
and remember all the tiny details. After all, sometimes he
you to write the definition of something and it sucks to miss that
question, especially since those are easy points. “
“I find that doing the CFQs and Practice Problems right after he
over the topics in lecture helps a lot. When midterm and final
comes around it's best to review concepts from the CFQs that were
harder for you to grasp as well as doing all the practice exams
puts on his website. I think it's also worth it to listen to
that covered the more difficult concepts.”
“I find that if I do the CFQ's before lecture I am able to
the lecture more clearly. Do the one hour of day (although this is
times not enough time). Discussion section problems on the other
hand haven't been
extremely helpful for me as a whole. Do all of the old exams
midterm, they will help you. Hope this helps.”
“Study Ochem everyDAY! It is impossible at times to do it
but I mean, at least 15 minutes or a couple of problems a day
hurt. It's pretty doable because once his exams come by, you'll be
prepared for his surprises and challenging problems. Trust me,
been exposed to his exams before and the best way to prepare for
is not the night or a few nights before, but it is an ongoing
OChem is harder than most people think, and how Dr. H tests- he
wants you to apply the concepts you learn and not just what you
memorized! So basically, the tools he has given you (Thinkbook,
"optional" texts, etc.) are useful and meant to help students.”
“I find that going over my handwritten notes and sometimes
notes right after lecture really helps.
CFQ's and PP's are a
must to survive this class! And if you have access to Dr. H's book
that's he's writing, you'll see that he has more CFQ's there for
practice as well!
Also, does anyone want to form a chemistry
group? I formed one for 14C and it worked fairly well. It kinda
apart at the end because it was hard to coordinate everyone's
schedules, but for the time it lasted it still helped.
interested, please private message me.
Thanks and good luck
“The best part about Hardinger's course is the access to past
midterms. After studying for so and so weeks it is nice to
these extra problem sets in a nice bundle that usually summarizes
you need to know, and allows you to challenge yourself under
circumstances. Granted there is always something new on the
midterm so focus on conceptual understanding of each question's
purpose. Lecture is awesome though. The metaphors and step
step explanation allow you to digest info before putting the
to practice. Go to lecture."
“Sometimes I like to spend quality time with a whiteboard when I'm
reviewing the reaction mechanisms. It's a lot quicker to
and keep doing and redoing problems until you get them right.
go back to the dorms after lecture, for the current SN1/SN2
just write the mechanism we went over at the top of the board and
- "why is this sn1/sn2?"
- "why did we use this nucleophile?"
- "what type of solvent is this/why/define everything"
- "what types of products"
- "what if we had a different solvent?"
If you're eligible and are having trouble with o-chem, there are
of great tutoring resources. AAP (Campbell Hall) has great
tutors that put things into a different perspective and sum
up the topics really nicely. “
“This is how I study which has worked for me before. I get the
idea when I go to class. Then later on I go through the entire
in the Thinkbook: CFQs and Practice Problems, I have had no reason
really do discussion section problems unless I have time. Practice
Problems already cover the
topic very well. Doing all the practice exams are the most crucial
I do them the day before the exam. It really test your knowledge
tells you everything you need to know. The exam will be similarly
formatted to the practice exam, with the addition of one or two
types of problems that are more challenging and really test your
knowledge on the subject and are not seen anywhere else (practice
problems or exams). There's a lot of mechanical work to be done,
you do it it actually makes the exam very pleasant to sit
“I think my biggest mistake in 14C was saving up the problems and
them all at once instead of breaking them up into manageable
Towards the end of the quarter, I changed my study habits so that
would do problems whenever I had a half hour open. The details and
concepts definitely stick better, and that way when you review for
midterm/final it comes together big picture wise. Also, when I'm
problems I circle problems that were difficult or tricky and go
and do them a week or two later when I'm reviewing just make sure
understand the material well enough not to get tricked again.”
“One thing that really helps me study is listening to lecture
recordings. Going to lecture is great for gradual information
retention, but for added reinforcement, around 4 days before an
go through all the lectures which the exam will cover and listen
them at 2x the regular speed. You can still understand it and go
the written notes at the same time. If there is a part that needs
clarification, slow down and repeat it.
This is really helpful
missed writing something during lecture. Also, I find it helpful
listen to an entire topic (i.e. substitution reactions: SN1
and SN2) all
in one day. It helps me make more connections and understand the
information more thoroughly. The entire "relistening process"
only a day of studying. This way, if you understand everything he
about without having to go back and review the topic, you are
the test conceptually. To be completely ready, do A LOT of
every problem given at least twice. Go over discussion section
problems and practice problems
one more time and move on to the old midterms.”
“After each lecture, I usually read the course notes archive. It
includes detailed notes on every lecture topic."