Chemistry Study Hints

Students often ask for advice about how to study chemistry. There is no single best method for studying, but here are a few suggestions. These suggestions were developed with organic chemistry in mind, but apply equally well to all types of chemistry courses.

Use the Concept Focus Questions (CFQ) in the course Thinkbook to focus your thoughts on the most important concepts in a unit or chapter.  Here is what I have found to work best.

Before lecture:

During lecture: After lecture: On Using the Textbook and Working Problems Other Useful Tips

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Advice from Organic Chemistry Students

“The sad truth is that most of your practice comes from doing problems and doing the practice midterms.  Of course, that sounds bad. But it's true.

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 take 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 review areas in which you feel weak in.  You can take the next several exams like the actual midterm: take in a quiet place and under a timed setting so that you can know how to pace yourself.

Also, I find review Concept Focus Questions always refreshes your mind about all the general details that sometimes gets lost when you learn and remember all the tiny details.  After all, sometimes he asks 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 goes over the topics in lecture helps a lot. When midterm and final time 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 that he puts on his website. I think it's also worth it to listen to lectures that covered the more difficult concepts.”


“I find that if I do the CFQ's before lecture I am able to understand the lecture more clearly. Do the one hour of day (although this is many 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 before the midterm, they will help you. Hope this helps.”


“Study Ochem everyDAY! It is impossible at times to do it voluntarily, but I mean, at least 15 minutes or a couple of problems a day doesn't hurt. It's pretty doable because once his exams come by, you'll be prepared for his surprises and challenging problems. Trust me, I've been exposed to his exams before and the best way to prepare for them is not the night or a few nights before, but it is an ongoing process. OChem is harder than most people think, and how Dr. H tests- he really wants you to apply the concepts you learn and not just what you have 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 rewriting my notes right after lecture really helps. 

CFQ's and PP's are a minimal 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 you to practice as well!

 Also, does anyone want to form a chemistry study group? I formed one for 14C and it worked fairly well. It kinda fell apart at the end because it was hard to coordinate everyone's schedules, but for the time it lasted it still helped. 

Anyone who's interested, please private message me. 

Thanks and good luck studying!”


“The best part about Hardinger's course is the access to past midterms.  After studying for so and so weeks it is nice to have these extra problem sets in a nice bundle that usually summarizes what you need to know, and allows you to challenge yourself under similar circumstances.  Granted there is always something new on the actual midterm so focus on conceptual understanding of each question's purpose. Lecture is awesome though.  The metaphors and step by step explanation allow you to digest info before putting the knowledge 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 erase and keep doing and redoing problems until you get them right. Since I go back to the dorms after lecture, for the current SN1/SN2 topics, I just write the mechanism we went over at the top of the board and list underneath it:

- "why is this sn1/sn2?"
- "why did we use this nucleophile?"
- "what type of solvent is this/why/define everything"
- "what types of products"
- "orientation"
- "what if we had a different solvent?"

If you're eligible and are having trouble with o-chem, there are lots 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 basic idea when I go to class. Then later on I go through the entire section in the Thinkbook: CFQs and Practice Problems, I have had no reason to 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 and I do them the day before the exam. It really test your knowledge and tells you everything you need to know. The exam will be similarly formatted to the practice exam, with the addition of one or two new 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, but if you do it  it actually makes the exam very pleasant to sit through.”


“I think my biggest mistake in 14C was saving up the problems and doing them all at once instead of breaking them up into manageable chunks. Towards the end of the quarter, I changed my study habits so that I would do problems whenever I had a half hour open. The details and concepts definitely stick better, and that way when you review for the midterm/final it comes together big picture wise. Also, when I'm doing problems I circle problems that were difficult or tricky and go back and do them a week or two later when I'm reviewing just make sure I 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 exam, I go through all the lectures which the exam will cover and listen to them at 2x the regular speed. You can still understand it and go over the written notes at the same time. If there is a part that needs clarification, slow down and repeat it. 

This is really helpful if you missed writing something during lecture. Also, I find it helpful to re 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" takes only a day of studying. This way, if you understand everything he talks about without having to go back and review the topic, you are ready for the test conceptually. To be completely ready, do A LOT of problems, 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."