10 Tips for Success
Knowing that chemistry tests
are often different from those in
other disciplines is half the battle.
Here are some quick tips for
maximizing your performance
on chemistry test day.
use old exams wisely.
If your instructor provides
copies of old exams, use them
as a guide to the types of questions
that might be asked — and also how
much work you will be expected to
complete in the allotted time period.
Master the basics skills
and concepts. Learn how
to convert chemical names
to formulas and write balanced
equations. Start all problems with
a balanced equation, if possible.
Practice. Work through
enough practice problems
so that it will be impossible
for your instructor to write a test
question from an angle that you
have never seen. Master the reading
comprehension problems in each
chapter of your textbook or course note
packet, as well as previous homework
problems (especially if answers were
provided). Buy a student solutions
manual for your textbook and check
the process needed to obtain correct
answers. When you get stuck (and you
will get stuck!), seek help. Pay special
attention to multistep problems.
take a practice test a
few days before the
actual test. Be sure to take
the test under similar conditions to
those allowed for the real test. Your
performance might give you an idea of
any areas that need more attention.
thou shalt not cram!
Use your study time the night
before (or day of) a test to work
a few final problems for which you
can definitely find the correct answers
and that integrate several concepts.
Typically, such questions can be found
at the end of the chapters in your
chemistry textbook, labeled “Concept
Review” or “Special Questions.”
Avoid using study
guides in a “checklist”
approach. Too often,
students who use study guides ignore
the extra problems that need to be
worked for each topic. For instance,
if you see “predicting boiling points”
on your organic chemistry study
guide, you may feel like you already
know enough and can get by with
memorizing the general order of
boiling points for each functional
group. However, you may forget that
the boiling point of organic compounds
can also differ based on molecular
weight, shape, and number of each
functional group present. Working a
few sample problems will likely remind
you of the subtle details of broad
Consider taking a
math class along with
chemistry each semester.
Doing so will help you keep your
math and logical thinking skills fresh
and give you practice with scientific
notation, logarithmic and exponential
functions, and algebraic equations.
Learn math skills that will provide an
advantage in your chemistry courses.
Several semesters of calculus and a
course in differential equations help
tremendously in physical chemistry,
use several study
methods. When preparing,
don’t rely on a single partner,
group, practice test, review sheet, or
review session. Spend time working
end-of-chapter problems, making and
reviewing note cards, and reviewing
class notes and answers to homework.
Set up a study plan well ahead of
schedule and give yourself not only
enough time to study all of the topics,
but also enough time to mix up your
Find out how much time will be
allowed for the test, the topics
that will be covered, and the format of
the questions. Professors will usually
be happy to share this information,
especially if their test is heavy on one
type of question (for example, all
multiple choice or all short answer).
learn from your
mistakes. When an
exam is returned, find
out where and how credit was lost
for each question. If the instructor
posts a key, make a copy. Check each
answer and if you still do not
understand how to arrive at the
correct answer, seek help. If you
misunderstood a particular concept,
go back and study that concept in
your course notes or textbook, or
seek further explanation from your
instructor during office hours. If you
misunderstood a particular type of
question, seek help and then practice
doing similar types of questions until
you can easily solve them.