Of all of the introductory courses that me and my friends took as college freshman nothing came with greater difficultly for my friends than Introduction to Chemistry 101 and 102.  General chemistry encompasses many of the fundamentals of physical chemistry, organic chemistry and some other aspects of chemistry and lab work that prove useful later on.  Although it is tedious, mainly math and concept based, and has a bit of memorization involved, general chemistry can be a simple course if you employ some tricks I’ve learned as a teaching assistant to help you succeed.

            Chemistry is a confusing subject, you may be one of the gifted that automatically have a chemistry-oriented brain that can understand chemistry with ease, however you may not be given that same ability and chemistry may come a little harder to you, either way if you work hard there is nothing stopping you from getting a good grade. 

In a chemistry course it is important to always go to class as it is with most courses, however if you miss an important concept in class it can confuse you for weeks.  Teachers in University aren’t going to repeat the lesson several times, they will probably only do it once and sometimes twice.  There is no easier way to learn chemistry than right from the teacher’s mouth because the concepts cannot always be grasped easily, the way the teacher provides the information can make the difference between understanding it clearly or banging your head into the wall.  Reading something in a text book two nights before an exam can prove disastrous simply because at that point it will make no sense. 

As with many concepts come math problems.  Most of chemistry is mathematical therefore practice problems should always be written down in class and studied.  These are more than likely to become test problems with different numbers and information.  The secret is that the concept has to be applied with the math; you cannot start plugging information into your calculator without knowing why you are doing it.  That is how many students get confused on tests and then ultimately get the question wrong.  If you understand why you are multiplying, or dividing, or why you’re using a certain formula then the complexity of the problem becomes a plug-and-chug deal.

One question can also be asked in several ways, you may have to connect ideas, equations, ect.  What you learn in one chapter can always come back to you in another.  You may learn to calculate molar mass the first day, but then two months later you may be learning gas laws and the equations associated with them.  When all of a sudden you have to use the information given with a gas law type question to calculate the molar mass of an unknown.  Take it in steps, spend some time using your given information to see what you can solve for and then see if that newly solved for information can get you to a molar mass somehow.  Write down all of your given information when a question is asked, look for what you are looking for and then the equation you want is basically given to you. 

It seems that many students forget about units, remembering your units is essential to getting the answer correct. If there is one place and students mess up the most it is while converting units or using formulas with units that do not cancel and having an answer that makes no sense.  Make sure units are always applied correctly. 

On a final note, visiting the professor or course instructor with your questions is always the best way to get results, so never fear most professors want to help you do well so visiting them when your grade starts to slip is exactly what they want to you to do.