Helpful Hints for your Success
"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel" -- Socrates --

Be proactive!

Before class
  • Did you skim your notes from last class?
  • Have your questions from last class been answered?
  • Have you read the syllabus to know what you need to read from your book?
  • Have you read the material that will be covered in your book and the on-line notes?
  • Have you first skimmed the material before you began to study it?
  • Did you get discouraged because you did not understand a concept? Just go on to the next.
  • Did you jot down the questions you had while reading in your book?
  • Did you highlight the sentences you feel that you need to understand?
  • Did you try to work out all assigned problems with pen and paper in your hands before you looked at the solutions manual?
  • Should you or should you not go to the lecture? If you can not find the time to go to yourlectures, see how you feel by telling your parents about it. Under most circumstances you will gain a lot by going to the lectures.
  • Have you brought all the materials you need with you (notes, book, pen, paper) for your class?
In class
  • Have you brought the most important item? To be able to be present with your mind and not just with your body, you need to take care of yourself before you come to class or to the lab. It helps if you put life priorities in order, maintain positive thoughts, throw out the negative ones and do physical exercise, too. Remember body and mind interacts with each other. They work together. Their productivity depends on you. Especially in your lab, it is not a good idea to be sleepy, tired or clumsy. Many times accidents happen hurting others and yourself because of these reasons and not because the student did not know the procedure.
  • Do you volunteer to answer questions? It has been said that there is nothing more demoralizing to a lecturer than to ask a question and get stunned silence in return.
  • Are you taking notes while your teacher is lecturing?
  • Are you asking questions? The question you have in mind is also in the mind of many other students. There are no illogical questions, there are only illogical people. If you do not ask, how will you know? If anybody laughs at your question, just ignore it and go on. If you catch an error, let your teacher know. Sometimes your teacher puts off your question. It could be for several reasons. It will be covered soon after, it will take too long to explain, or perhaps the question is a little off the subject. Just follow up on it after class or during office hours.
After class
  • If you could not make it to the lecture, did you make sure to get the notes from a friend?
  • What is your learning style? Do you learn easier by studying alone or in a group? Do you learn mostly by listening or by seeing? Do you learn easier if you draw the problem and work with your hands? You might consider using molecular models and spend some time watching animations and movies from the provided chemical sites.
  • Did you do your physical exercise and did you get enough rest before you started preparing for your next class?
  • Did you work all the example problems given in the text? How about the self-test problems?
  • Did you work all the suggested problems?
  • Did you go to the office hours of your teacher and your TA?
  • Did you go to the discussion section of your TA or any other TA?
Solving Practice Problems

There are many ways to solve a problem. Solving a problem is a skill. A skill is acquired by practice. Therefore in order to succeed you need to practice, practice, and practice. When you have the problem before you, don't just stare at the problem, do something.

  Given Write down the data given to you.
  Asked Write down what you are asked for.
  4 Any given or asked property should be written on your paper using four things. For example, V = 3 L oxygen. The described property is the volume and you use the symbol V. The number is 3, the unit is the liter (L) and the material is the oxygen. Missing any one of these items can lead to failure in solving the problem.
  Equations Write down all pertinent equations using the same symbols that you used in the previous steps.
  Assume Sometimes the problem does not give you everything you need to solve it.
  Draw It always helps to draw the problem.
  Units Be consistent with the units. If you know what units your result should have, change all appropriate parameters accordingly.
  Synthesis Sometimes you can solve the problem by just going forward. You start with what you know (A and B), which give you C, and C together with D gives you the answer.
  Analysis Sometimes you can solve the problem by going backwards. The answer is connected with C. To find the answer, you must know C. To know C, you must know B, but B is connected to the data given in the problem.
  Both And sometimes you can solve the problem by just going forward up to a point and next by going backwards until you reach the point you could not go further forward.
  Check At the end, you must check your answer to see if it is reasonable. Should it be positive or negative, large or small?

Finally I hope that you will enjoy your Chemistry class and I wish you good luck.

Good Choices versus Bad Choices

Good choice: to be willing to work hard.
Bad choice: to put studying on the back burner from the very start of the course.

Good choice: to strive for an in depth understanding of each concept taught.
Bad choice: to be satisfied with mechanical and superficial learning.

Good choice: to follow a regular schedule for your studying.
Bad choice: to study just before the exams.

Good choice: to continuously strive to develop better study skills.
Bad choice: to stay satisfied with your present study skills.

Good choice: to adapt to the demands of individual courses (book, teacher).
Bad choice: to study in the same way for every course.

Good Choice / Bad Choice
  • If your background in chemistry is average, then two hours outside of class for every hour in class might be ok. That's six hours of out-of-class study each week.
  • Study daily if possible; otherwise, study 2-hours every other day. Never study six hours in one day. It's like not eating for the first 6 days of the week and then you eat 7 days' worth of food on the 7th day.
  • Determine the material you need to study: usually more than the material presented in lecture but less than the material in text.
  • Preview the next material for 15 minutes and save hours of study.
  • Your Lecture Notes: Write a summary of main ideas. Use phrases rather than complete sentences. Follow up on your lecture notes at home. Review, organize and expand your lecture notes!
    Expand them? Yes!
    When? Immediately after lecture.
    Why? After 24 hours, you lose about half of the material presented in lecture. If you rewrite/expand your notes after a few hours since lecture time, you retain almost all of what was said for weeks thereafter.
  • While reviewing your lecture notes, find the pertinent problems from the practice exams and study them.
  • Writing notes = Learning.
    Highlighting = Promising to learn later.
Studying Concepts versus Studying Problems

Chemistry concepts
  • Definition of the concept and applications.
    Example: connectivity of atoms within a molecule. O-C-O
  • Examples and non-examples of the concept: O-C-O, not O-O-C.
  • Links among concepts. A two dimensional structure versus a three dimensional structure.
Chemistry problems
  • Algorithms. Short standard procedures.
  • Complex problems.

  • Distractions:
    Noise - Talking to friends on the road - Talking on the cell phone - Personal stereo - Club hour.
  • Fatigue: mentally and physically tired.
    Learning efficiency and available time of sleep are proportional quantities.

High Learning Efficiency >> Enough Sleep >> Better Grades

To minimize fatigue and increase learning efficiency:
  • Sleep for enough time.
  • Exercise regularly and let the sun see you.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Study from a second, different chemistry book.
  • Take a short walk or a short nap or change the subject of your study when you get tired.
  • Study the more demanding problems and concepts first.
  • Let anger, guilt, fear and anxiety go.
  • Let negative thoughts go.
  • Be generous to yourself and others.
  • Remind yourself why you work hard.
  • And remember the life curve or the so called "the toupadakis curve."

Good luck in everything you will think, speak or do.


Productive Energy versus Wasted Energy
Perfect Choice