Recently, I was approached by some of my students who asked the million-dollar question: “How do you study Chemistry and do well in exams?” This was collectively asked by both students who have been consistently doing well in exams and their classmates who seem to be struggling in the subject.
The straightforward reply that I gave them was to be put in effort and time in their revision of the concepts being taught in school and to clarify any doubts as soon as possible with either their school teacher or Chemistry tutor. However, the probable intention that most students have in mind when they ask such a question is to find out how to formulate a good study plan for the subject, that allows them to accelerate their learning and understanding of the different topics in preparation for their Chemistry examination.
Suggestions to improve your Chemistry studies
One suggestion that I always share with my students is to make a summary on each topic as and when they are being introduced in school. This will include a list of definitions, formulae involved and any other additional pointers or annotations that they have taken note of. In addition, transferring one or two simple examples for each concepts to a notebook will actually help students to establish a good foundation and refresher when they start to revise. Practice questions that are difficult or require a niche approach to solve may also be taken down on the same notebook for future reference. Segregation of the summary notebook will also help to save time during revision.
Another suggestion to my students will be to attempt all the questions in their school homework, regardless of their current standard. Basically, they have to try their best and put in some conscious effort and not wait for their teachers or Chemistry tutors to spoon-feed them with the answers. This not only builds good traits of perseverance and determination, but also allow them to find out their area of weaknesses early on. In this way, they can target only specific areas and get their doubts resolved, compared to saying they face difficulties in all the topics which are both time-consuming and less productive in tackling the true areas of weaknesses.
Next, getting better at Chemistry does take time and should not be rushed. In other words, do not think that there is a shortcut to getting good at Chemistry as certain thought processes are slowly built up and honed along the way, such as knowing when to use what formulae to answer the Chemistry questions or identification of repetition of similar question styles, which can only happen over dozens of attempts at the available practice questions that are found in school assignments or assessment books. Therefore, if you do want to advance further in your Chemistry studies at tertiary level, you will want to start on the right foot early on by employing the right study techniques and effort to build a solid foundation in the subject itself. This will then allow you to have an easier time with certain applied science or engineering courses at polytechnic or university level that may require the use of Chemistry knowledge.
Finally, if you really find yourself being able to grasp Chemistry concepts easily, you may want to consider sharing your Chemistry know-hows with your peers and that will help you to approach Chemistry from a different perspective and this will help you to handle more challenging Chemistry questions down the road.
No shortcut to getting better at Chemistry studies
In conclusion, as long as you put in the appropriate effort and time into studying Chemistry, are not afraid to tackle problems that appear impossible to solve at first, and keep an open mind in terms of learning and developing your understanding of the subject, you will find yourself in a good spot and may even find it fun and enjoyable when heading for Chemistry lessons.