Effective Strategies for Studying for Chemistry



By Zander Leja, 2020-2021 SCS Advising Leader:

For some, studying for chemistry can be strenuous and frustrating when a great deal of effort is used to study for an exam, and they do not receive their desired outcome. Studying for chemistry is a different beast and requires different strategies to study than other classes might require. My advice is mostly targeted towards my younger Illinois friends who are just beginning their chemistry careers or need general chemistry for their course of study. This also may be helpful for my older peers who may want to think and adjust their current plans for studying. As a senior studying chemistry sciences & letters, I have listed some advice that might help you get on the right track studying for your introduction/general chemistry courses.

Treat chemistry as a skill

Chemistry is a strange combination of many other sciences. It requires the analytical thinking of statistics and mathematics, while also leaning on the systematic thinking of biology and physics. This, for some, may require some adjustments on how to think about the information from class. The most important remodeling was thinking about chemistry as a skill rather than just knowledge. For me, this meant thinking about studying less as memorization and more as practice, preparing for the big game at the end of the term. Exams are easier to overcome when it’s not about reproducing information on an exam and rather activating your problem-solving abilities. Building these skills are also important for your professional career as an expert problem solver.

Learn over time

Cramming your coursework is never the solution. Once chemistry becomes a skill in your mind, it becomes evident that practice is needed over periods of time. If you’re an avid sports fan like me, you’ve heard the phrase, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” If you’re a student at the University of Illinois, you have the talent to be a great student! Now, you just need to put it to work over weeks and not nights.

Plan of action

Unfortunately, when you are a student, you most likely don’t have personal managers watching over you to organize your efforts in class. This means personal planning for what works best for you is necessary to meet your goals in your coursework! Planning for exams and scheduling your efforts effectively are paramount to succeeding in your classes. Simple use of a calendar or weekly work boards to write down your work could be just enough to keep yourself on track!