Class Reviews: Chemistry 111

This is a class review of the Chemistry 11100-11200-11300 sequence, by current 2nd year student Onome Uwhuba (email).

Which course are you reviewing and when (year/Quarter) did you take it?
Comprehensive General Chemistry (2009/2010)

Why did you take it?

I took this course mainly because it was one of courses that I knew would aid me in understanding Biology (I am a biology major). I had previously taken a year of Chemistry in High school, and it gave me some very basic preparation, but by the beginning of the school year, I had forgotten most of what I learned in high school. I did not take the honors course because I didn’t think I had adequate preparation or motivation to really succeed in the honors section.

Can you describe the course content and whether you still remember anything you learned then?

The course content was pretty much a normal General Chemistry course, though I think we went more in-depth in some parts of the course than other courses. And I do remember most of what I learned simply because of the effort needed to pass the course. However, I remember more of what we learned in the Spring quarter, than the autumn quarter.

How time consuming was the class and how did you manage to juggle it with your other responsibilities?

The effort you put into the course was very reflective of the grades you got. Expect at most weekly problem sets, lab reports and 3-midterms and a final. Note that you get to drop your worst midterm, so if you do really well on your first 2 midterms, you can have a break before the final (the 3rd midterm is usually the week before finals weeks).

However, I found that the earlier I started the work assigned in the class, and just general readings, the less time I actually spent or wasted preparing for the class. I managed to juggle my responsibilities because I started the assignments as soon as they were given and broke them up equally so I could do my other work as well. Doing well in this course for me involved mastering time-management and organization, so that I wouldn’t abandon my other classes.

Were the exams exceedingly hard, or did you feel adequately prepared from class notes and textbook?

The exams were challenging but never impossible. Most of the material were covered in the course, and some required some more than just memorizing, so you really had to try and understand what was being taught.

As long as you set aside enough time to re-do the Problem Sets, read class notes and then the textbook, you could do really well in the exams. Note that the problem-sets are really important as similar questions appear on the exams, so make sure to at least do them before each midterm. The textbook was very helpful for just relearning concepts, and as a source of problems to reinforce class notes.

Knowing what you know now, would you take it again if you could and do you think you would do better in it?

I would definitely take this course again, simply because I believe it has given me a good foundation. And I believe that I would do better in it, because it took me a quarter to really understand how to study for and prioritize study materials for the exams (Problem Sets, Class notes and Textbook-in that order).

Advice on how you got through the course for students currently entering the course. Specifically your study methods, and anything special you did (note-taking styles, and using other resources like Harper Tutors, TAs, etc.) that helped you very much.

It’s easier to give my advice, etc. in a list so here it is:

  1. Go to Discussion: This is extremely important-as in I cannot stress it enough! It is an amazing chance to ask your TA questions about what you learned in class, especially if you can’t make it to Office Hours. Also most TAs are willing to help with homework questions (which is one of the reasons I started homework early-so I had questions to ask during discussion). And any questions about lab formatting can be answered here (make sure to get very clear instructions from your TA about what is and is not acceptable in a lab report, so you don’t lose silly points for bad categories, etc.)
  2. Go to Lecture: While some people debate the need for going to lectures, know that all the professors I’ve had have discussed things in lecture that were not in the textbook. And somehow, all those things have appeared on the midterms. So if you can’t go to lecture, at least get notes from someone who actually takes down notes.
  3. Ask for help: This goes for going to Discussion, Office Hours (TA and Professor), Harper Tutors (available in the Harper Library on Sundays-Thursdays evenings, usually on nights when there’s a class the next day). Also get to know the Fishbowl (the basement of Kent, where various TAs hold general office hours on weekday evenings around 5-7pm)
  4. Try and do well on Labs and Lab reports which account for 35% of your grade. Take a look at the lab schedule for the quarter, there are usually about 6-9 labs, meaning that on average, each lab report is 5% of your grade (which is what problem sets over the quarter account for). So don’t take any lab report as a joke.
  5. Do the Problem Sets. They may not count for much of grades, but doing them=doing good on the midterms and finals.
  6. Figure out which study method works better for you, and figure it out fast, as the first midterm occurs within a month after class starts. Once you find it, see how it helps you on the midterm and stick with what works.
  7. Try to study and start your work early. This gives you way less stress, and less of what I call “Pre-Med syndrome”. You really don’t want to be running around at 2am trying to understand the Schrodinger equation and what exactly quantum mechanics is, the night before the midterm.

Anything encouraging you have for students entering the course?

Do your best, and know that your best is good enough. Do NOT enter this course with fear and pessimism, if you start with a good or at least ambivalent attitude, you can do much better. If you have any questions or need any help, etc. send me an email and I’ll be glad to help. Good Luck and have a great year, and don’t let Chemistry be the only thing you remember from your First Year in college.

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