How to Study Chemistry in College | 10 Tips for Classes and Exams

Chemistry is an interesting subject that deals with knowledge of matter around us.

It is a bit complicated subject due to chemical symbols, formulas, reaction steps, etc.  But you can gain command over the subject by following tips.

  1. Understand the Chemistry Basics.
  2. Memorize symbols, chemical formulas, and property of compounds
  3. Practice nomenclature and formulas used to solves problems.
  4. Attend the chemistry lab for experimental knowledge.
  5. Have your own notes and some quality textbooks.
  6. Clarify any doubts from your tutors as it helps learn better.

Details on How to Study Chemistry

Understand the Chemistry Basics.

The structure of atoms, molecules, compounds forms the core basics of chemistry. Anything about chemistry includes this.

So be clear about the atom, its structure, molecules, compounds. 

Further, study the periodic table. The periodic table has 118 elements arranged by atomic number, electronic configuration, and properties.

This table gives you an idea of gases, non-metals, metals, radioactive elements, etc.

Understand the concept of acids, bases, and buffers.

Learn the concept of chemical formula in chemistry.

For example, water has a chemical formula of H2O which means it has two atoms of Hydrogen and one atom of Oxygen.

Most chemicals tend to react with others except for noble gases. These chemicals react in a particular way such that they form new compounds with chemical stability. Knowing the atomic number, the chemical nature helps you foresee the type of reaction a compound might undergo.

Also, be clear of different branches of chemistry like organic chemistry, inorganic, analytical chemistry, medicinal chemistry, etc.

Knowing these branches helps you understand the scope of chemistry in future life.

If you have basics in chemistry, it becomes easy to solve a problem or complete any reaction based on knowledge of stoichiometry.

Memorize symbols, chemical formulas, and property of compounds

Each chemical is represented by a symbol or chemical formula.

Cl is the symbol for chloride ions. H+ is a symbol of proton or hydrogen ion.

So, one should memorize these symbols as it would always be helpful during the study.

The chemical formula is used to represent an element, molecule, or compound.

O2 is a symbol of the element oxygen, HCl is a symbol of hydrochloric acid. O2 indicates two atoms of oxygen make up a stable oxygen element. HCl means a combination of hydrogen and chlorine atom to form hydrochloric acid.

Chemicals of certain groups have similar sets of properties.

For example, acids have the ability to accept electrons or hydroxyl ions. These properties apply to all acids. When you come across the term acid, you will remember what its properties are.

So, memorizing these symbols, formulae is essential to read chemistry well.

Practice nomenclature and formulas to solves problems

Nomenclature means the scientific naming of compounds. This nomenclature help identify the compounds with ease.

For example, Propanol can be of two chemical structures, as shown below.

Chemical structure
1-hydroxy propanol and 2-hydroxy propanol


In the above image first structure is propanol and by nomenclature, it is 1-hydroxy propanol. The second structure is isopropanol and it is named 2-hydroxypropyl.

Both chemicals are different in chemistry and properties despite the same number of atoms and molecular weight.

So, it is important to know the nomenclature for the identification of compounds.

Similarly, one needs to practice formulas like the gaseous laws, stoichiometric equations to score well in exams.

Attend the chemistry lab for experimental knowledge

Chemistry study incomplete without attending the labs. It is the place where you will learn the practical aspects of chemistry.

These labs expose you to different experiments like titration, chemical synthesis, identification of compounds, etc.

All these are useful to study chemistry in college.

Have your own notes and some quality textbooks.

With progress in the syllabus, chemistry subjects can look huge and tough. This can be made simple if you have your own notes from the class.

Your own notes help you to recall the topics with ease and understand better.

Also, have some standard textbooks for your reference if you are serious about chemistry.

Clarify any doubts from your tutors

If you have any doubts, it is important to clarify them with your teachers. This helps you understand the subject better and avoid any confusion.

Further, it helps to gain interest and curiosity in the subject. Due to this, you will explore the subject better and see if it is suitable to perceive a career in chemistry.

Further reading

  1. Learn about atomic particles like the electron, positron, and neutron?
  2. Be clear about chemical bonds like bonds (sigma, pi, etc.), types of bonding, resonance in a cyclic structure.
  3. Understand the role of electronegativity, electropositivity,
  4. Study types of reactions like neutralization, oxidoreduction, complexation, etc.
  5. For chemical analysis, the idea of titrations, colorimetric, potentiometry, amperometry, chromatography, etc.
  6. Name reactions like the Lassaigne’s test (sodium fusion test), Fehling’s check, etc.
  7. For synthesis, the knowledge of solvents, polarity, column chromatography, a reaction involving heat or microwaves.
  8. Try to differentiate, what is inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, food chemistry, analytic chemistry, phytochemical chemistry, medicinal chemistry, etc.?

Other Tips

  • Attend classes regularly, not to miss any topics.
  • Always see or revise the previous class before attending the next class. This helps you to keep a follow on the topic.
  • Draw diagrams as required by the topic. The diagram helps memorize the topic easier.
  • Try to solve the reaction on your own.
  • Solve any new problems to get an idea of how you can perform if new problems are asked.
  • Try to assimilate or understand the most complex reactions.
  • When you come across name reactions, try to understand why so and so reagent is added there and what is its contribution. This is a damn technique to remember the reactions without problems.

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