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Whether you’re on a Medicine track, an engineer, a chemist, or just someone who isn’t quite sure what you want to major on, you’ll probably have to face one of the most horrifying and tough classes the University of Michigan has to offer: general chemistry (aka Chem. 130).

It’s scary and frightening and not what you want to do (are forced to, on most occasions), but you can do it.

Fear not, for this list contains the key to surviving this course.

1. Do things ahead of time

The most pertinent and important tip for any up and coming brave student getting ready to face the wrath of orbitals and balanced molecular equations it to do things ahead of time. Don’t leave your homework and most definitely do not study for your midterms for the last minute. If you organize your schedule well enough, you will have time to do all of the activities that you want to do outside of school (even if it’s going to the gym, playing video games or watching Netflix), and still have time to study when it’s not asked of you.

Split your OWL homework throughout the week, take your time understanding the concepts that are being taught, and go speak to your professors if you don’t understand, but do it all ahead of time. 

The more time you take to truly understand the concepts and practice them, the better you will do on the exams. It’s that simple.

2. Go to office hours

The professors and GSI’s don’t bite, they’re actually very nice and kind people who want to do everything in their power to help you get a better grade. That is why they hold office hours: so that you go to them. 

Don’t be afraid to show up and ask what you think is “basic” understanding. No question is too stupid or dumb to be asked.

If you didn’t understand a concept that was explained in the lecture or can’t solve an equation or don’t understand molecular orbitals, go to them. Ask them to explain it in a different way, in two, three, four different ways. It’s their job, and you’re most probably paying a lot of money to learn (not to just pass). 

Also, if you just want to talk (about anything), don’t be afraid to go a meet them and make conversation. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to also talk about something other than acids and bases.

3. Join a study group

There will be times when you won’t want to go and there will be times when you question why you even joined on in the first place, but the SLC’s (Science Learning Center) study groups help a lot of people.

They usually meet once a week for two hours during the semester, do practice problems, and go over concepts that were taught during that same week. Also, they’re mostly taught by the university’s upperclassmen (people who are also very nice and kind and just want to see you do well). 

It’s great for those moments when it’s too early to start studying for the next midterm because it keeps you practicing.

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4. Use Problem Roulette

Even though it has a lot of wacky problems, Problem Roulette is one of the best ways to study for the chemistry midterms. The link to the site should be posted somewhere in your course syllabus.

It’s basically a site that can generate practice exams and problems that are very similar (if not from) past and current exams. They’re hard, and you might get frustrated, but always remember that you can ask your professors and GSI if you don’t understand something.

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5. Make sure you understand the concepts and how to apply them

This might seem pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many students struggle with this. General Chemistry (and college in general) isn’t about learning how to solve the problems in an exam, it’s about understading why those problems occur and how you can solve them.

Does that make sense? Let me rephrase.

Don’t memorize formulas and procedure.

Do understand the conceptual mumbo-jumbo of why it’s occurring and how you can solve it and apply it to other things outside of that one problem.

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As long as you don’t go into the first 300-person filled lecture hall thinking that you’re going to fail, you will do fine. 

Actually, scratch that.

You will do more than fine. You will do fantastic because it’s really not a difficult or hard class. It’s a course that asks for a lot of time and dedication, two things that, if you follow the tips on this list, you will be able to give in excess.


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Natalia Carolina


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