Whether you’re on a Pre-Med track, an engineer-to-be, or just plain undecided, you might stumble upon the notorious Chem 130 course during one of your semesters in UMich. Even though it’s known to be easier than Organic Chemistry, Chem 130 is still a challenging and difficult course due to all the time and effort you need to dedicate in order to do well in the class. Here are the top hardest concepts to grasp in the course. Survive (and understand) them, and you’ll be able to pass the class with flying colors.

1. Orbitals

There are hundreds of them and hundreds of deviations from the hundreds that you thought you knew. It’s the stuff of horror movies. Thankfully, Chem 130 doesn’t go into much detail with them. The instructors give you more of an overview of them, but you are expected to be able to write full electron configurations and understand what bond orders and formal charge are.Image result for orbital memes

2. Atomic Structure and Periodicity

In order to survive the midterms, you have to learn all of the trends in the periodic table. What does that mean? Well, basically, you need to know which elements have more electrons, a bigger radius, are more electronegative or have a bigger electron affinity… all of that. It can be tiresome, since it really gets you thinking about why and how things work the way they do.

Image result for meme atomic structure

3. Polarity

Is it non-polar? Polar covalent? Bonds, especially polarity, are extremely hard to understand. There are so many factors that come into play when referring to this subject, that it’s super easy to skip or forget one and get the whole problem wrong because of it. Watch out with your Lewis Dot Structures on these questions! One wrong move and you could confuse all of the different types of bonds (and that’s minus five on the exam, guys).

Image result for meme polarity

4. Calorimetry Problems

Does the problem want you to determine the specific heat capacity of the calorimeter? The water? The metal? Calorimetry is also one of the hard concepts to grasp, partly because the questions are worded similarly, even though they might be asking for completely different things. Be meticulous when dealing with these types of questions, confuse “specific heat capacity of the solution” with “specific heat capacity of the metal” and you’ll unnecessarily lose some much-needed points on the exams.

Image result for meme calorimetry

5. Enthalpy

Chemists use the letter for everything, so figuring out exactly what they want you to solve for in an enthalpy problem can be a real challenge. Is it the heat of formation? The enthalpy of neutralization? Is it exothermic? Endothermic? Honestly, who knows at this point?Image result for enthalpy memes


Even though Chem 130 is a tough course, as long as you understand these five topics (and pretty much everything else), you’ll be more than fine. Just be ready to dedicate an immense amount of time and energy to it. Hey, if you get an A- after all of it (which, by the way, is anything more than an 85%), wouldn’t all that hard work be worth it?


Natalia Carolina

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