Chem 102 is a first-year Chemistry course offered at the University of Waterloo for engineers. It is almost entirely comprised of high-school concepts mixed with a few higher level concepts. Below are a few tips for first-year Waterloo students hoping to gain an edge in this course.


Tip 1: Calculator

Get a graphing calculator. This is one of the only first-year classes where you will be allowed to use a calculator, and feel especially blessed that you can use any calculator that you desire. Having a graphing calculator on hand for this class will make a lot of things easier, such as solving quadratics or being able to visualize a relation. You can also program in some of your own formulas to make calculations faster, so you can spend some more time on the harder questions.


Tip 2: Tutorials

Tutorials are regarded by most students as “easy”. This is because in these tutorials you can work in large groups, and ask the TA questions about anything that you are unsure about. Many students take advantage of this and use this just to get out of the tutorials as fast as they can, because if you finish the assignment in 30 minutes, you go home from the tutorial one and a half hours early. This is a mistake, and it took the hit of the midterm for many students to realize this. Spend your time in these tutorials to learn how to do each individual question and show your work so that you can review your solutions at home.


Tip 3: Online Assignments

It will feel like a huge burden, but take your time with the online assignments. It may take three hours, or even four but they are designed like that. You are supposed to do one or two questions after every class to solidify the concepts, instead of do it all at once near the due date. There is not any particular advice to which method to take, so do what works for you but just make sure that you are learning how to do the concepts rather than just getting the answer off a friend’s work, it will help you get through the tutorials smoother and ultimately make the midterm and final exams easier.

Tip 4: TA Help Sessions

Attend the TA help sessions. Sometimes they are after the last class of the day, or even during lunch, but manage some energy to at least show up and listen.


Tip 5: iClicker

For this class you will need an iClicker or a subscription to Reef. Reef seems like the popular option just because you don’t need to configure the frequency of your remote because all you need is your phone and the Reef app downloaded. Whenever these questions come up on the powerpoint in class, try your best to answer them without help of your friends. Conceptual questions on the midterm and final are reflective of the iClicker questions, so at least try your best to understand even if you don’t get the correct answer. Note, if you’re completely scrambling for an answer after thinking about it for a while, check with a nearby friend. Even though it’s a good idea to try and figure out all the questions on your own, it’s not worth losing marks over.


Tip 6: Cheat Sheet

There is nothing special about the midterm and final besides the cheat sheet. This is a doubled sided sheet of paper where you can write literally whatever you want on it, and bring it to the midterm and final. This sounds amazing, and you can write absolutely whatever you want on this sheet of paper, but it comes with an expense and a warning. You don’t have a choice but just note the tradeoff is that the midterm and final for CHEM 102 is not curved. The warning is to not completely abuse the cheat sheet, which would be to write entire questions and solutions on the page and fill it up with information that you might deem useful. If you have a cluttered cheat sheet during these exams, you will have trouble finding a way to do questions on the exams, and that will cost you valuable time.

All in all, CHEM 102 is not the most dangerous course if you heed these warnings. Many students get caught in the idea of not needing to put work into this class like others, but that will be at the expense of your grades. If you put time and effort into this course to understand the concepts, you will have a good time and you will be thankful when you see how hard other students (not you) struggle learning the concepts in the days before the final.


Kai Hefner

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