How to Prepare for Your General Chemistry Exams

September 3, 2018

One of the most common questions that I am asked in the general chemistry class is, “How can I get an A in this class?”  The answer is pretty simple, do the assignments and do well on the exams.  There is some excellent advice on these topics at the ULC website, please take some time to look through the material.

First, do all of the assignments.  Make sure your lab reports, recitation worksheets, and online homework are done at least a day before they are due.  That will prevent any printer breakdowns, last minute concert invites, or just problems with the material that might prevent you from submitting your work.  You should view these assignments as automatic points because you can get help if needed.

Preparing for the exams is more challenging.    The first question is how you do you know how well you will do on the exam?  This has an easy answer, if you can explain all of the material you will do fine on the exam.  Set your bar to being able to teach the material, and make sure you can teach all of the material on the exam.  Try to express something in different ways, so if you know how to apply an equation, make sure you can also describe what the equation is saying in words.  Your recitation will help you think about things in different ways here.

Louisiana state university has a nice simple 5 step model to prepare for exams.  It can be found here: and a short video is found here

  • Step 1.  Preview the material – skim the readings from the text that you will cover before class.  Knowing the big picture helps you organize the information you are getting from your professor in the class.
  •  Step 2. Attend class – not only is part of the class grade based on participation, but this an absolute minimum to success.  What does your professor value?  That is what you will be tested on.
  • Step 3. Review – take time as soon as possible after class to make a list of all of the topics covered.  This will force you to organize the information.
  • Step 4.  Study – Make sure you have a goal.  It is better to say that “after this study session I will be able to correctly answer combustion problems” than “I will study chemistry for an hour.”
  • Step 5.  Check – Do you understand the material?  Can you explain it to others?  Are there topics that are still a little fuzzy?  If so, go back to 4.  Remember there are two times to find out that you do not understand the material, during an exam and before an exam – which is better.  If you don’t know what questions will be on the exam, you probably don’t understand the material well enough because you can’t identify what is important.

For more information please contact:

Joseph M. Serafin
Chair of the Department of Chemistry
[email protected]
321 St. Albert Hall