I failed my first Chemistry exam at Hopkins. Not subpar or just above average but failed my exam.
The average for the exam was a 68% and I received a 45%! Close to two standard deviations below the mean. For someone who’s never gotten below a B in any class, it came as quite a shock.
I was petrified to say the least. I still remember staring at the screen; my fingers jittering as I typed in my password to enter Blackboard. I can still feel the weight in my chest and the lump in my throat that developed immediately after looking at my grade. I remember the computer screen seemed to melt away as the weight in my chest became heavier and heavier.
Surprisingly, I managed to push through the uphill battle and receive an A in Professor Fairbrother’s class. And I feel that the method that I employed can work for anyone (assuming of course you are willing to work tirelessly and diligently in achieving your goal).
I vehemently believe in the learn-it-once principle. I feel that this method works for any chemistry or mathematics class. And I found that this principle works best if broken down into four stages:
Stage 1: Read before lecture and try to understand the lecture material before attending class! You should preferably do this the day before. You don’t need to understand every aspect of the topic being covered for that day. But at least having a general overview of what is to be covered will help you focus on the important points during lecture and will help you take better notes. You should also try and read more efficiently by highlighting and taking side notes. At the end of each section, try to summarize in your own words what you just learned in the margin of the textbook.
Stage 2: Attend every lecture and take good notes. This is the secondary stage of the process. I view lectures as more supplementary. Much of your learning should take place out of class but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to lecture. Attending lectures can be very useful in filling in gaps in your understanding of the topic being covered!
Stage 3: This is by far the most critical step of all three stages. Do practice problems! I cannot emphasize this enough. You can understand the theory all you want, but you will not begin to think like a chemist unless you do practice problems. I feel the reason why I failed my first exam was by not fulfilling this stage. Doing some practice problems immediately after lecture is extremely important. Try and complete every problem in each chapter, regardless of whether or not they were assigned by your professor. The more practice you get in, the better you’ll be!
Stage 4:Take the back tests the weekend before the final exam. It is extremely important that you do not look at the answers and try to solve every problem by yourself. Once you take the tests, they will serve to show you your weaknesses and from there, you can go on to focus on improving those weaknesses. It is extremely important to focus on your weaknesses. If you know you can do one topic well, use your time efficiently and focus on other topics that you are struggling with.
By methodically going through these stages every time a new topic is covered in class, you are essentially fortifying the new information a total of four times. If you follow these stages to the letter, you will have learned the material so well that come final exams, a simple review and a few practice problems is all that’s needed to do well! But be warned, this is a grueling method. It takes a lot to stay on top of the material. It gets easier once you establish it as a habit though.
This is the recipe that I used to succeed in this class. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Best of luck!