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Chemistry FAQs

Do you have questions concerning your general chemistry class? Remember, many issues can be resolved by talking with your TA, instructor, or someone at the Chemistry Learning Center. Below are some typical questions and some advice to consider.

Is there a question that isn't listed that you think ought to be listed? Email Tony Jacob with your ideas!

Finally, you might also want to read "How to Excel in Chemistry" by Dr. Cathy Middlecamp, former Director, Chemistry Learning Center.

"I don't know what to study in my general chemistry course?"
As a general rule, the lectures and pre-class activities are a good guide to the important topics. Quizzes, discussion activity problems, practice problems, and old exams are other good resources both for important topics needed and they are a great source of practice problems. Old or practice exams provide examples of exam format, the question "style", and the level of difficulty. Remember that an old exam from a prior year may reflect what was important in that semester and may not necessarily be appropriate for the current semester.

"What should I do if I have a scheduling conflict with the next exam?"
Contact your instructor. Sometimes an alternative time to take the exam is offered. Generally, you should try to contact your instructor at least two weeks before an exam when there is a known scheduling conflict.

"Who should I see if I don't agree with the grading of my exam?"
If it is a numerical error (i.e., the points on the exam were not totaled correctly), usually (though not always) your TA/FA/UA can correct that specific problem. If there is a disagreement about how a problem was graded, your instructor usually provides a mechanism to resolve this. If you're unsure about what you're supposed to do, check with your TA or instructor.

"What should I do if I failed my first general chemistry exam?"
Talk with your TA/FA/UA and instructor, and feel free to apply to the Chemistry Learning Center. Also, consider some of these other issues:

  • How were you studying for the exam? Many students find that working through lots of practice problems (not just those assigned) prepares them for exams. Oftentimes, re-reading chapters, "looking over" notes, and "looking over" practice exams doesn't prepare you adequately. The practice problems can come from: practice exams provided by your instructor, discussion activity problems, quizzes, and the Chemistry Learning Center resources.
  • How much time per week do you spend on general chemistry? Many students need to spend about 20 hours/week in their general chemistry class.
  • How are your math skills? Successful completion of the algebra component of the UW Math Placement Exam or completion of Math 112, Math 114, or Math 171 is a prerequisite for Chemistry 103. Typically, general chemistry requires a high comfort level with algebra.
  • Are you studying by yourself? Working with other students not only makes your chemistry experience more enjoyable, you often learn more by thinking about questions you wouldn't have by yourself.

"What should I do if I've been sick and missed class?"
First, take care of yourself; that's the most important thing. If you miss a quiz or lab, talk with your TA or better, email them in advance. If you miss an exam, talk with the instructor as soon as possible and again letting them know in advance is always better. As appropriate, touch base with your instructor about any health difficulties you're having.

"How do I determine my chemistry grade?"
You can add up your points from labs, quizzes, exams, homework, pre-class activities, etc. and use the syllabus to determine your grade if the course grades are not curved. If the course grades are curved, you'll probably want to discuss your grade with your TA/FA/UA or instructor. In general, your exam grades often reflect your overall course grade but labs, quizzes, homework, etc., also play a role in your overall course grade.

"What should I do to get in or transfer to a different discussion, lab, or lecture section?"
Some schedule changes can be performed online in the Student Center at the beginning of the semester. If you have questions, if the section is full, or if the date has passed where you can make changes via the Student Center, contact the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (608-263-2424) for friendly advice or suggestions.

"What if I think I'm in the wrong chemistry course (e.g., I should be enrolled in Chem 103 instead of Chem 109)?"
Check with your instructor or Dr. Jeanne Hamers of the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (608-263-2424). She can advise you on the best chemistry course based on your academic background.

"What should I do if I'm having problems with my TA/FA/UA or instructor?"
It really depends on what the problem is. If you are having concerns about your TA/FA/UA, you could talk with your TA/FA/UA if you're comfortable doing that otherwise consider talking with your instructor. In addition, there are other people who you can talk with that can assist you. Depending on the specific issue these include Dr. Jeanne Hamers of the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (608-263-2424), a mentor or advisor, and the Office of the Dean of Students (608-263-5700; TDD: 608-263-2400).

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