Chemistry FAQs

Do you have questions concerning your 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 chemistry course?"
As a general rule, the lectures are a guide to the important topics. Reviewing old exams is another method and provide examples of exam question "styles." Remember that old exams reflect what was important in a prior semester and not necessarily for the current semester.

"What should I do if I have a scheduling conflict with the next exam?"
Contact your instructor. Sometimes an early exam is offered; usually you'll need to sign up for it in the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (263-2424). Generally, you should try to contact your instructor at least a week before an exam when there is a 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), oftentimes (though not always) your TA can correct the problem. If there is a disagreement about how the exam 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 chemistry exam?"
Talk with your TA and instructor, and apply to the Chemistry Learning Center. Also, consider some of these other issues:

  • What are you doing to study? Many students find that reading the chapters and doing lots of practice problems (not just those assigned) prepares them for exams. Oftentimes, re-reading chapters or just "looking over" notes and problems doesn't prepare you adequately.
  • How much time per week do you spend on chemistry? Many students spend about 20 hours/week.
  • 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 instructor; if you miss an exam, talk with the instructor as soon as possible. If appropriate, touch base with your instructor about the health difficulties you're having.

"How do I determine my chemistry grade?"
You can add up your points from labs, quizzes, exams, 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 and instructor.

"What should I do to get in or transfer to a different discussion, lab, or lecture section?"
Some schedule changes can be performed with the on-line registration system. If you have any questions or if the section is full, contact the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (263-2424) for friendly advice or suggestions. They may also have a waiting list for some lecture or discussion sections.

"What if I think I'm in the wrong chemistry course (e.g., 103 instead of 109)?"
Check with Dr. Jeanne Hamers of the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (263-2424). She can advise you on the best chemistry course for you.

"What should I do if I'm having problems with my TA or instructor?"
It really depends on what the problem is. Talk with your TA if you're comfortable doing that; if not, talk with another person who might be able to assist you. These include Dr. Jeanne Hamers of the Undergraduate Chemistry Office (263-2424), a person from another program (e.g., the Chemistry Learning Center, AAP (Academic Advancement Program), CeO (Center for Educational Opportunities), etc.), your advisor, or the Offices of the Dean of Students (263-5700; TDD: 263-2400).

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