Advice from Previous Chem 125 Students

One of the best reasons for paying the big bucks to attend Yale is what you can learn from the other students here.

Some years ago we asked Chem 125 veterans if they'd be willing to provide a couple sentences of advice to their successors. Here are replies from a variety of students. They are unselected and unedited (except for highlighting to help you locate topics). They are sometimes contradictory (different individuals developed different strategies), but they are all heartfelt. You will notice important recurring themes.

Most of the old advice is still relevant, but because of changes in the course structure (e.g. no text in the fall) we solicited supplemental comments from more recent students.  Again they are unedited and were collected anonymously.

  From 2007-2008
Advice for New Members of Chem 125

Read and know all the information/stories/commentaries posted on the course website.  If possible read relevant pages before lecture.  Not only will you understand lecture better, but you will be prepared for the tests.

Study power points, wikis, and the course web page extensively to prepare for tests.

Study groups are essential.  For me they really were the key to the class.  Even if you didn't like studying in groups in high school, find a good study group now because they WILL help you learn.  Trust me.

Make flash cards and know the functional groups.  It makes your life a lot easier.

Get to know Chuck, or whomever might be your TA (I recommend Chuck), especially second semester.  The senior undergraduate TAs are also particularly helpful first semester.

Most importantly, relax and try to love the subject.  If you work hard and ask LOTS of questions and do your best to understand, you will do well.

Don't feel bad if you need to drop this course.  It is not the right choice for everyone who signs up.  You should try to stick with it and work through the difficulties, but if you can't handle the commitment, don't feel bad.  Many brilliant students have dropped this course.

From 2006-2007

Go through the PowerPoints slide by slide the week before the test and make sure you understand everything.  GO TO THE SECTIONS to get answers to your questions. And remember:  everyone else is just as confused and overwhelmed as you are.
Its most effective to review the lecture notes right after class, making sure that you understand the bigger picture and methodology behind the details. Go to section with the graduate TAs, who are usually more helpful than the student TAs, especially if Chuck is still there. Also, old tests are very very helpful practice.
For me, the secret of doing well in this class was attending almost all of the offered sections. The senior tutors who had been through the class were incredibly helpful. Some days, you will leave class thinking "what the heck just happened" and the tutors will be able to enlighten you.

Use your classmates as a resource. Studying together is much less frustrating than studying alone.

Make sure you understand the lectures and don't be afraid to ask questions. (If you're too intimidated to ask in class, email McBride or your TA).

DEFINITELY look at old practice exams to get used to the type of questions and thinking that you'll be expected to do for the tests.
Before each lecture, study the previous lecture and the new material online. Then before each exam, know the practice exams top to bottom.  This is all you have to do.

Don't burden yourself with anything outside the lectures and the website.

Remember that sections are REDUNDANT INFORMATION which is not always reproduced faithfully.  Go if you have a specific question, but don't go to review, and don't take notes.  There's enough to study already.

From 1999-2000

Here is my advice to current frosh:

1. Form study groups -- your classmates are some of your best resources.

2. Take advantage of the many TA and professor sections and office hours that are offered. If something seems confusing in class, it can usually be cleared up in section.

3. Taking old practice tests is an excellent way to prepare for exams.

4. Review your lecture notes frequently ... orgo is much less overwhelming when you don't have to learn it all the night before the exam! Also, keep in mind that this class is less about memorizing and more about understanding the underlying principles.

5. Good luck! 

Read all assigned chapters and webpages *before* going to class. Never feel restrained about asking questions or talking to McBride and the TAs; they are there for a reason. To study for tests, go over any practice problems like a rabid dog. Handout questions, old tests and questions from the textbook are the *best* way to ensure you're ready. Good Luc

Probably one of the most valuable study tools for the tests are the previous exams given for practice. These offer good examples of the types of questions to expect and what responses are acceptable. This is all well and good, but BE CAREFUL!! It is important to truly understand the answers given and not simply memorize them. The exams are by no means a substitute for studying on your own. Read the chapters in the text, do problem sets, whatever, and save the exams for last as a true test of whether you understand the material or not.

Look over your notes before each class and come prepared with questions on material you don't understand.

For Chem125, asking questions is very helpful. Many times, in fact, I discover the answer to my question in the process of asking the question. Helping others also aids in understanding, since you get to review concepts in the process of answering other people's questions.

Students should do the problem sets because, even if the test questions are not in the same format, problem sets help you figure out what you do or do not really understand.

My suggestion for freshmen would be not to worry about memorizing every detail, but rather to be sure that they understand the basic concepts in great enough detail that they could explain anything thrown their way. They should also be sure to attend every review section no matter how well they feel they are doing in the course, since half of the exam material is introduced then. The other half will be related to topics discussed during those three lectures that they slept through, so they should do their best to be in class then too.

Keep up. It's a huge amount of information very fast and once you get behind it's hard to catch up. It's best if you really know the material, instead of just being able to recognize it. Definitely look at previous year's tests. And find one or more people to study with consistently, so you can help each other out. Having study partners is probably the most important thing you can do. And try not to stress!
I would encourage students to go to the course tutor for help.
Make sure you study your lecture notes very well before the midterms.
Keep on top of the work and ask questions as soon as you don't understand something. Simple enough, but I could've done that much better last year.
Be prepared to read the textbook until you can recite it backwards- and then read it again. Seriously- understanding is the key- ASK when you are confused. Organic Chemistry is all about concepts- and if you let a concept slip by, it's tough to pick it up later.

From 1998-99

My advice would be, for the first semester, to study as much as possible for the exams from the old problems set and the old tests.  Review each old exam and each old problem set multiple times to internalize the way in which the questions are phrased and the level of detail and specificity needed for the analysis-oriented questions. Be able to answer exactly what the exam questions are getting at. For the second semester, study mechanisms as much as possible.

Here's my advice:  Don't let the quantum mechanics scare you.  Don't underestimate the importance of orgo history.  Take good notes and go to as many office hours and discussion sessions as you possibly can.  And so what if you don't use the book as often as you thought you would?  There's plenty of time for it next semester.
Always read the material before lecture, if possible.  It helps the instructor's lesson sink in MUCH better and you can ask questions in class you had about the text the night before (or whenever).
Only take the course if you are ready to THINK and not just MEMORIZE. You need to have a sincere interest in learning and understanding chemisty beyond the level of the textbook, which only superficially covers the information presented during the course.
My best advice is to ask lots of questions to make the concepts clearer (because it becomes much more fuddled in one's mind once one is faced with a test question)-and in that regard prof. McBride is very accessible and helpful :).  Old tests are also helpful to review and group sessions. (as always try to stay up to date or you will find yourself lost).
Office hours with McBride are great! Whenever you're having troubleunderstanding something that was said in class, office hour sessions wouldprobably clarify things. You might also learn an interesting fact or two.
I would stress the helpfulness of the sections, and really using the resources available. It was only in the second semester that I started to go to sections with much regularity, and also to go to the instructor's office hours. I think this vastly improved my understanding of the material.

From 1997-98

My advice to next year's class would be to make sure that they understand the theoretical information from first semester, as it definitely applies and helps to understand most other parts of the course. Also, it is probably the most interesting.

My only pieces of advice are not to miss lecture, that reading the book can be incredibly helpful, and that it is crucial to really understand the material for the first test of the fall semester (no matter how much time that takes) before moving on to the second test material.
Here's some advice for next year's lucky Chem 125 students: Always do your problem sets because you will understand the material better with some practice and Prof. McBride sometimes rewards you by testing on problem set questions. Plus they really do help push you over the top if you have a borderline grade.
Sections are a very good thing to go too. I wish I had gone to more. Problem Sets are much more helpful if you do them while you are studying the material that they cover (and not the night before) and look over them often.
Take thorough notes and make sure you can explain every element of them. Review them as soon after lecture as possible so you can ask TAs about certain points you don't understand. The book is more useful second semester, not as much in the first. Do as many practice exams as possible. On exams, concentrate on what you do know and try to apply it as best as possible. Writing something down that is not complete or may be partially wrong is better than leaving questions blank. The class is very lecture-oriented, so taping lectures may be helpful to some though listening to them over again can be tedious. Learn as you go along and don't despair! If you work hard, you will certainly reap rewards.
Do the homework and record the classes. Don't panic on tests.  Think it through.
If I had any advice to Chem 125 students, it would be to keep up with the readings in the book, and form small study groups that meet once per week in order to go over the previous week's materials. I was in such a group last year, and found it to be extremely helpful.
I am very willing and happy to offer any comfort or advice to the students in Chem 125 this year. My advice to them would be to utilize their valuable resources-- sections, office hours, and especially, each other. I found that I learned so much working and problem solving together. At times it feels so overwhelming when grasping new concepts and pushing forward so rapidly, but, in the end, you suddenly realize that you have learned much in the process of struggling.
I was talking with a student in 125 the other day whom I have known very well for weeks, and she was all excited to discover that I was in the class, because now she can go to me for help.  Since she was unaware that my name is on the list, however, I can only assume that she never really looked at the list or considered calling anyone for help, all this despite the fact that she has gone to lots of TA review sessions as well as your office hours, yet is still struggling.
Take the extra time to review old material (from the first half of the first semester) and to put the newer material in its proper context; don't get so bogged down in details that you miss the bigger picture. This is especially important going into the 2nd semester final.
Attend the sections and do the homework: they DO help. An orbital is a one electron wave function.
Don't stress too much about the first test, its not that bad! Also, Do the problem sets, really do them, don't just write down the answers from the book, because they really help you learn, especially the reactions during the second semester!!
First semester: pay careful attention to class and especially HOMO/LUMO because that becomes the foundation of many things for the second semester. Second Semester - do ALL the problems assigned.
I'll be totally honest...I didn't get one email or one phone call from your students in 125.  I'll be more than happy to include my name again [as an alum helper]...and I'd love to get questions this year because i'll be studying for MCATs.

From 1996-7

The only suggestion I would have would be to encourage students to use the alumni list more frequently. If I could go back to freshman year and tell my old self how to study differently for your course, I would have had a tremendous advantage. Learning to learn properly was the most difficult thing I learned in my first year at Yale.

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