Advice from Previous Chem 125
One of the best reasons for paying
the big bucks to attend Yale is what you can learn from the other
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make flash cards and know the functional groups. It makes your life a lot easier.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Here is my advice to current
1. Form study
groups -- your classmates are
some of your best resources.
2. Take advantage of the many TA and
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.
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
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
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
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
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
I would encourage students to go to the
course tutor for
Make sure you study your lecture
notes very well before the
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.
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
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
mechanics scare you. Don't underestimate the importance of orgo
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
as often as you thought you would? There's plenty of time for
it next semester.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
are a very good thing to go too. I wish I had gone to more.
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--
hours, and especially,
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
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
Don't stress too much about the
test, its not that bad! Also, Do the
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
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
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.
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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