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Chemistry: Study Tips

Tips From CCBC Student Tutors

Some tips for Studying Science (Chemistry/Biology):

by George Abbas & Mei-Jue Shih:

  1. Use Acronyms
    • Ex: Remembering Chemical Nomenclature of common polyatomic ions that contain oxygen that end in “-ATE”
      • Each first letter stands for a potential chemical element to start
      • Each vowel (a,e,i,o,u) tells you the how much negative charge
      • Each consonant tells you how many oxygens exist
        • Nick the Baby Camel Ate Supper in Phoenix
        • Nick stands for Nitrate, the N is nitrogen; has 1 vowel, and 3 consonants, therefore Nitrate is NO3-
        • Baby is for Bromate, the B is for bromine (Br); has 1 vowel and 3 consonants, therefore bromate is BrO3-
        • Camel is for carbonate, the C is for carbon; has 2 vowels an 3 consonants, therefore carbonate is CO32-
        • Supper is for sulfate, S is for sulfur; has 2 vowels, an 4 consonants, therefore sulfate is SO42-
        • Phoenix is for phosphate, P is for phosphorus; has 3 vowels an 4 consonants, therefore phosphate is PO43-
  2. Remember, complicated words usually have the meaning within them:
    • Ex: Carbohydrate: Carbo comes from the element Carbon, hydrate comes from containing water. Carbohydrates are chemicals that contain Carbon “C” and water “H2O”, and the general ratio of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen is C1H2O1 = 1:2:1
  3. Draw pictures for examples, functions/structure etc… along with written notes.
    • If you don’t have a picture for every concept your studying, you’re not utilizing one of the best tools you have to remember lengthy topics
  4. Use chunking: Break things down into small chunks, ~ 3-4 things at a time, rather than one by one
    • Ex: Phone numbers are chunked in units of three to help us remember: (410-555-5555)
  5. Our short term memories have a relative capacity of 7+-2 units of information, meaning on average we can hold 7 units of information in our short term memories at a time. Remembering this  helps you take a lot of information in at once and helps with chunking
  6. Use recursive studying for memorizing, rather than linear memorization.
    • Ex: Study 1àStudy 2àStudy 1&2àStudy 3àStudy 1&2&3àStudy 4àStudy 1&2&3&4àetc…
      • This helps if you chain together a lot of information at once, and helps you save time in going back to study earlier material in the future
      • This especially helps so you don’t have to study as hard the stuff you learned in the beginning of your class since you’ve reviewed it with every piece of new information
  7. Use tables, graphs and Ven-Diagrams to organize and compare information
    • Ex: Ven diagrams to compare and contrast information for similarities/differences
    • Ex: Tables to organize categorical information
  8. Relate to your daily life the thing you are learning and make it personal and simplify information and apply it to daily life
    • Ex: Come up with an emotional story you will never forget, or tie it to an emotional memory you have never forgotten
    • Ex: Mitochondria produce energy, so they are like power plants
  9. Come up with unique/your own problems to solve once you understand a concept
  10.  Study everyday but give yourself breaks in between to relax your mind (If you repeatedly get a problem incorrect, take a break, then go back to the basics and build up from there)
    • Learn to balance your study time with your entertainment/break time.
  11. Put away entertainment like movies, social media while studying to focus
    • The more entertainment you have around the less likely you will focus and learn deeply
  12.  Read, Read, Read and don’t skim
    • Read to truly understand every sentence
  13.  Learn how YOU uniquely learn (everybody learns differently), use it to your advantage and make it fun!
    • Do you enjoy animations? Visual? Auditory? Kinesthetic?
    • We are all have multifaceted learning styles, we just have to figure out which ones we enjoy the most
  14. Ask questions, questions, questions
    • When you have a question, write it down so you don’t forget it
    • When you have a question, immediately search for the answers, don’t put it off till later. Your mind will remember the answer when the question is asked.
    • Immediately write down questions you have and check them off when they are answered
  15. Make songs or poems out of information you need to remember! (Make them fun an catchy)
  16. Take organized and professional notes, as if you will have to give them to someone for them to understand
  17. Work in groups and collaborate/feed off each other’s communication
    • Getting a someone to share their perspective can foster insight into your strengths, weaknesses, but can also improve your understanding
  18. Read text OUTLOUD text (reading out-loud facilitates your memory because there is auditory feedback and helps you remember. Rather than reading from within)
  19. Use your body as a map (it will always be with you!)
    • Ex: hands have 4 fingers, 1 thumb;  each finger can be broken up into 3 subsections etc…
  20.  Believe in yourself and be around people who believe in you!


Tips From CCBC Student Tutors

4 Proactive Study Skills

A Study Guide for Interactive Studying for Science Subjects

From Myla Barker:

The First Phase of Understanding!

  1. Write Out Class Notes
  • Your Notes should be titled by chapter and subject and dated!
  • You are not supposed to understand everything!
    • This is just the introduction


  1. Go Over Your PowerPoint Notes!
  • Copy Everything Down! ( READ EVERYTHING)
    • This is another introduction phase!

The 2nd Phase of Understanding Your Material!

  • Go Through PowerPoint Notes First, Then Professors Notes From Class!
    • Draw Connection, Fill in the Holes!
  • Underline the things you do not understand!
    •  Mark things with a (?) for things you would like to research later                          
  • Take notes for the things you do understand!
  • Research diagrams, illustrations, and examples to draw connections after you have taken concise, organized notes!


Phase 3!

  1. Take time to focus on the things you do not understand
  • These are the things you ask questions about to your professor!
    • If your professor can not help, then come to the Student Success Center


  1. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!
  • Interactive studying
  • Underline things
  • Highlight!
  • Additional research
  • Learn to guide yourself to the right information!