IB Chemistry is a challenging subject whether you are doing SL or HL. Content heavy subjects can be tricky so here is a guide with some practical tips for studying.
How much time should I spend studying?
This is different for different people and you will need to work out the best course of action for you. The research says though that distributed practice is more effective than mass practice for learning. In other words, forget cramming! After first semester of grade 11, the volume of content covered makes cramming too difficult anyway. And you definitely want to avoid having to re-learn the course every time you sit a test or exam. Better to learn it as you go!
So what does this mean? Here are some guidelines.
- Students who are feeling less confident
30 minutes of study every other day or 4 days a week
- Students who are feeling more confident
30 minutes of study 3 times a week
These are guidelines which you need to adjust for your own needs.
When should I study?
You need a routine and you need to stick to it. IB students have an incredibly packed timetable.
- Map out your schedule.
Use a calendar app like Google Calendar or iCal to map out your schedule.
Put everything on to it and see where the gaps are.
Include in your calendar:
- Your class schedule (easy to subscribe to from Veracross)
- Your clubs and after school commitments like sports etc
- Time to do homework – this is separate from studying!
- Free time – time to play, exercise, watch tv or whatever!
- Note where the gaps are and allocate those times for study for various subjects.
If you see that there isn’t enough time, you may need to make some adjustments and prioritise. Are you over committed with clubs/sports? Free time is important for balance but 3 hours a night is just as unbalanced as no or little free time!
- Display your schedule.
Print this out and put this up somewhere near where you study. Share it with your parents so they can help support you too.
How should I study?
In Chemistry there are basically three things you need to do:
- memorise information
- understand chemical concepts deeply enough to apply them
- perform certain skills eg calculations
You need to study differently for these three different tasks. Here’s how.
There are lots of definitions, formulae and diagrams that you need to be able to recall. Often these are one point questions on the exam but all those one pointers add up! Don’t miss out on easy marks!
Here are two strategies for memorising information.
Whether you use a program like quizlet or if you just make them by hand, practicing with these for a few minutes regularly will quickly find you memorising things fast. If you use quizlet it is important that you complete the learn function before trying any of the games or tests.
- Hand writing
Many people find writing information out by hand again and again until you can do it from memory to be more effective for memorising. Have a master copy of everything you need to memorise (like your definitions sheet).
Below is one page of Rino’s definition doc. Notice how she has organised the information in a way that works for her – by topic. She has also included diagrams and other information she feels important to remember. Creating this document also makes her think about what information is important to include. She can then use either of the strategies above to memorise the information. And she can ask her parents or friends to test her knowledge from the sheet.
Understanding chemical concepts deeply enough to apply them
This is trickier. Many students think that just re-reading their notes or text is enough but this actually doesn’t help much. Here are some strategies you can use.
- Reading before and after class
Read the section in your text that we will be covering in class before the class. Then when you get home, re-read the same section. This doesn’t take very long and you can do it on the train! You’ll be surprised how much you will remember the following class if you do this!
- Close your textbook/notes and make a map!
Without consulting your notes or textbook, organise what you know on a piece of paper from memory. Use a pencil so you can add, change and delete as necessary.There is a lot of ways to organise your information. Here are a few possibilities:
Organise with headings
Organise using appropriate BrainFrames™ (use multiple types depending on the information) or other types of concept maps you’re familiar with.Give examples where possible
Use colour to group related ideas
Use arrows or lines to connect related ideas or
Group related ideas by position on the page
Now open your notes or text and add anything you missed or didn’t include correctly. In you next study session, repeat the exercise until you can produce a map/summary with all the information you deem important from memory.Keep and display your best one. Add to it when concepts from other topics connect to it. This should be growing and changing as you move through the course.
- Keep a list of questions / confusing points
Write down any questions you have from reviewing past material and answer them as soon as possible. Here are a list of resources you can use that might have the answer immediately:
Here are some things you can do to get help that isn’t immediate:
email your teacher
post your question to IB Chemistry @ YIS
post your question to a student forum like IB Survival
- Form a study group
Discussing concepts with your peers is a great way to solidify your understanding. Use a study hall at school, an arranged meeting time in the library or arrange a skype chat.Here are some tips on making this effective:
Make it a once a week deal.
Be prepared – agree on what you will discuss before the meeting so you can review a bit before hand and identify the tricky bits you need help on.
Talk – don’t just sit back and listen. Actively participate. Ask questions.
Decide on the next meeting and topic before the end of the current meeting.
Below is a protocol you can follow in your study group. Just make a copy!
Often this involves calculation practise. Like everything else you should spread this out. Don’t practice ∆H calculations from Bond Enthalpies for 3 hours and then never do another problem for six months! Once you feel confident with a type of calculation, do one problem of that type every couple of weeks or so to keep it fresh.
If there is a certain type of calculation you find hard, start with easy examples and work up. And if the easy ones stump you – seek help immediately!
Where can you find problems to practice?
- Your text book – do them all!
- The problem sets posted on IB Chemistry @ YIS
- Search for them on the internet
- Ask your teacher
Finally, you will need to practice exam type questions. You can do this by re-doing old tests, practicing past paper questions supplied to you by your teacher or that you find on the internet. You should do these under timed conditions (roughly 1.5 minutes per mark) so you get used to the pressure.
How to get motivated
This is the big one! Lots of people know what they need to do but getting motivated to sit down and do it is really hard. I struggle with this all the time. Here is what works for me most of the time…
Finding the right time
I schedule everything. I know that I work best in the mornings, so I try and do some work before school starts – this is easy for me because I don’t have a long commute. I also look at my schedule for the next day and plan before I finish for the evening, what I’m going to get done the next day and when. This helps a lot.
Finding the right place
Make sure you have the right environment that is conducive for your study. Make sure your desk or work space is clear and you have everything you need. Don’t respond to emails, texts, skype etc whilst you are working. Put your phone on silent. Leave these distractions for when you are on a break as a reward. Listen to quiet instrumental music.
Small chunks is key
I use something called the Pomodoro technique. This involves breaking down my work/study into 25 minute chunks. Knowing I only have 25 minutes of work before I get a break makes it easier to start. I decide how many 25 minute chunks I’m going to do, and then I count them down. My record is 16!
Let’s share our best tips!
Do you have a technique that works really well for you? Please share it by commenting on this post. I want to keep adding and refining ideas and techniques to this post to make it the best resource possible!
Look it up! by Johnny Automatic and shared on OpenClipart.org