8 Tips to Succeed in CHEM 120 at the University of Waterloo

Many students don’t know what to expect when transitioning from a high school chemistry course to a university chemistry course. Many topics you will learn in university chemistry are based on what you learned in high school. So while some of the topics that you will cover in CHEM 120 won’t be new concepts, there is still a higher degree of difficulty.

This being said, there are many ways to help students succeed in CHEM 120 at the University of Waterloo. However, in order to be the best you can be, here are some great tips on how to succeed in this course:

1. Go to class

This could very well be the best advice for anyone to succeed in any class. Not only is it logical to go to something that you’ve paid very good money for, but professors often give information in class that isn’t available outside of class (i.e. in the textbook, on the slides, in the recording, etc.). In CHEM 120, the professor often gave subtle hints to what was going to be on the midterms and the exam, as well as doing specific examples.


2. Do your homework

Alright, so if you didn’t already know, teachers and professors regularly assign homework questions that are in your best interest. That’s right, they’re not just assigning pages upon pages of homework so that all of their students are in a constant state of anxiety; they’re actually trying to help you do well in their course. By doing the practice questions assigned for homework, you’re getting practice for all of the material that the professor sees as being important for midterms and exams. What they’re trying to do is give hints as to what they want you to know in order for you to do well. Just think about it, they were the ones who wrote the exams and midterms to begin with, they would know how to set their students up for success.


3. Take advantage of office hours

Many students do not take advantage of professor’s office hours. Professors open up times during their week in order to help struggling students. This should encourage their students that have questions to take advantage of this time. The pros are that you are able to sit down with a professor and ask any questions. In CHEM 120, there are many concepts that student aren’t able to grasp easily just from readings. Going to someone who can verbally explain the concept to you is beyond beneficial.

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4. Go to your tutorials

Now here’s a trickier topic. Whether or not you benefit from the tutorials is most often up to your learning style. Most students would benefit from attending their tutorials. At these tutorials TAs (teaching assistants) review all of the concepts taught in class during the week preceding the tutorial. They go at a slower pace than your professor and offer more practical examples. Once again, much of the practice material done here and in class often shows up on midterms and exams!


5. Dig out those old chemistry notes

It’s common for most students to just get rid of notes taken in early years. But university is one of those places where old notes really come in handy. A lot of the content taught in university courses adds onto basic understandings from your high school courses. In CHEM 120, the entire first module (or unit) is a review of concepts from grade 11 and 12 chemistry. All of the modules after that begin with the basic principles taught in high school and add a deeper level of understanding.


6. Study in a group setting

This is one of the best ways to absorb information in a very short amount of time. When you get together with other people in the same course as you to study, it benefits everyone in that study group. The main reason that this is beneficial is that there will likely be varying levels of understanding throughout the group. You will have some individuals that know a lot about the topic and can help the others in the group. There will be others who are struggling to understand certain concepts. They and can have their questions answered by others in a very positive setting.


7. Put your phone away

Okay, this tip will be near impossible for some individuals out there that have a legitimate addiction to their phones. However, this could be one of the best ways to do well in a class. By putting away of your phone, you eliminate the distraction of taking a little break and surfing through Twitter. CHEM 120 at UW does not require the need for electronics during class. The professors follow the course notes almost word for word. So realistically, you really don’t need your phone out at all.


8. Go to clicker sessions

Clicker sessions in CHEM 120 are by far the easiest way to get a guaranteed 5% of your final grade. By attending class and pushing a button to submit your answer, you get to add an extra 5% to your mark at the end of the term. C’mon, that could be the difference between a pass and a fail simply by pushing a button in class.


There are tons of things that you can change in your study habits in order to help you succeed. Above are just some of the ones that were most relevant to most students. However, everyone is different in how they learn and succeed. These tips are a great place to start, but everyone is different! There’s no harm in trying.

Jessica Allen

My name is Jessica and I love travelling and blogging! I really enjoy writing tips and advice for university students! Hopefully my articles help you with your university life!

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