“Chemistry is just too hard. I don’t understand it.”

How often have you thought Chemistry is too hard? I can’t tell you how many college students have told me different versions of this exact same thing. Many students think that they can’t comprehend it, or that their brains just don’t work that way. This is NOT true. Some people might understand it more naturally or have more math experience. However, You (yes… You reading this) can understand Chemistry as good as anyone… if you put in the work and make use of these study tips.

Make time to use these 10 Study Tips for General Chemistry

Use the following 10 Study Tips for General Chemistry. Remember that General Chemistry requires more time and effort than your average college class.

1. Understand Electrons

Chemistry is considered the study of matter. This is the study of atoms, molecules, and how they interact with each other. When we talk about how atoms and molecules INTERACT, we are specifically talking about electrons. Keep electrons in mind when learning chemistry. Think of how many electrons, what they are doing, and why. Even though there is some memorization required in General Chemistry, understanding electrons and how they interact will greatly reduce the amount of work and memorization required during study time.

2. Read before the Lecture

If someone were to tell me that only 10% of a General Chemistry class made an A, I would tell them that 90% of the class wasn’t reading the material before the lecture. In fact, most college students NEVER do this. If you want an advantage over other students, this is a great tip for any class. Not just General Chemistry.

3. Go to Class. Every… Single… Class

Go to lecture and lab every single time! Many college professors expect you to be an adult and never take attendance. This may seem to be an obvious study tip, but go to class anyway! Attendance matters because if you don’t go to lecture and lab, you will get behind and your grades will drop. Don’t ever miss unless you absolutely have to. If you do miss, email your professor and let him or her know! Get notes from other students. You might even be able to attend a lecture or lab from another professor.

4. Organize your Notes

After class, and sometime before the next class, organize your Chemistry notes. Go through the text book and add additional information that might be missing. Read through the notes as it relates to the text book. You can also add example problems from the text or rewrite notes in your own words to make it easier to understand.

5. Take Practice Exams

Taking practice exams can greatly increase your grades on exams in General Chemistry. If your chemistry professor doesn’t provide practice exams, look online or make your own. Sometimes making your own practice exam can help even more.

If you are taking the General Chemistry Final Exam from the American Chemical Society, you can find Practice Exams for both General Chemistry 1 and General Chemistry 2 online here:

General Chemistry 1 – ACS Practice Exam

General Chemistry 2 – ACS Practice Exam

These have video solutions for every question!

6. Study Every Day

I know that it’s hard to find time. Sometimes it’s even hard to find time to eat or sleep. But if you don’t make time to study, you will have a very hard time in General Chemistry. Yes… there will be times you have to study for several hours at a time. But even 10 or 15 minutes in a day can be helpful. Flash Cards, notes, working problems, or any other quick method that works for you should be available daily.

7. Join a Study Group

There are so many benefits to joining a study group that I can’t even mention all of them here. It is important to join a study group for your General Chemistry class. It’s a great way to learn more study tips and methods used by your peers. Since study groups meet regularly, it helps prevent procrastination in your study schedule.

Research has shown that studying with peers helps you learn faster, fill in any gaps in your information, and see things from other student perspectives. If you help other students in your study group, it will bring your learning to a whole other level. When you begin to teach others, you begin to master the material yourself.

8. Practice Solving Chemistry Problems

The homework assignments in General Chemistry exist to help you practice solving problems. This is a good reason to never skip the homework. However, sometimes doing the homework problems isn’t quite enough.

In addition to doing all, yes I said all, of your homework, you should work extra problems in your study groups! Make the study group active. Work problems on the board. During the week, when you come across problems that you struggle with, save them! Write them down. Take a picture of it with your phone. Save it somehow so you can bring it to your study group and practice it with others.

9. Determine Areas of Confusion 

If you come across topics, concepts, or chemistry problems that seem confusing to you, take action! Don’t hesitate. First, look it up online. There are a lot of great videos on YouTube that can help you figure things out. Next, bring it to your study group. Discuss it with the group and see if your peers can clear things up for you and help you understand. Finally, talk to your professor about it. Most professors are happy to help when students come to their office hours.

10. Distinguish Important vs. Difficult 

This is an incredibly important point. I see this all the time with Chemistry Students. It is important that Chemistry Students know the difference between important concepts and difficult ones. Yes, many important concepts and chemistry techniques are difficult, but not all of them that are difficult are as important.

Please do not take this point the wrong way and start ignoring everything that’s difficult! Just be mindful of what topics are important when you start digging through the book or working extra problems. If you are unsure if something is important, ask your professor. I’ve seen study groups spend an hour trying to figure out how to solve a problem that was incredibly difficult that wasn’t relevant to the information they were studying. It was time wasted. Your study time is precious. Focus on the material that’s important.


Chemistry takes time. You have to make time to be successful in this class. If you put in the time and work hard on learning the material, you will be successful. Thank you for taking the time to read. Do you have any study tips you didn’t see above? What study tips do you use? Share with us in the comments below! Also, please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Check out ACS Exam Tips for Chem Students: How to Take the ACS Exam