You take a deep breath. Click. You’ve just scheduled a four-hour chemistry lab. You think to yourself, “This is gonna suck,” “When am I supposed to eat?” and “Ugh, this is going to be so hard.” I once had the same thoughts. But as daunting as intro chemistry labs look, with the right steps it really won’t suck that bad. Before you head off to the lab, review these tips that’ll help you receive a good grade and also help you (somewhat) enjoy it.
1. Pre-read the lab before going to class
No one ever reads the required reading the professor assigns before class. But in chemistry lab, pre-reading can be the difference between receiving an A and a B. Many professors require you to take a pre-lab quiz, and by reading the lab introduction and directions in your textbook, you can basically find all the answers. Reading before class isn’t not only an easy grade booster, but it also helps you finish the lab quicker since you already know what you need to do. You’ll thank yourself as you munch on your Chipotle bowl while everyone else is still in lab suffering from confusion. “The best way students can do well in lab is to be prepared by reading the material in the lab manual ahead of time,” Penn State University Chemistry TA Briana Laubacker said. So whether you read the lab the night before or while you’re walking to lab, just get it done.
2. Take advantage of the people around you
Don’t be that guy or girl staring around the room waiting to understand which beakers and test tubes to use. Being confused makes any chemistry lab feel longer and puts a “idk my bff jill?” sign on your head. Take advantage of the people sitting near you and pair up. Get super close to your lab partner. And by that I mean, make sure you’re on the same page with the assignment. All that one-on-one time can easily create some sexual tension, but make sure to table the feels for after lab. Work together to figure out problems and even split up the work (even though this may not be allowed, I won’t tell if you won’t!). Plus, suffering through a chemistry lab with someone else that understands your pain is obviously better than working by yourself. If the both of you realize an experiment has flown over your head faster than a fighter jet, you can always consult your TA together. “Asking the lab instructor or TA whenever they are unsure of something helps a lot,” Laubacker said. You won’t even need to feel embarrassed to bombard your TA because your lab buddy will be right beside you.
3. Keep a Clean Notebook
Reviewing for midterms and final lab reports becomes 10 times more complicated if you have a journal with writing and scribbles all over the place. How will you be able to tell the difference between doodles of trees and actual chemical bonds? Keeping a clean notebook helps you keep track of all your data and makes studying easier when you are going back to review your old data. Some TAs even grade your lab book for cleanliness and structure. An organized journal gives you easy points to boost your grade too.
4. Wear Proper Lab Clothes
Nothing’s more embarrassing than being sent home because you showed up to lab wearing flip flops. On the day of lab, have “duh” moments picking out your #ootd. “Should I wear this scarf? Oh wait, duh, no this is probably going to fall into a flame and set me on fire.” Stay away from what’s fashionable and choose an outfit that you don’t mind getting stains on. You also need tie that hair back (work that up-do), wear closed toed shoes and avoid any cute accessories that might fall into a flame or toxic substance. Save those looks for when you want to impress your new lab partner at a party, not when your mixing stinky chemicals in a dirty lab coat and huge, dorky safety goggles.
5. Most importantly, HAVE FUN
Having fun in a four-hour class sounds absolutely insane. But sitting around hating your decision to pursue a science major, glaring at your lab partner and constantly thinking to yourself how many episodes of Narcos you could’ve watched in that time only makes time pass slower. Embrace your choice of studying and exploring the world of science. Be awestruck that two clear chemicals make a purple one. Get excited to look like a real laboratory scientist in a lab coat and safety goggles. And lastly, get pumped that your one step closer to your career and to achieving your goals.
About Alexandra Lehman
Music lover and yogi enthusiast. Passionate about photography, mother earth, and the color purple. Junior at Penn State University studying Photojournalism and Geosciences.
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So this isn’t a post about the units or “content” of AP Chemistry. This is just a post about the “non-academic” things I learned from the class.
I just realized that this week, we’re going to be doing a mock exam, so I was just thinking about how fast time flies. I mean..dang. It’s almost time to take the real thing.
I honestly think I’ll get maybe a 1 or 2. That’s not to just sound “modest” or “humble”, but more of the fact that I simply. just. don’t. know. the. stuff. It’s just all pretty confusing…but that’s another post all on its own.
But maybe it was the new school, or maybe it was because this was my first ever AP course…whatever it was, I learned a couple things..
-Don’t sound intimidated. This one I learnt the hard way, and its something I’m still trying to learn. At the beginning of the year, AP Chemistry was just too fast, and too hard for me. And when the teacher called on me all a sudden, I didn’t know the answer, and I’d speak really silently. Just shrugging my shoulders. But I’ve learned that you can’t do that anymore. Even if you have no idea what’s she/he is talking about just say, confidently, “I’m not sure”, or “Could you help me figure it out?”
Whatever you do, project your voice, and keep locked eye contact. That ensures that you’re not scared. You’re not scared of challenging yourself and figuring out the problem. And I think the more you assure yourself that you CAN do it, the more it’ll happen. (just remember that cockiness and confidence are two, very different things).
This is something that I’m still trying to learn. I say this, but I think, yesterday, I shrugged at a problem. But I think I’m getting a little better. Whatever you do, don’t seem like you’re scared. Being scared is a lot worse than not knowing. (atleast in this case)
-Think out of the box. The only reason I actually agreed to take AP classes next year, and the only reason that I recommend other people to take some AP courses, is because they truly teach you to think outside the box. I’ll admit it, I haven’t learned too much about the actual chemistry content, but it has taught me to link a couple things here and there. I’m not exactly … well flat out NOT, the student that is a “star” and always thinks out of the box on questions, but I have learned stuff from other people.
(*side: I would have never thought of that extra O!)
Maybe this isn’t true for other subjects, but for Chemistry, every unit connects to another unit in some way. So in a way, instead of learning flat out new things over and over again, you can learn to use the knowledge you already have, and kind of, build on that, I guess. I guess you have to learn to think resourcefully and think efficiently…something, I admit, I have no success in. (but I’m kind of trying!)
-Stoichiometry: My enemy. Actually a lot of other units are enemies too. But stoich is my worst. Stoich was the first chapter, and its the one that I seriously can’t get a hold of. Just ignited my bad reputation in the class. Anyways, in the beginning of the year, they told me that stoich was going to come ALL THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. Lieeeeeee.
Now, I admit stoich is a hugeee part in chemistry, and it could be applied everywhere. But after the actual stoich unit, I didn’t really work anymore stoich problems. Now, this is not to say that stoich isn’t important (watch there be a stoich problem on the exam and me sitting there blank), but I’m just saying that they (kind of) LIED. That’s all. No complaining, just saying 😉
-Read the introductions. When you’re doing labs, and especially when you’re trying to finish some prelab and postlab questions, its EXTREMELY helpful to read the one or two paragraphs in the introduction. It’s something that I think I didn’t too often, and I’d just sit there blank, when the answer, or some really helpful sign or clue was in the introduction. So just read it! It just makes life easier.
-Befriend your lab partner. I’ve had 3 different lab partners, and I’ve been “friends” with just one of them. Now, some lab partners are just not cool, not friendly, or whatever. But if its a decent person, (haha I sound stupid saying that) , then just start a conversation. The only reason I say this, is because they’ll help you on the lab questions. When you work together in AP Chem…you can get at a different level. And if you forget to jot down the data or something, they’ll help you out more. It’s just good to have that. I’m not saying to be BFF’s with your lab partner, I’m just saying to be “cool” with them. ya know?
**and if you guys do “trade and grade” (where after you finish your quiz, you just trade with each other and grade), then its wayyyyy more comfortable. For some reason, if you don’t do so well, you can try to laugh it off, and you won’t feel as…neglected, I guess. Err, stupid to say it. But I guess that’s how it is 🙂
But yeah, think that’s it 🙂 I’m sure there are more, but that’s all I can think of right now. So if you’re planning to take AP Chemistry…then, definitely go for it…(or any AP course for that matter). Have fun, and play it hard 😉
(** (almost…we still have some time) survived it…not passed it! haha)
and and AND…you know how much I love memes, so here are some: