Friday, September 17, 2021

Chemistry Problem Solver: How to Become One?

by | September 7, 2021 2

When college and university students start their work in the field of Chemistry, they get interested in research and encounter various issues that require problem-solving skills. Let’s face it – problem-solving is something that nearly every person does when she gets her hands on Chemistry. Whether you’re focused on theory, compounds’ characterization, spectroscopy, or synthesis, you’re going to face problem-solving activities inevitably. Besides, it is clear that students who are successful in chemistry either develop excellent problem-solving skills – typically on their own – or bring these skills to their professional life later. After all, it is obvious that undergrads who succeed in chemistry problem solving can help less successful peers learn how to build the skills of the same level.

With some simple recommendations given below, you’ll get to know how to become a more successful Chemistry problem solver and handle the toughest issues on your own.

1. Understand the Problem

The first step to take on your way to problem-solving is that you have to understand its meaning. To cope with the task and get the desired results, you have to understand the vocabulary involved in the process, as well as the way it is being used. In most cases, two kinds of terms are involved in Chemistry problems. First of all, chemists use ordinary words. As a rule, college professors and tutors assume that you and your peers know these words and need no explanations. The second group of words includes more technical terms that are specific to this field of study. More often than not, they require additional clarification. And as it turns out, a lot of college and university undergrads don’t know the meaning of the terms, such as “negligible,” “displace,” “relevant,” “diversity,” and so on.

2. Know the Terms

Just like in any other discipline, problem-solving in the field of chemistry is a multilayered process. It requires you to know and understand the language of the discipline and in which the problem is described. You have to know how to interpret terms and what is given in a particular problem, as well as understand and comprehend the basic Chemistry concepts that are involved in the solution. What is more, you have to know how to do various Math operations because usually, they are also part of the problems in the field of Chemistry.

Basic Chemistry vocabulary might include the following terms:

  • Distillation. A process when substances are being separated through evaporating a liquid and re-condensing its vapor.
  • Colloid. The type of liquid mixture that comprises various particles that have bigger size than those in solutions; however, they aren’t heavy enough to be able to settle out.
  • Activation energy. The term defines a minimum amount of energy that must be available to make it possible for a chemical reaction to happen.  In the case of some reactions, the amount of energy is very small (for instance, gasoline needs only a tiny sparkle to burn).  When it comes to the other chemical reactions, the amount of required energy is very high. For example, when a chemist burns magnesium, she has to hold it over a Bunsen burner for a certain period of time.
  • Solution. A liquid mixture that contains the minor particles. The latter are so small that you can’t see them without a microscope.
  • Absolute zero. The term indicates the lowest temperature possible. If you’re aware of the fact that temperature is a measurement of the number of atoms that are moving around, you definitely understand that these atoms tend to stop moving when the temperature reaches the point of zero. As a matter of fact, bonds have small vibrations; however, as a rule, the Chemists do not notice any vibrations.
  • Mass defect. This is the difference between the atom mass and the sum of the masses of the atom’s individual elements. As a rule, atoms tend to weigh less than if one added up all particles’ weights. This is due, in part, to the fact that extra mass was converted into the energy that binds the atoms together.
  • Catalyst.  In Chemistry, a catalyst is a type of a substance that increases the chemical reaction, but it is never being used up by this reaction. For instance, when we talk about enzymes, we can call them catalysts for the reason that they provide an opportunity for the reactions to take place in our organism. Besides, they can take place fast enough to help the human body live.
  • Compound. A type of substance that comprises the combination of two or more elements.
  • Atomic radius. The term is related to one-half the distance between the nuclei centers of identical atoms that are bonded together. Many students might think that it is better to simply measure the distance from the outside of the atom to the nucleus, thinking it is the same radius. It is so; however, atoms tend to be infinitely large, which means it is impossible to take any measures.
  • Indicator. Any compound or substance that usually changes its color due to the absence or presence of a certain pH.

According to a range of research studies focused on the problem-solving in this field of study, the main reason why so many college and university students fail to cope with the problems is that they don’t get the basic concepts that this or that problem is associated with.

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3. Models of Chemistry Problem Solving

In order to understand what we do and why we do it in the field of Chemistry, some models have been developed. The chemists use these models to describe certain steps that they take in order to solve this or that problem. They use each to provide beginners with a better idea of how they struggle and what they do to go through these struggles.

Among the wide range of Chemistry problem-solving models, the following might be suitable for all needs:

  • A stage of awareness of a particular problem or doubts;
  • An attempt to identify and classify the problem;
  • Turning problem-setting propositions into Chemistry problem-solving hypotheses or propositions;
  • Intense testing of hypotheses and re-interpreting of the problem;
  • Obtaining the most suitable solution and applying it to the Chemistry problem;
  • In other words, if a solid model of Chemistry problem solving is available, college and university students can cope up with a suitable strategy based on the model and, as a result, boost their problem-solving skills.

4. Keep Practicing

To become better in Chemistry problem solving, you have to practice as often as you can. This field of study includes a fair share of calculations, which means you have to deal with problem-solving on a regular basis to be able to handle problems with ease. The more college students practice, the more familiar they become with the terms, the constants, and the numbers that the problems include. What is more, practicing on a regular basis will also help undergrads understand the meaning of the problem faster than those who skip this step. Besides, with every other Chemistry problem-solving session, you will get more familiar with the most typical traps that students tend to fall in. As a result, you will increase your chances of avoiding the same mistakes in the future. For that reason, practicing on a regular basis is the key to success in the niche of Chemistry.

5. Listen to Your Tutor

When you’re in class, make sure to listen to your Chemistry professor and try to focus. This will provide you with an opportunity to not only record all important information but also make the process of learning easier. Your professor is there to explain and clarify what you might not understand. That is why, next time, when you encounter some Chemistry problem, you will be able to use your college notes and handle it successfully.

Do not take your college time for granted! Instead, make certain to concentrate on every point that your tutor makes in class. Plus, attending Chemistry classes is a must. As tempting as it can be, skipping classes means missing important explanations of new topics. It will be easier to keep up with Chemistry than to catch up.

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6. Get the Latest Version of the Periodic Table

As a rule, professors provide their students with a copy of the periodic table, but in case you don’t get one, it is important to have the latest version of it. It is a must-have. If you have a periodic table at hand, it will help you whenever you’re dealing with your Chemistry problems. Since the periodic table comprises loads of complex blocks of chemical information, you will be able to work through the most difficult problems once you learn to read it. Download your copy online in case you don’t have it – it’s available for free.

7. Do Your Revisions

Just like in any other field of study, dealing with Chemistry problems requires doing revisions of your work. As you plan your problem-solving sessions, make sure to plan cumulative revisions as well. Without a doubt, it may take up more time to cope with the problem; however, you will thank yourself for it. One of the best ways to revise is to check and solve the papers that were written before or by your college peers. As a result, you will be able to notice the little details in any problem that you failed to see before and practice these issues to master this science.

8. Study in a Group

Without a doubt, not every college student can study with a group of peers. Many find this method inappropriate due to the distractions that are associated with it. However, if you like the idea of sharing the load of Chemistry problems, make sure to check who is available to study together. Discuss the problems that you all have in the field of study and be attentive to what your partners say. After all, it is always better to learn from others’ mistakes than from the ones that you make.


  1. Gabriel says:

    I guess this was exactly what I needed

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