Home > Chemistry > [#2] – Chemistry 101 – Introduction to University Chemistry I

[#2] – Chemistry 101 – Introduction to University Chemistry I

Today’s post will be centered around my first ever university chemistry course (a.k.a. Chem 101).  In all honesty, Chem 101 was my toughest class in first year (barring Stats 141, which I will talk about at a later date) – I found it very difficult to make the transition from high-school chemistry to university chemistry.  Even to this day, I’m still not completely certain why this was the case; however, I do have a sneaking suspicion of where I went wrong, albeit not a definitive one.

A standard periodic table for a standard chemistry course.



Chemistry (more specifically, inorganic chem) was always one of my stronger subjects in high-school.  I enjoyed learning about it all throughout my grade-school years, and even managed to obtain my school’s highest mark award for grade 11 chem.  Given this background, it should not be surprising that I was rather disappointed with my relatively poor performance in university chemistry …  The following should shed some light on the reason(s) for my discombobulation in this course!


Course:  Chemistry 101 – Introduction to University Chemistry I

Instructor:  Jillian Buriak

Textbook:  Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change – by Silberberg (5th ed)



Where, oh where to begin!  This class was structured very similar to Biology 107, in that we were responsible for attending a lecture (main) component, and a laboratory component.  The only difference being the lack of a “seminar” component; which was beneficial because it gave us students one less thing to worry about!

The lab portion of the course was quite demanding.  We were in charge of following detailed step by step instructions in our lab manuals with hopes of completing the experiment on time and safely.  It was an experience very alien to me; far from anything that we had done in high-school.  Each laboratory held on the order of 30 students and was overseen by a TA, whom would be responsible for marking the student’s lab reports.  Thankfully, my TA ended up being a very ‘easy’ marker which made the labs all the more enjoyable.  My main gripe regarding the lab component was how it was weighted very little in comparison to the lecture component (ie: midterms and the final exam).  Us students spent countless hours fussing over calculations, molar ratios, titrations, and the like, only to have our efforts undermined by the miniscule weighting of our work.

That brings me to this next section, the lecture component.  Having never learned about the abstract nature of atomic orbitals and quantum numbers before, this material was very tough for me to grasp.  In hindsight, I should have asked more questions (I didn’t ask any at all), and probably should have went to my professor’s office hours (not once did I go).  [ I intend to write a post about the importance of office hours in the future ]

Firstly, I felt that our professor went over the difficult bits as though she assumed that we had already learned them before.  This resulted in a snowball effect (for me at least), whereby the later material was made incomprehensible due to the fact that the former (introductory) material was explained rather poorly.  Second of all, however, I am also to blame.  There were many opportunities for me to seek help and inquire about the subject matter; all of which I neglected to do!  Instead, I decided to “rest on my laurels” and, once again, employ the cramming method; something I very much regret!

Another one of my pitfalls, I believe, was that I did not take advantage of the practice problems.  Each week, the professor would post a set of practice problems from the textbook that she recommended we do.  I truly thought that the notes would suffice; ironically, my assumption could not have been further from the truth.  A word of advice to first year students: do as many practice problems as you possibly can!

The class averages for the two midterms were in the low 60’s and 50’s, respectively; and if I had to venture a guess, the average for the final (which was not revealed to us), was probably even lower than that.  All in all, the cramming method, once again, did not prove effective! (Study smart!)


Class Average:  ~ (2.1 GPA)

My Grade:  (3.0 GPA)

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  1. July 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm
  2. September 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

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