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How to excel in VCE chemistry?

Izabella Bratek

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I am an enthusiastic, friendly and patient tutor with 12 years of VCE tutoring experience. I have taught a number of VCE high achievers and also helped students significantly improve their marks... Read this tutor's blog

Latest from Izabella's blog: Introduction to Factorization Video

VCE chemistry is quite a challenging subject, and it does require a lot of commitment and effort. It is a subject where you have to not only understand the concepts, but understand how the concepts need to used in a practical setting. Not only is your knowledge going to be used for theoretical concepts, but you will also need to know how to approach problem solving questions.

You need to devote considerable time in order to excel in VCE chemistry

Personally I would devote a solid hour homework for Chemistry every day. This is time outside of school because chemistry really does require PRACTICE to excel. A total of 7 hours a week will really help you improve!image

Are you practicing the RIGHT things?

If you take a dozen students and tell them to study for 7 hours a week, will they all gain the same benefit from this utilising this time?

No! Why?

Because they both focus on different things. Some students will only focus on the theory and make long notes, other students will only focus on answering textbook questions, another student may only practice exam questions. Time used is not equal! This is why certain students study for hours a day and they still struggle because they don't do study in a way that will make them better!

In VCE chemistry it is important to apply the theory … Simply knowing the theory is one thing, using it requires a completely different skill set. This skill set needs to be practised – otherwise you will struggle with SACs and exams. In addition it is important to practise questions outside of the textbook. This is where tutors can be very useful assets to your learning. A good tutor can provide practise questions that are relevant to your SACs and exams. The experienced chemistry tutor has a large database of questions and notes that they can provide to assist your learning. Of course any student can take the initiative to find extra resources, but this takes away valuable time from your study! Tutors are beneficial because they know the bigger picture of the theory and can tell you what is important to focus on.

Are you thinking critically?

The major difference between an average student and an exceptional student is the level of critical thinking that they have. An average student will often be hung up in trying to remember definitions whereas an exceptional student will try to understand the concept, and think about potential problems and limitations of a concept. They will often questions about the process and the questions will build up on improving their understanding of a topic.

To improve your critical thinking it is important to listen carefully and train yourself to think outside of the box. What are the advantages/disadvantages of a process? How does learning this tie in with other aspects of chemistry? If you were the teacher or examiner what would be the most important aspect that you would examine? Exceptional students ask questions that enhance their understanding of the theory. They have very developed critical thinking skills and can ask the appropriate questions that strengthen their understanding of the topic.

Do you have the basics worked out?

There are quite a lot of important basics that are fundamental to your success in VCE chemistry. Do you know your ion and poly-ion charges? What is the difference between sulfide, sulfite, sulfide? What about ammonium and ammonia? How do acids react with a base, metal carbonate or metal? What is the difference between a mol and Avocadro's number? How are they related? The stronger the understanding of your chemistry fundamentals are, the more it will help you throughout the VCE. Usually average students have gaps in their fundamental knowledge, which means that they need to devote more of their time to revising basics instead of building upon them.

Final points

To excel in chemistry it is advisable to developing your critical thinking skills, devoting enough time to improve your skills, focus your time on practicing challenging questions and ensuring that your basics are covered. It takes time and persistence to improve in chemistry but with the right mindset it is possible to improve in this challenging subject.

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