Three steps to getting your A* in A-level chemistry

Three steps to getting your A* in chemistry…
1) Do millions of questions, especially past year paper questions.
2) Do some more question
3) Do even more questions.
And once you’ve done that, do some more questions after.

.- Importantly, when doing questions ALWAYS TRY AS MUCH AS IS POSSIBLE to at least give some kind of answer, even of you think you are completely unable to do it – because you will actually have some idea from exposure in class etc. Only after you’ve attempted a full answer as best as you can, should you look at the mark scheme.

Doing the below will also help.

  • PROCESS your notes. Condense them, display them diagramatically, use sketches, even jokes (no matter how poor), put the info in tables and other structures, colour/highlight notes important words and phrases etc. I found using colouring pencils were very nice and effective – more interesting than your standard highlighters. Rewrite your notes in different colours. If you were not good at taking personal class notes, then at least do this processing for the notes from your book and/or handouts.
  • Keep on re-reading your notes. Again, if you didn’t take good class notes, then at least keep on re-reading the info in the book.  You can (and will) absorb information simply through repeated exposure.!!
  • Try and discover patterns in the information you need to learn, even if there may not really be a pattern, because you think there is one, it’ll be connected in your brain and easier to remember/recall.
  • DO NOT stick to the syllabus! Expand your horizons and read, but don’t go to extremes. I really recommend the magazine Chemistry Review (by Philip Allan for Hodder Education) The Resource Centre subscribe to this. The older magazines are just as useful as the new editions. They are designed to use A-level info and extend it / give it greater exposure. There’s a ‘slimmed down for free access’ online version here: [Disclaimer: I have no ties at all to this publication. I make no money from it and no acquaintances of mine are making money from it either – as far as I know.]
  • You are the YouTube generation. USE the many free videos online to ‘catch-up’ on concepts you are a bit hazy on.
  • Use online question banks
  • PLAN your work…. and do make an effort to stick to it. Personally, as a student I hand enormous psychological struggles with doing this, but when I did stick to my plan, the rewards were many!
  • Take breaks from study – you need to rest your brain.
  • Do aerobic exercise (aerobic exercise, e.g. weightlifting isn’t newly as good IMHO). Physical fitness will boost mental ability. Even if all you can do is do fast walking, then do it.
  • If you find yourself not making progress, then stop and ask someone for help or tackle it later – preferably with help.
  • SEE YOUR TEACHERS!!! They are usually very happy to see you. If possible give them advance notice of what you want to discuss with them, so they can prepare well and be efficient with you then time comes to discuss something with them.
  • Consider getting a work partner or a study group. Take turns to “teach” a topic/issue to your study partner giving them feedback after their “teaching”. If you can explain something to someone, then that means you understand it.
  • Eat well, fruits and vegetables and natural carbohydrates. Avoid processed foods and sucrose foods.
  • Adopt good these good habits early on.

Many students report being tired the next day because they studied late / hard the night before. That means they are not doing it right. If you are one of these, you need to make a plan that allows you to sleep on time and at reasonably regular hours. Don’t play/engage in recreational/leisure activities until 12.00am and then decide to start doing some work. It’s pointless winning a volleyball tournament if you only get a B and your uni/sponsor demanded an A.

YOU YOURSELF must decide to so these (or whatever works best for you, but the above will be good for the vast majority of people). Nobody can force you. This is part of the challenge…. becoming an independent learner and responsible person.

May you all succeed.



Please share any personal tips you have found to work. Thanks.


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