mollymop902
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#1
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#1
Hi all,
I'm an aspiring Cambridge applicant who's waiting on their offer in Jan. I need an A* in Chemistry or at least an A to get into my second choice (Imperial). However, whenever I sit Chemistry exams, I can never understand what the question is asking me, or I read it wrong. I know the syllabus inside and out, I understand everything you could understand about A Level Chem, but when it comes to applying that knowledge in an exam, I get stuck.

Does any know why this is, or have had a similar problem before? I can't seem to get past Bs or low As in Chem and its really knocking my confidence. How do I properly understand exam questions so I can avoid waffling about unrelated knowledge or being completely stumped on how to answer it? This only happens in Chemistry, my Biology and Mathematics exams do not suffer with this. So it must be something to do with the wording of Chemistry exam questions. I do OCR A btw.
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eleanorravioli
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Hi! I'd recommend doing as many past papers you can, and strictly marking them to the mark scheme. I don't take OCR Chemistry, rather, EDEXCEL, and on their website is a bunch of past papers. I'm guessing there might be something like that for OCR? Just do as many questions as you can, and you'll learn the technique eventually! Hope that helps.
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mollymop902
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(Original post by eleanorravioli)
Hi! I'd recommend doing as many past papers you can, and strictly marking them to the mark scheme. I don't take OCR Chemistry, rather, EDEXCEL, and on their website is a bunch of past papers. I'm guessing there might be something like that for OCR? Just do as many questions as you can, and you'll learn the technique eventually! Hope that helps.
Thank you for the advice! I do complete past papers but probably not as many as I need too. I'll start trying to fit more in!
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TriplexA
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#4
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(Original post by mollymop902)
Hi all,
I'm an aspiring Cambridge applicant who's waiting on their offer in Jan. I need an A* in Chemistry or at least an A to get into my second choice (Imperial). However, whenever I sit Chemistry exams, I can never understand what the question is asking me, or I read it wrong. I know the syllabus inside and out, I understand everything you could understand about A Level Chem, but when it comes to applying that knowledge in an exam, I get stuck.

Does any know why this is, or have had a similar problem before? I can't seem to get past Bs or low As in Chem and its really knocking my confidence. How do I properly understand exam questions so I can avoid waffling about unrelated knowledge or being completely stumped on how to answer it? This only happens in Chemistry, my Biology and Mathematics exams do not suffer with this. So it must be something to do with the wording of Chemistry exam questions. I do OCR A btw.
Hi there

The first step for calculation Qs in Chemistry is to always work out the moles from given data even if you don't understand a Q.
Then work from there e.g. by forming a balanced equation to find the moles of other substances or doing a conversion and subbing moles into an equation etc.

Application Qs can also come in the format of "Why is this condition required in a practical" so it's important you understand why such conditions are needed. An example of such a Q could be: Why do we use a clean, dry crucible to weigh substance X?

Hope this helps.
Best wishes.
Last edited by TriplexA; 1 week ago
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Turning_A_Corner
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I’m guessing this isn’t absolutely every question or you wouldn’t have been predicted A or A*. Can you give an example of a question you’re stuck on? See if we can break it down?
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mollymop902
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#6
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(Original post by TriplexA)
Hi there

The first step for calculation Qs in Chemistry is to always work out the moles from given data.
Then work from there e.g. by forming a balanced equation to find the moles of other substances or doing a conversion and subbing moles into an equation etc.

This is the only bit of key advice I can think of right now as you say you know the content.
Hope it somewhat helps though.
That does help, yes. Though it's not just the calculation questions I get stuck on. Those can be my strongest areas in some cases, as just remembering the formulas are enough. What stumps me is how they word problem questions (example being ligand substitution questions, they use ligands that I've never heard of before and they expect you to apply your own knowledge). I can just never understand what they want me to do
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TriplexA
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#7
(Original post by mollymop902)
That does help, yes. Though it's not just the calculation questions I get stuck on. Those can be my strongest areas in some cases, as just remembering the formulas are enough. What stumps me is how they word problem questions (example being ligand substitution questions, they use ligands that I've never heard of before and they expect you to apply your own knowledge). I can just never understand what they want me to do
Oh yes - thanks for clarifying.

On such Qs a good starting point is to identify atoms with lone pairs using your knowledge from other ligands e.g. O has 2 lone pairs (when bonded to 2 atoms) from bidentate ligand ethanedioc acid. Then you're just forming the bonds with the same atoms however the only difference is your adding the variable group i.e. the parts you've never seen.

Hope this makes sense.
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mollymop902
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#8
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#8
(Original post by Turning_A_Corner)
I’m guessing this isn’t absolutely every question or you wouldn’t have been predicted A or A*. Can you give an example of a question you’re stuck on? See if we can break it down?
It's not every question, yeah. I don't know why, some questions just stump me. They are usually ones linked with equations and bonding / structure. For example, part c of this question is only 1 mark, but I would never get it as I just don't understand how I would ever come up with an answer. (part a and b I can do). I may just be stressing and being over dramatic as I have a mock on Tuesday and my last mock barely got me a B. I just couldn't seem to understand what any of the questions wanted from me.
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mollymop902
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#9
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(Original post by TriplexA)
Oh yes - thanks for clarifying.

On such Qs a good starting point is to identify atoms with lone pairs using your knowledge from other ligands e.g. O has 2 lone pairs (when bonded to 2 atoms) from bidentate ligand ethanedioc acid. Then you're just forming the bonds with the same atoms however the only difference is your adding the variable group i.e. the parts you've never seen.

Hope this makes sense.
It does thanks. I'll try some more exam questions to see if I can apply that. I think my problem is I expect memorising everything (I'm really good at remembering information so I usually just rely on flashcards for my subjects and the occasional past paper) is going to be enough for an A, A* (it is for bio), but clearly chemistry is going to start needing as much work as maths. I have to spend like 2 hours a day doing exam questions to get my As in Math
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TriplexA
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(Original post by mollymop902)
It does thanks. I'll try some more exam questions to see if I can apply that. I think my problem is I expect memorising everything (I'm really good at remembering information so I usually just rely on flashcards for my subjects and the occasional past paper) is going to be enough for an A, A* (it is for bio), but clearly chemistry is going to start needing as much work as maths. I have to spend like 2 hours a day doing exam questions to get my As in Math
Yes. Practice really does help to make links with the Q and your knowledge more easily.
Remember to take breaks by doing something you enjoy so that you don't over do it.

Best wishes.
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Claudii marc
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#11
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Me too. I understand everything but when it comes to an exam,there are always some questions which stucks me.
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mollymop902
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(Original post by Claudii marc)
Me too. I understand everything but when it comes to an exam,there are always some questions which stucks me.
Glad I'm not the only one. I had this problem in other subjects at GCSE. My geography teacher explained to my parents once during parent's evening that if "I'd only read the question properly, I would have put the right answer and not waffled on about unrelated stuff". That was when I got a 4 in the mock LOL, harsh times
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mollymop902
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(Original post by TriplexA)
Yes. Practice really does help to make links with the Q and your knowledge more easily.
Remember to take breaks by doing something you enjoy so that you don't over do it.

Best wishes.
Thank you!
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Claudii marc
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#14
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(Original post by mollymop902)
Glad I'm not the only one. I had this problem in other subjects at GCSE. My geography teacher explained to my parents once during parent's evening that if "I'd only read the question properly, I would have put the right answer and not waffled on about unrelated stuff". That was when I got a 4 in the mock LOL, harsh times
me too. For me it is becauase due to the stress of timing I think. I need plenty of time to finish the questions properly. I cannot do 90 marks within 1h45minutes. I do the IAL edexcel exam. you?
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_Rusty_
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#15
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#15
(Original post by mollymop902)
Hi all,
I'm an aspiring Cambridge applicant who's waiting on their offer in Jan. I need an A* in Chemistry or at least an A to get into my second choice (Imperial). However, whenever I sit Chemistry exams, I can never understand what the question is asking me, or I read it wrong. I know the syllabus inside and out, I understand everything you could understand about A Level Chem, but when it comes to applying that knowledge in an exam, I get stuck.

Does any know why this is, or have had a similar problem before? I can't seem to get past Bs or low As in Chem and its really knocking my confidence. How do I properly understand exam questions so I can avoid waffling about unrelated knowledge or being completely stumped on how to answer it? This only happens in Chemistry, my Biology and Mathematics exams do not suffer with this. So it must be something to do with the wording of Chemistry exam questions. I do OCR A btw.
To me, this is a simple fix - exam technique

Learn definitions - I did AQA and for me, that meant moles, all of the different enthalpies, ligand equations etc
Write the units whilst doing calculations, it stops stupid mistakes. The unit theory is vital in Chem
Do past papers and learn the MS. Redo Past papers, keep doing the same paper until you get 80%.
Stop revising topics, start revising exam papers
Also, don't set your sights on Cambridge, grades are just the requirement to apply to them, doesn't mean you can get in just simply apply and not get an automatic rejection.
Anything else or further explanation feel free to ask.

For a bit of context, I understood everything but was getting D's Learnt the exam and got an A*
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mollymop902
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#16
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#16
(Original post by Claudii marc)
me too. For me it is becauase due to the stress of timing I think. I need plenty of time to finish the questions properly. I cannot do 90 marks within 1h45minutes. I do the IAL edexcel exam. you?
OCR A. We get 2 hours and 15 minutes for 100 marks. I don't think timing is an issue for me but it's still a stressful situation to be in, especially since the entire school has high expectations for me. I'm the only one with a chance to go to Oxbridge (Cambridge specifically), depending on if I get an offer on the 25th of Jan. My school hasn't had a Cambridge applicant since 2014.
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Claudii marc
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#17
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#17
(Original post by chris01928)
To me, this is a simple fix - exam technique

Learn definitions - I did AQA and for me, that meant moles, all of the different enthalpies, ligand equations etc
Write the units whilst doing calculations, it stops stupid mistakes. The unit theory is vital in Chem
Do past papers and learn the MS. Redo Past papers, keep doing the same paper until you get 80%.
Stop revising topics, start revising exam papers
Also, don't set your sights on Cambridge, grades are just the requirement to apply to them, doesn't mean you can get in just simply apply and not get an automatic rejection.
Anything else or further explanation feel free to ask.

For a bit of context, I understood everything but was getting D's Learnt the exam and got an A*
Can I ask you for help as well when I need?
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_Rusty_
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#18
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#18
(Original post by Claudii marc)
Can I ask you for help as well when I need?
Of course. It's only my personal experiance, but I found technique was the key to getting a good grade in Chem
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Claudii marc
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#19
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#19
(Original post by mollymop902)
OCR A. We get 2 hours and 15 minutes for 100 marks. I don't think timing is an issue for me but it's still a stressful situation to be in, especially since the entire school has high expectations for me. I'm the only one with a chance to go to Oxbridge (Cambridge specifically), depending on if I get an offer on the 25th of Jan. My school hasn't had a Cambridge applicant since 2014.
wow you must be super intelligent then!For me I cannot read questions properly and cannot think properly when I am really stressful. Where are you from?
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mollymop902
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#20
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#20
(Original post by chris01928)
To me, this is a simple fix - exam technique

Learn definitions - I did AQA and for me, that meant moles, all of the different enthalpies, ligand equations etc
Write the units whilst doing calculations, it stops stupid mistakes. The unit theory is vital in Chem
Do past papers and learn the MS. Redo Past papers, keep doing the same paper until you get 80%.
Stop revising topics, start revising exam papers
Also, don't set your sights on Cambridge, grades are just the requirement to apply to them, doesn't mean you can get in just simply apply and not get an automatic rejection.
Anything else or further explanation feel free to ask.

For a bit of context, I understood everything but was getting D's Learnt the exam and got an A*
Thanks for this advice! I think the biggest takeaway from this discussion is just to complete more exam past papers. I haven't been, so that's likely why my exam technique isn't up to scratch.
Also, I have already applied for Cambridge and been through the interview process. I'm the only one in my school (which is a low achieving one) so they are all really excited and expect me to do well. In actual fact, after sitting through the admissions process for Cambridge, I'm not so sure I will go with them anyway. Nothing has resonated with me at all, and I've been quite disappointed by the support from them. My offer for Imperial College London (AAA) is what I'm heading for, but the A* in Chemistry would be nice
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