Chemistry is a large and often intimidating subject, and you may not know where to begin. You might know you need “help”. But “help” is a rather vague, and ironically enough, unhelpful term. Hence, to even begin getting chemistry help, you need to know what exactly your strengths and weaknesses are.
For some further reading on that thought, Dr. Lee Kwok Cheong, the SIM Global Education CEO explains why helping students discover their strengths and weaknesses beats getting them to score well in exams by stressing them out in this article.
After all, there is even a famous Sun Tzu quote that says “Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”
Making a list of what you THINK are your strengths and weaknesses.
For strengths, they might be things like “I am good at reading the Chemistry question thoroughly.” or “I am good at mole concept calculations.” It might be easy enough to come up with your strengths, but much harder to come up with your weaknesses. After all, we humans never like to admit our weaknesses.
Nonetheless, a weakness might be something like “I don’t understand the difference between a mixture or a compound at all!” or, for an inverse of our earlier strength, “I rush too much and I don’t read the question thoroughly enough and miss important numbers and words.” Think about times when you might have felt confused in class, but didn’t ask questions for whatever reason.
This short activity should take you about ten minutes or so, give or take. After doing this, you should have about fifteen to twenty strengths and weaknesses in total. Don’t be alarmed if you have a seemingly large list of weaknesses and few strengths – that’s what we’re here to fix today! If you have a large list of strengths and few weaknesses, it might be prudent to go through your list and think about it again, especially if you’re not doing well in Chemistry. If you are, however, great. However then, this activity might not be the best one for you.
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Anyway, let’s move forward with the assumption that you’ve managed to compile for yourself a list of strengths and weaknesses.
Now, pick out common words.
Look out for trends, or words and phrases like “don’t understand”, “lack of time in exams”,” wrong keywords”, or even “too scared to ask.” in your weaknesses column. We’ll get to your strengths column in a bit.
You should be able to pick out at least three or four common themes. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how severely you think each “weakness” affects your grades, and if possible, come up with a reason. Be honest with yourself!
For example, let’s use the phrases I’ve mentioned.
“don’t understand” might be a 6 or 7, because there are just so many topics you don’t understand to some degree.
“lack of time in exams” might just be a 2, because it doesn’t happen very often, or you’re only losing one or two marks to it.
“wrong keywords” might be an 8, because you just can’t seem to get or understand what the examiner really wants, and might be losing valuable time writing irrelevant things. (to rate and explain this one, looking at past exam papers might be helpful)
“too scared to ask” might be a 5, and is fairly self-explanatory. You might have a question when a topic is being taught in class, but you might have been too scared to ask or just not in class at that time.
In this example, the highest rating is an 8, and comes from ‘wrong keywords”. This means that not knowing what the examiner wants from you highly affects your ability to score better. You should try to tackle all these weaknesses if possible but work from the highest-rated weakness down to the lowest rated one.
So now, we both know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and the order in which to start working on the weaknesses.
About your strengths
Your strengths may not be as literal as this weightlifter, but they’re strengths alright!
Now, let’s talk about your strengths.
Your strengths are the things you’re already doing “right” for Chemistry and should continue doing. They might be things like “I am good at reading the Chemistry question thoroughly” or “I am good at mole concept calculations.” Knowing them is also very helpful because they tell you that you don’t need to work on them as much, and are a kind of “benchmark” for your weaknesses to be improved. (Of course, you can always improve on your strengths as well.)
Additionally, if a weakness cannot be overcome, a strength can sometimes be used to compensate for that particular weakness. For example, in the topic “elements, mixtures and compounds”, you might be good at mixtures and compounds, but not so great at elements. However, it’s exam time and you don’t remember much about elements. You come into contact with a high value question on that topic. You can use your wealth of knowledge about mixtures and compounds to grab all the marks you can that come from those two parts.
And because you know that you are weak at elements, you move on to the next question. If you hadn’t “compensated” for your lack of knowledge by grabbing your marks elsewhere, you would just lose out altogether. Also, if you hadn’t known you were weak at elements before the exam, you would then struggle and wasted precious time trying to do the question part on elements.
To even get chemistry help in the first place, you first need to know what’s going well and what needs help or improvement. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, rating the weaknesses by severity (or how badly they affect your grades). Work on your weaknesses from the most severe. If a weakness cannot be overcome, in time or otherwise, find a way to use a strength to overcome it. Hence, that is how you get chemistry help.
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