The first step in learning chemistry fast is to determine exactly how long you have to learn chemistry. You'll need a lot more discipline to learn chemistry in a day compared with a week or a month. Also, keep in mind you won't have great retention if you cram chemistry in a day or a week. Ideally, you want a month or longer to master any course. If you do end up cramming chemistry, expect to review the material if you need to apply it to a higher level chemistry course or remember it for a test further down the road.
A Word About Chemistry Lab
If you can do lab work, that's fantastic, because the hands-on learning will reinforce the concepts. However, labs take time, so most likely you'll miss this segment. Keep in mind labs are required for some situations. For example, you have to document lab work for AP chemistry and many online courses. If you are doing labs, check how long they take to perform before getting starting. Some labs take less than an hour start-to-finish, while others might take hours, days or weeks. Pick short exercises, whenever possible. Supplement book learning with videos, which are readily available online.
Gather Your Materials
You can use any chemistry textbook, but some are better than others for fast learning. You could use an AP Chemistry book or Kaplan Study Guide or a similar book. These are high quality, time-tested reviews that cover everything. Avoid dumbed-down books because you'll get the illusion that you learned chemistry, but won't master the topic.
Make a Plan
Don't be haphazard and dive in, expecting success in the end!
Make a plan, record your progress and stick to it. Here's how:
- Divide your time. If you have a book, figure out how many chapters you're going to cover and how much time you have. For example, you may study and learn three chapters a day. It may be a chapter an hour. Whatever it is, write it out so you can track your progress.
- Get started! Check off what you accomplish. Maybe reward yourself after pre-determined points. You know better than anyone else what it will take to get you to get the job done. It may be self-bribes. It may be fear of an impending deadline. Find what works for you and apply it.
- If you fall behind, try to catch up right away. You might not be able to double your work, but it's easier to catch up as fast as possible rather than have the studying snowball out of control.
- Support your study with healthy habits. Make sure you get some sleep, even if it's in the form of naps. You need sleep to process new information. Try to eat nutritious food. Get some exercise. Take walks or work out during breaks. It's important to switch gears every so often and get your mind off chemistry. It may feel like wasted time, but it's not. You'll learn more quickly if you take brief breaks than if you study, study, study. However, don't let yourself get sidetracked where you don't get back to chemistry. Set and keep limits regarding time away from your learning.
- Try to review prior material. Even if it's just a quick review, planning a set amount of time to go over old material will help you retain it.
- Work through problems. At the very least, make sure you can work example problems if you have time (days or weeks instead of hours), work problems. Working problems is the best way to learn how to apply the concepts truly.
- Take notes. Writing down important points helps you learn the information.
- Recruit a study buddy. A partner can help keep you motivated, plus you can offer each other support and put your heads together when you encounter hard problems or challenging concepts.