Mastering chemistry means different things to different people. When I was a student, it meant that I wanted to achieve a perfect score on every chemistry test I ever took. This took practice, grit, and perseverance. I borrowed as many different chemistry books as I could and meticulously worked every problem from every book, checking each answer. For home scientists and industry professionals, mastering chemistry will be a lifelong task, as the combinations of atoms, molecules, bonds, alloys, and allotropes are infinite. This means there is an opportunity for discovery and rediscovery no matter what your area of research is, an exciting fact that keeps the passion alive for many professional and amateur chemists.
If you are just starting out or contemplating a course, some of the subject manner can appear daunting. Don’t despair – there are many resources that can help. Let us know what is vexing you the most, and start with viewing the videos on the ChemTalk Education youtube channel.
Tips for mastering chemistry
- Purchase or borrow as many different chemistry texts as you can. They will each cover the subject material slightly differently. They can be older versions. Thrift books often has great deals.
- Do as many of the problems at the end of the chapter as you can, especially if the answer is provided at the back of the book.
- Find a teacher or professor who can be a mentor
- Don’t be afraid to read more advanced books. For example, if you are taking AP chemistry, read some college-level organic, inorganic, or physical chemistry books.
- Watch videos on hard to understand concepts.
- Do science and experiments at home. You can start with elements like copper, gallium, aluminum (available from aluminum foil), bismuth, iron (steel wool), sulfur, carbon, or zinc. Read our upcoming safety guides first.
- I’ve been told that starting at ptable for a few hours has helped people more than sitting in class all semester. Ok, it was just one person, Ethan Shenassa, who said that but still – the site is worth checking out.
- Start reading some of the ChemTalk tutorials. Not sure where to start? Try molecule vs compound
- Try a free chemistry course
What gives you the most difficulty in chemistry? What’s your favorite chemistry book? Leave your answer in the comments below, and perhaps we will do a video on it on our chemistry education channel.
Good luck! – The ChemTalk team
Best books for mastering chemistry:
Pearson Chemistry – by Wilbraham, Staley, Waterman. This high-school book can be read by students well before they reach high school. There are many different editions of this book, they are all similar and sometimes you can find a slightly used copy for as little as $6. Like our other recommendations, this book has copious questions at the end of each chapter and solutions at the back of the book.
Chemistry the central science – by Brown / LeMay / Woodward. This is a college-level book, and expands on the material in the Pearson chemistry text. As this book was a little harder to find at a low price, I ended up renting it on Amazon for a reasonable sum. This book has great problem sets. However, I should have searched for different editions as I know see some on Ebay for $15.
Chemical Demonstrations, Volume 1-5, by Bassam Shakashiri. More info here. I find these books to be amazing. Not only do you learn amazing reactions and experiments, but there is detailed explanations of the chemistry behind each one. They are not cheap, but they are worth every penny imho, even the pennies that end up dissolved in nitric acid. And his science is fun website is the best.