Posted by: unlikelygrad | January 12, 2009

knowing the stuff

Success in grad school doesn’t just depend on convincing the admissions committee that you’ll do well: it means that you have to know the material well enough that you can do well.

I’d signed up to take the Chemistry GRE at the beginning of November, and I hoped to review pretty much everything from my undergraduate career between early June–when I took the GRE General test–and the test date.  Covering four years of material in five months would require serious work, and I set my pace accordingly.  

Through June, July, and the first part of August, I tried to cover at least a chapter a day–not just reading, but doing all the odd-numbered problems.  If I had trouble with a concept, I’d go back and do the even problems as well.  Of course there were days when I was too sick to work, days when I had big projects going on when I ended up being too tired to study, and one whole week when I tried desperately to master the single chapter on electrochemistry (which had never made sense to me, even as an undergrad).

Between June and November, it was rare that I ever went somewhere without a chemistry book in hand.  I’d read while my husband drove; I’d do problems while waiting for my kids to finish an activity; I even worked organic reaction mechanisms while listening to a concert in the park.  My life was crammed full of chemistry.  And, as it turned out, I still didn’t make it through everything.  

I think that, had I been able to keep up my chapter-a-day pace, I would have made it through.  But beginning in late August, I had something else on my mind: class started at the local state university.

FWIW, these are the books I used for study:

General Chem: Chemistry, the Central Science, Bruce Bursten, Eugene Lemay, and Theodore Brown

Organic: Organic Chemistry, Maitland Jones Jr

Analytical: Quantitative Chemical Analysis, Daniel Harris

Physical: Physical Chemistry: A Molecular Approach, Donald McQuarrie, John Simon

Inorganic: Inorganic Chemistry, Alan Sharpe, Catherine Housecroft

All of the above have thorough solutions manuals, a crucial element for self-study.

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