Preparing for each year of your chemistry degree – OurWarwick
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Preparing for each year of your chemistry degree

Sabrina Di Monaco
Sabrina Di Monaco | Chemistry (with International Placement) Contact Sabrina

As I just finished my integrated masters in chemistry, I have now experienced every year in a Warwick chemistry degree. I thought I would write two posts describing the structure of each year and any advice I have to help anyone entering the next year in their degree! This post is going to focus on first and second year then I will write another about third year and fourth year for those thinking of doing an integrated masters.

First Year

Firstly, I just want to say congratulations on starting your degree at Warwick! Especially for students this year with the additional stress of the covid pandemic, you did it and you are all amazing!

With a big cohort that Warwick take on in Chemistry, it can be very frightening walking into that first lecture and participating as you would in a classroom. My advice to first years would be to remind yourself everyday that you are capable and you deserve to be doing this degree just like everyone else in your course. First year consists of three core topics with no compulsory options: organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. As well as this, you will have tutorials, workshops and labs. For your core modules, I would suggest that you look at them all in moodle and get familiar with what each module, and the topics within them, consist of which will help with your understanding within the lectures. In lectures, you can choose to make handwritten notes or bring in a laptop/tablets. Personally, I prefer using a pen and paper as this is what I’m used to however I believe there is no best way and it all depends on what is right for you. Most lecturers will also give you a handout for the module, which you can download onto your laptop, with a lot of information on it already so you only have to write a few notes and not focus too much on writing but also taking in the information that they are telling you.

Tutorials consist of about 6/7 students where you complete a worksheet/ questions related to the current lecture topics and go over them in the tutorial. These tutorials are so useful for consolidating your understanding as there is one tutor to only a few students so make the most of them and ask your tutorial tutor all a lot of questions you may have in your sessions. Also don’t be afraid to email them asking for help if you are unsure about what to do. Transitioning from school to university, you are given a lot more independence and less of a push to do your work and look up things that you don’t understand so you have to take matters into your own hands. Make sure you do your work for your own understanding as opposed to doing it because you think your tutors/ lecturers will not be happy if you don’t! Workshops also work in a similar way where there is a worksheet but you will do this once you are in the workshop instead of beforehand and the classroom is much larger. Here, it’s good to sit with course mates so you are able to help each other as there are more students to an academic so you won’t be able to receive immediate help.

Lastly, you also have to do lab days. In the lab in first year, you do a different experiment each day. Within this, you follow a protocol and write up your method, risk assessment and results in your lab book. Each experiment is either based on organic, inorganic and physical chemistry and help familiarise you with different techniques and equipment in the lab. You have to do a pre-lab before you go into the lab that familiarises you with the experiment where you have to get 80% to be able to do the lab. I would really recommend reading the protocol before you go into the lab and try to understand not just what you have to do but why are you doing it so you can understand the chemistry behind it. You will have a demonstrator who will be there to introduce you to the experiment and there to help you. At the end of the lab, the demonstrators will mark you on how well you did and the practical skills you show. Don’t worry about asking questions as this won’t affect how well you do, but being cautious, safe, tidy and having a general idea of what is going on practically and theoretically will help you in your grade.

Good luck to you all starting your first year at Warwick! Although in first year, you still have to work hard and get used to your new life at uni, make sure to still have fun! After all, it is your first year so give yourself time to enjoy, be with friends and explore uni life. For more questions you can send me a message and also there is a FAQ section on the Warwick Chemistry Society website specifically for freshers which I will link here: where you can find many other commonly asked questions.

Second Year

Second year in chemistry consists of a very similar structure to first year where all of your modules are compulsory and you still have to do labs, tutorials and workshops. The main differences would be the amount of modules. In first year, there was only three exams to think about however in second year, there are many more modules that are a lot more specific to certain branches of chemistry. This means that, at the end of the year, you will be doing a lot more exams with each modules having a lower weighting to your overall year average.

When I was in my second year, the modules I completed were:

  • Polymer chemistry (7.5 CATS)
  • Organic synthesis (7.5 CATS)
  • Electrochemistry (7.5 CATS)
  • Organic chemistry II (15 CATS)
  • Statistical mechanics (7.5 CATS)
  • Transistion metal chemistry (15 CATS)
  • Solid state materials (7.5 CATS)
  • Biological and medicinal chemistry (7.5 CATS)

Although there may be some variations to what you will be studying as you enter your second year, this gives you an idea of how many modules you have to learn and how much each will roughly be worth. Take note that two modules here are worth double the amounts of CATS as the others so you need to put a bit more focus on doing well on these. Read the module overviews of each to help organise yourself. Second year, requires a bit more organisation and planning as you have to prepare to take more exams which can be stressful. Try to start note taking earlier on in the year for revision and summarise your notes before you move to your next modules. This will help you when reviewing and doing exam questions. Doing exam questions is essential as some lecturers will structure their questions in a very similar way to previous year so I cannot recommend this more!

Finally, labs are quite similar to second year, the only difference is that in first year, you have a few taster labs and are eased in more which doesn’t happen so much in second year so make sure you enter your first lab day ready and prepared to be assessed; showing great understanding and safe, meticulous work.

Once again, send me any questions you may have about second year and good luck in your year, you made it through first year so you can do this!

Sabrina Di Monaco
Sabrina Di Monaco | Chemistry (with International Placement) Contact Sabrina

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