Preparing yourself for Chemistry at Warwick
As the A level results day is in just under two months, some potential chemists may be wondering about what preparations they should be making for the move from school learning to University. It’s a daunting time, and for the keen ones it can be difficult to accept the fact that you don’t really have anything to do.
The information I give here is correct to my knowledge of studying Chemistry at Warwick, so for my year group in particular, and whilst there may be a lot of similarities in what is included in the course for 2016-2017, alll Warwick courses are constantly being altered and improved- basically, don’t take my word as gospel (because I am pretty damn old now!) but I hope my experiences can give you a good idea of what’s in store!
The main thing I have to assure you right now is to not panic about not knowing enough! If you make your offer, congratulations, you’re good enough to be here! When you join first year, the three modules you study towards are Introduction to Organic Chemistry, Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry and Introduction to Physical Chemistry. The key word here is ‘Introduction’; they are designed to take you from a very basic knowledge of chemistry up to degree level standard. Years and years worth of first years have taken these very same modules, and the department are well aware of the depth of knowledge gained from school and of differences in exam boards. You will probably find that you will be taught some aspects that you covered at school in great detail and there will be other concepts that are new which may be old news to the student sat next to you- the modules are meant to bring everyone to the same standard in the key parts of chemistry. Therefore it is fine to assume that the knowledge of chemistry your school has provided you with is sufficient to start your degree here!
This means that you don’t have to go and buy advanced higher level chemistry textbooks as soon as you walk out your last exam! Warwick Chemistry is unique in that it provides you with the core three textbooks that contain most/all the information you will cover for the first three years of your degree. Lecturers here have even contributed to the textbooks your studying so they know exactly what you have access to. This saves you so much money as you will hear the historian next door complaining about the price of textbooks from day one, I’m sure!
However, if you are twiddling your thumbs about the upcoming year then there are some things that you can do to keep busy. Once you have got your grades and made it to Warwick you will be sent a Welcome Pack from the department and this will contain a whole host of different bits of paper and letters for you to get your teeth into. I personally enjoyed looking through the sports and societies booklet, highlighting things you want to join like a kid with the Argos catalogue in December (didn’t end up joining 80% of them, but its pretty fun to imagine yourself as a high flying cheerleader right?). There will also be a little something about the dreaded Maths Testand a few practice questions, just to ensure you’re not TOO relaxed! The Parts 1 and 2 Maths tests are the tests you take during your first two terms at Warwick to make sure that you have the required level of mathematical knowledge to support the chemistry you do. The part 1 maths test is purely A level content and the practice questions they send you are based on them so you will probably not find them too taxing. However if you aren’t confident, don’t worry because the department lectures you in all the concepts needed and provides workshops with practice questions. You may have the choice to take this test early on in Freshers Fortnight should you be feeling confident and you will need to get over 80% to pass, however this does mean that you can then put this out your mind and skip a lot of maths lectures that will clog up your timetable. The Part 2 Maths test is much the same thing but happens a bit later in the term and you only need 65% to pass. This test contains elements of A level Further Maths and is a bit trickier however it is nothing you cannot handle, trust me. You get three attempts to pass each of the tests, but generations and generations of chemists have gone through the process and I have never heard of anyone not passing so DO NOT WORRY! However you may not want to forget all maths over the summer so having a go at some questions is something you can do to help yourself when term starts. Please note that this system may have changed when you arrive as A level maths did not used to be a requirement for entry.
Also in your welcome pack you will receive a letter from your mentor, who is a second, third or fourth year student assigned to a number of first years who’s job it is to provide guidance and arrange meetings with you throughout the year to answer any questions. This letter will probably give you some sort of contact detail so please do not be shy and feel free to flood them with your questions and worries, or just to say hi! They will be more than happy to hear from you.
A little word of advice…it is tempting to find the ‘Warwick First Year Chemists- 2016/2017’ Facebook group and to start introducing yourself to your coursemates however you may live to regret these choices as two years down the line your mates start pulling up your ‘Hi I am Sarah from Kent and I am so excited to start uni, but also nervous haha :)’ posts … Get involved if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉
Most importantly have an amazing summer break! You’ve finished school and are a free and semi-responsible adult human and for now you can push work completely out your mind! Although keep checking your emails, accommodation choices, enrolling and freshers wristbands are things to look out for that you don’t really want to be late to the party with!
Hope this helps and if you have any questions at all feel free to direct them to me!
Love Fi xx