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How Penn Staters Overcame Difficult Courses: Science Edition

Last week, we asked you to tell us about the hardest courses at Penn State and how to succeed in them. Thankfully, so many Penn Staters submitted that we needed to split them up!

If you are struggling with a common Penn State science course, check out these tips from previous students:

CHEM 110

Kate, who graduated from the College of Health and Human Development in 2016, took CHEM 110.

“I’m a visual learner, and I actually read the textbook chapters before the lecture like they always say to do, but I never did in any other class,” Kate said. “Then, I went to lecture and it clarified what I had learned rather than hearing it for the first time in the lecture. I also took the old exams over and over and over and I got a few 100s on the actual exams. I felt like Einstein compared to some of my friends in the class.”

Nick, a College of Agricultural Sciences graduate, also worked hard in CHEM 110. He said that attending as many exam review sessions as possible was most helpful for him.

“I was confused and hopeless on a subject or set of problems up until a few days before exam day and then everything would click, working through the sample exam problems in a review session,” Nick said. “Study for the exams by mastering the previous exam problems. There is no magic here. Create a template (read: cheat sheet) for each problem type and watch when the exam is quite similar to those OG exams.”


Josh, also from the College of Agricultural Sciences, was diligent in his studying for CHEM 110H. He also had a little bit of help from a friend.

“I showed up to every class, took notes on paper, and studied a little bit every week, rather than just cramming,” Josh said. “[I] sat next to a guy named Victor every class, who ended up becoming valedictorian of Eberly — smartest guy I’ve ever met, and he helped explain things if I didn’t get it the first time. Thanks again, Vic!”


Some even reported they were driven to succeed by the prospect of seeing a romantic interest. Jack, who graduated from the College of Engineering, was one of those people when he took thermodynamics.

“There was a cute and confident girl that I had a crush on in the class, and she was struggling with the material,” Jack said. “As a way of getting closer to her, I offered to study with her and help her with the homework and exam prep. But, the only way to actually be able to do that would be to thoroughly know the material myself. I ended up really motivated and passionately learned thermodynamics. I read our textbook, other textbooks, found advanced questions online to practice with, and made study/formula sheets.”

Whether or not the romantic side of Jack’s strategy paid off, the academic side certainly did.

“I think we both ended up with an A or A-,” Jack said. “I could’ve just asked her on a date, but I was an awkward sophomore engineer. Really helped me learn it too! Just takes the right motivation.”

PHYS 212

Perhaps the most inspiring story that we received, came from Brittany, a 2017 College of Engineering graduate who took PHYS 212.

“I shed a lot of tears and ate a lot of ice cream,” Brittany said.

You should probably write that one down in your notes, folks.

Well, now we know: It is possible to conquer physics and chemistry, even if you think you can’t. Stay tuned next week to learn how people passed their math courses (specifically STAT 200 and MATH 140).

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a sophomore in the Schreyer Honors College studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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