I am going to start taking my pre-requisites this Fall. I do not have a science background. I have previously done a BBA and MBA. I have not even taken high school science courses or at least don’t remember anything from them. My question was particularly in regards to taking Chemistry: Keeping my non-science background in mind, should I take an elementary introductory Chemistry course prior to taking the regular General Chemistry or should I take the General Chemistry straight? I am a little hesitant not even knowing the basics. I don’t want to earn a bad grade in the first course I take, but I also don’t want to waste precious time taking introductory courses I don’t have to!

Hm. Tough one. The conservative advice would be to tell you to take an intro chem first. However, I was in much the same situation as you, and I did fine in gen chem.

I guess the bigger question is: How do YOU feel about your abilities? Are you a naturally strong student or have you always had to work a little bit to do well? How are your math skills? Gen chem is an awful lot of math. You will want a solid grasp of algebra, logs and the like.

If you decide to go ahead with gen chem, brush up on your math over the summer and either pick up some kind of chemistry review book or see if you can purchase the book that will be used in the fall and do some prep on your own.

Hi, Challenger.

I agree with Emergency. I just finished general chemistry 1 and 2 this past year, and there is soooo much algebra in it. Sometimes, I forget that it’s a chemistry class…and not some kind of math class. LOL.

Anyway, it wouldn’t hurt for you to take an introductory chem course if you feel that you should. And if you need to brush up on your algebra skills, then so be it.

Good luck in your decision.

The last time I took chemistry was in high school…in 1983-1984. Tonight marked the official beginning of my med school journey as I stepped into a CHEM 121 class.

The concepts introduced tonight were familiar with a few exceptions. I don’t remember anything about significant figures. Oh well, some small points to get under my belt.

My biggest challenge, and one you may face, is time. I work a full-time job and have a family with two daughters in elementary school. Knocking off some of these classes in the condensed summer sessions are what is going to get me through all of this before I turn 90.

From what I’ve seen tonight, algebra and comfort with math is going to be a definite must. The rest appears to be memorizing terms.


Thanks for the informative replies. I tended to be overall a very good student (mostly A’s; some B’s). The drawback with me is that I am very detail oriented. I want to understand every little concept in the book (even the not so important ones) and sometimes spend hours on this. This causes me to waste a lot of time on the details I don’t need to know. I was never quite that strong in Math but I managed to get A’s in Algebra and Business Calculus. I don’t remember the concepts now, so I will definitely have to pick up an Algebra book. As Emergency pointed out, I should also try to see if I can get the Chemistry book that will be used during the semester and go over it. I just hope I am not at a significant disadvantage not even knowing the basics while the professor assumes that everyone will be familiar with the basic concepts and focuses on the advanced topics.

You all were a great help!

When I (an English major) jumped into it, I prepared by working through an Algebra book first. The week before class, I worked through the first chapter and all the problems at the back of the book. I got an A all three quarters, but it was very time consuming. Just make sure you work all the problems, and get the solutions manual if there is one. I think an intro chem class will probably be kind of useless, as I imagine it will probably just skim the surface. So much of Chem is just problem solving, that it really makes more sense (to me at least) to jump in, fully expecting to spend a ton of time working through the problems in the book. Over and over again. I didn’t find most of it very challenging conceptually - what took time was getting used to the methods of solving the problems, which just took practice.


I’m right there with you BBA and MBA and hardly any sciences besides human anatomy and zoology. starting chemistry TODAY! and have read chapter 1 and familiarized myself with it somewhat since not having looked over it since high school. seems so weird but hey It’s what we gotta do! best of luck to you.

I guess what I have to focus on is getting a good hold of Algebra before starting Fall semester and trying to look over the Chemistry book we will be using during the semester. I am also beginning to reason that taking an intro-chemistry will just touch the surface and not worth the time.

Thanks a lot for your kind replies


I’ve just recently ended my ‘post-bac’ journey, and here is how I approached chemistry.

1- read prof’s. lecture notes before class;

2- attend lecture, which mostly felt like review since notes had been read ahead of time;

3- asked questions on the spot to clarify confusing points;

4- read relevant sections of text right after class to further clarify and gel concepts

5- worked a few problems immediately after class

Our profs were particularly fussy over sig.figs. - right on to final. Points were knocked off on final for not properly reporting sig.figs. I tended to waffle over that aspect early on in the course, but I really had to clean up my act in that respect.

Some atomic/molecular orbital theory can be a bit overwhelming at first. Read ahead to improve your chances.

Then, prior to mid terms and finals, I got a really really big pile of recycled paper and worked, and reworked as many problems as time allowed. I believe that working the largest number of problems you can is the single most important ingredient to success in chemistry (and physics and math as well). Don’t burn yourself out working problems. Fifty minute sessions, interspersed with 15 minute breaks worked well for me. I learned the hard way that a 10 hour marathon of problem solving does not enhance my learning.

So where do I stand after all of this, you may ask! I’ve applied to three schools, was refused at one, and am wait-listed at the two others. In both cases, my rank on the waiting list is such that I expect to get offers from both later on in the summer. This is by no means a certainty, but I certainly am keeping my fingers crossed. I can assure you that THIS 52 year old is excited as ole hell to be in such an exciting prospect!

Best of luck to you all!


Ron, I’m excited for you! That’s really good news.

I agree with the other advice that’s been posted here. I think gen-chem was not hard for me because I always was good at math. Much of the challenge of gen-chem is the algebra and understanding the ways you do conversions, logarithms, sig-figs & such. If you are reading these terms and thinking “what the hell is that,” then your preparation for gen-chem may be another math class, not an intro chem class. The chemistry stuff flows from the math, IMO.


I am new to OPM and know relatively little about med school. However, as a college prof, I can tell you that I’ve seen too many ‘returning’ students run into problems their first semester back. Be VERY CAREFUL. You should plan to over-study. Everything will take twice as long your first semester as it will during your third semester. Given the importance of grades in the basic science course, you must can’t afford to botch a semester. Read before class, work problems and re-read after class. And remember, math is a learnable skill – it’s not something you are born with. Good luck!!

  • Crazyman Said:
I can tell you that I've seen too many 'returning' students run into problems their first semester back. Be VERY CAREFUL. You should plan to over-study. Everything will take twice as long your first semester as it will during your third semester. Given the importance of grades in the basic science course, you must can't afford to botch a semester. Read before class, work problems and re-read after class.

This is SO IMPORTANT. Time and again we hear sad stories on here of people who've made the big decision to pursue medical school; enthusiastically jump back into a wicked schedule of classes, and don't do nearly as well as they MUST do in order to attain admission to med school.

There is very little slack cut to anyone in the med school admissions process but this is particularly true of the person who has gone back to school after doing something else. AdComs reason, you are sacrificing a LOT to take those classes and you know exactly what you want to achieve, so why wouldn't you do really well? You have to show that with your grades. So you'll hear the advice on here - often - to start slow. You can always accelerate your pace once you're back in student mode, but you cannot erase a bad grade.


Amen to that.

Just got my first exam grade back last night. 66/100.


Class average was 71.

The concepts are not that difficult. A bit confusing at times because the instructor is young and while he knows the subject matter well, he is not an outstanding teacher. Troubling when students in CHEM 121 are correcting him.

A couple of life lessons I’ve learned from Zen and endurance multisports:

    We begin again and again. If you effed up today, just start over tomorrow.

    You can't get on the podium without putting in the training hours.

    It ain't over until it's over.

Applying those lessons to my current situation in chemistry:

    The crappy grade is done. We get to drop our lowest exam score so hopefully this will be my lowest score. Learn what I did wrong and move on.

    Getting by on a weekend cram session does not cut it. Just like triathlon, I need to put in the hours on a consistent basis. I knew how to work the formulas, but overthought the process and screwed up. To continue the analogy, I'm trying to get high performance from my lawn mower engine-sized brain. I need to re-build my mental base by putting in the hours so I can have the equivalent of a Ferrari for grey matter. That will only come from putting in the base miles, or in this case, the study hours.

    One crappy grade does not a semester grade make. Yes, the stakes are now a little higher, but it's definitely not a reason to pack up my bags this early in the race.

The biggest challenge as a working parent is to find the time I need to hit the books and crank through the equations so I know them cold...not just by rote. Hopefully, I can tie up some loose ends on my second job this week so my time will only be divided between family, work and school...not family, work, school, work #2, work #3, and triathlon training.


dude, i’m so confused in my class right now I didn’t know the difference in an atom and an ion… from what I can gather, all atoms with the exception of the noble gases, have some form of ions… and that’s how they connect with other atoms through opposite charges… ?? i hope i’m on the right step here… thus forming compounds. gosh it seems like the only way to learn these polyatomic ions is by memorization… does anyone have a better idea? I don’t even really understand the difference between a polyatomic ion and an ionic compound… both of them seem to have multiple atoms joining. and I know an ionic usually has a metal and a non-metal… does polyatomic usually deal with non-metals only? help!

Here are some resources that may help: 03a.htm niccpds.html

Because my chem class is condensed from a 16-week course into a 6-week course, the pace is a bit hairy. Even the instructor was baffled as to why anyone would take this class in the summer unless it was for review.

That being said, it is what it is and I have to adapt to the situation.

I thought being able to get by on rote, short-term memorization would do the trick. It worked for me in the Navy, but not here.

Working a full-time job and then driving to a four-hour class every night after work leaves little time for study. I now know I need about two hours a day, maybe more.

I also need to get this information from multiple sources so I can REALLY comprehend the subject matter.

As Ron mentioned earlier, spend time working the problems.

After I got the exam score back the other night, we were cut loose early so I dashed over to Barnes & Noble and purchased a couple “Chemistry for Dummies”-type books. My theory here is that I’m getting the same information, just presented differently than the text book. That should help me learn. Instead of two sources of info (text book and lousy instructor), I now have four sources…plus whatever I can find through my best friend Google.


Whew, Miller-- that’s a lot of questions. Okay from top to bottom, looking back in the memory banks…

  1. An atom is the smallest irreducible particle of an element.

  2. An ion is an electrically charged form of an atom. “Charged” means that electrons have either been added (which increases negative charge) or taken away (which increases positive charge).

  3. Connections between atoms are called bonds. In a covalent bond, electrons are shared between the two bonded atoms. In an ionic bond, electrons are taken by the less electronegative atom in the pair, resulting in a negatively charged ion (that stole the electron) and a positively charged ion (that donated the electron). They are locked together by electromagnetic force.

  4. Memorize the polyatomic ions now, as well as the nomenclature rules (-ous, -ic, etc.). You will learn what they look like in organic chemistry and it will make much more sense.

  5. Polyatomic ions form ionic bonds with one another. Each polyatomic ion has a positive or negative charge. An ionic compound is a substance whose irreducible particle is a positively charged ion and a negatively charged ion locked in a bond. THEREFORE, an ionic compound, like NaCl has no net charge. +1-1=0

matt that’s great insight… so to my understanding… the simplest way to put it is that Ionic compounds cancel each other out and are thus neutral (they couldn’t be a compound if they weren’t) since opposite charges attract.

Now, to the polyatomic ions. they are not compounds am I correct? since they carry a charge? hoping i’m understanding this the right way.

You’re having a confusion of scale.

An ion is a particle (charged).

A compound is a substance. Any chemically bonded substance is a compound. Some compounds consist of covalently bonded atoms-- CO2, H2O, are the most famous. Some compounds consist of ionically bonded atoms-- NaCl, KOH. Neon, hydrogen gas, gold-- substances consisting of one element only, are not compounds.

Our class is only 4 weeks! that’s right. our instructor as well has mentioned his concerns over why anyone in their right mind would take this in such a short time span… especially if they are working. I am off to take my first test right now. I am not 100% confident, but given my schedule I can honestly say that I’ve prepared as much as I can. havent watched tv or done anything outside of work and study. it’s been my life for the past week and chemistry has owned me. I hope that it pays off the time i’ve put it so far since I can’t get it back. just having some test anxiety right now. alot of pressure as so many of you have mentioned that we have to truly shine. being an non-trad. I feel as if I make anything less than an A i’m gonna be barred.

92 on first test! highest grade was a 96 so hopefully there will be a 4 pt. curve. glad it’s done