Is Chem lab like riding a bike?

Hi all,

I honestly cannot stress enough what a godsent this site has been for me. After randomly stumbling upon it a few months ago, it’s been a huge help for advice and inspiration.

So, Chem lab. I’ve decided to start my pre-reqs this fall and am doing some review/prep studying on my own since I haven’t taken a non-audiology-related science course in over 7 years. I did fine in Chem 1 and in lab, its at Chem 2 where things fell apart the first time around. Much of my failure was due to not putting any effort into it and being more preoccupied with planning my semester abroad when I was young, dumb, and 20 than focusing on my coursework.

I’m trying to decide if I should take Chem 1 again, or save the time and review on my own and take Chem 2 this fall. The problem is that I haven’t been in a lab in 7 years either. So…is Chem lab like riding a bike (will all of those lab techniques come flooding back to me) or do I need to reintroduce myself to the laboratory setting?

I’d love to save the time of not retaking the course but I also don’t want to start Chem 2 lab extremely behind and confused.

Any advice here would be great! Thanks!

For whatever it’s worth when I started Gen Chem 1 last fall, I hadn’t taken a science course since astronomy my freshman year of college (9 years) and hadn’t taken and real and true hands on science classes since I was in high school (ten years ago).

My professor explained it thusly, Gen I is primarily the math behind why this stuff works, Gen II is more about the theory.

You’ll do fine.

I think there are a few advantages of taking chem lab I over. However, while I will detail them, they are only minor to moderate.

  1. some medical schools have a 5 to 7 year cap on how a course can be. This is not a hard and fast rule, a few schools have these noted in their web sites. Chemistry lab is basically the same as it was say 20 years ago, though most schools moved to micro-scale size experiments.

  2. there is a minor (and purely subjective) competitive disadvantage if the group of students who you are with in Chem Lab II are the same cohort who had the same professor in Chem Lab I. They know how the professor wants the lab reports, etc.

  3. it is a way to get your feet wet again in school and learn how to be a student if need be.

    Overall, minor reasons, it is usually a 1 or 2 credit course that is time consuming and usually for most students merely a “cookbook” without all that much useful content learned. I’d wouldn’t bother repeating it.

    As an aside, Biology has changed enormously so that course/lab should be taken again. Surprisingly, I have found physics lab has changed in mostly “computerizing” many experiments. In my Physics I lab, I had a a very old school Chinese professor, who was incomprehensible in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English and insisted in having everything handwritten; reports, graphs, etc. I am surprised we didn’t time things with an hour glass. I skipped physics II lab until the next year and everything I had been switched to computerized direct measurements.


Here are a few things to consider. Richard hit it right on with the lab portion. It’s possible (and most common) for students to end up learning little from simply following the cookbook without forcing themselves to dig in and really understand why they are doing things. Probably not worth repeating.

Lecture is different though. How did you do in Chem 1? Can you find out anything about the Chem 2 teacher? It was 12 years for me, so I retook Chem 1, and realized I would have never succeeded well in Chem 2 without that. Switching professors and schools between Chem 1 and 2 was a mistake but it turned out OK.

7 years may be okay, but you need to do yourself a favor and do a pretty thorough review since Chem 2 is going to assume you know lots of basic stuff like the back of your hand. There are loads of calculations, so I’d probably focus on that especially.

Best wishes whatever you decide.