Welcome Chemical Engineers
So you have embarked on the stressful yet incredibly rewarding journey of chemical engineering? First and foremost congratulations for being accepted onto this incredible subject. Regardless if you are just beginning or in your final year of study, this post will give you all the tools you need to not only pass chemical engineering but thrive and master each and every module!
If chemical engineering is fairly new to you, then it’s important to know that the diversity of the modules and variation in the material is incredible. One minute we can be solving some differential equations, next we could be performing a mass and energy balance calculation, followed by some process modelling and heat transfer optimisation. Each module is slightly different so we have covered how to pass each style of module.
What Are The Exams Really Like?
In a general sense, the exams were of a similar format to that of any other degree or high school exam, with the exception of the content (obviously). There will be variations from institute to institute and from country to country, so here we are referring to the UK system for examinations.
Before the pandemic, each exam would last 3 hours and would comprise of a single paper that contained a set of questions based on that module’s content. Now some universities made all questions compulsory, others give you the option of selecting 3 out of 4 questions. This might sound easy but each question is generally worth around 20 marks each, so they can be quite extensive. A general rule of thumb is “you are given 3 hours to answer 3 questions, so realistically you should spend 1 hour per question“.
As far as the structure of the questions, it is really dependent on the module, and the type of material being taught. For example, if we are doing a Reactor Design exam, then you should expect mainly calculations, equation derivations, and some theory as to the mechanics of each type of reactor. Whereas say we had a renewable & sustainable energy exam, then this is generally descriptive and won’t have any calculations. So depending on what you prefer will often determine what type of exam you find most challenging.
So How Can You Prepare?
As the old saying goes “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail“. This is true for most things in life, however, when it comes to studying for a chemical engineering exam, this is a fundamental rule; in fact, we can refer to this as the 1st law of chemical engineering!
Keeping with the preparation theme, it’s incredibly important that you think about preparing for exams on day 1. I know this might sound like a bit of a stretch, however, this simple thought is what distinguishes those who do well, and those who do amazing at exams. So what do I actually mean? I am not suggesting you study all the material in the first week, however, by ensuring you stay up-to-date on the work you have covered for that week, you can fix any issues quickly, and prevent them from building up.
So here are our top 10 tips for getting top grades in your chemical engineering exams…
- Plan your study schedule early. Pace yourself throughout the year. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Devise a realistic revision timetable/schedule. Remeber it’s about quality, not quantity!
- Remove all technological distractions, such as mobile phones, and social media.
- Break up your studying method, don’t simply rely on reading, or simply doing questions.
- Consolidate your material you learned each day, and make small notes on key points.
- Remain neat and tidy. Make life easy when exam time comes, and make navigating your notes easy.
- Create a hierarchy of importance. This puts emphasis on the most important parts.
- Use audio and video tutorials to help explain concepts, don’t just read from a book.
- Take breaks between revision sessions, remember the golden rule of 45 minutes at a time.
- Reward yourself for your hard work and dedication.
Granted there is so much more than can be added, but as a general rule, follow these simple steps and you will sure enough be rewarded for your hard work. It’s a very true saying in chemical engineering, “you get out what you put in“.
Think of studying like the 1st Law of Thermodynamics! Energy can only be transferred from one type to another, so transfer your passion, enthusiasm, and sweet treats into solid foundation knowledge that will serve you well for the rest of your life!
How Can You Deal With Stress?
The concept and idea of stress are somewhat confusing, especially when we think. So you are stressing over your exam, its only natural, but let’s consider the idea of stress from the perspective of a chemical engineer, and relate it back to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics.
The time and energy you spend stressing about something is consuming resources, time, and space in your throughs that would otherwise be used to develop your knowledge. Think about it, the energy you spend on stress, you will never get that back because regardless of the outcome, the exam will come and go. So if you know you have done your absolute best you possibly can, then there is nothing to stress about, plus you have freed up a lot of valuable brain space!
This is of course easier said than done, as no matter how much we prepare, or how well we know something, we will always get nervous and stressed. Here are some tips to help you reduce and mitigate your stress levels.
- Eat well and exercise regularly.
- Stay hydrated!
- Stick to a simple and easy-to-follow schedule that balances studying and socialising.
- Talk with your friends and family about your nerves; a problem shared is a problem halved!
- Approach the exam with a methodical and logical mindset.
The best way of dealing with stress above all is knowing you have put in the effort when studying. You know your stuff, you are confident in your ability, then the idea of stress will defiantly subside/reduce.
A Revision Technique That Actually Works
By following this easy 3-step guide to studying, you will have no problem getting the top grades you deserve. Remeber you can put your own stamp on these steps, however, use these as a guide to creating your own optimised revision method! After all chemical engineering is all about approaching problems methodically and devising optimised solutions!
The Foundation Stage
The Application Stage
The Optimisation Stage
The Foundation Stage: This is the point where you consolidate your coursework done in class, and begin to process it in a manner that works best for you. You can categorise key points, group concepts together etc. You also need to begin to do some extra work by researching related areas through reference texts, online searches, and video tutorials. All of which we supply here at The ChemEng Student for free!
The Application Stage: Often regarded as the most important stage of the whole study process. At this point you should already be familiar with the fundamentals, you have consolidated your notes and coursework. Now it is time to put your knowledge into practice. You should begin by doing a series of tutorial questions with either the working solutions or the final answer to hand. Firstly attempt the question on your own, as soon as you get stuck consult the solution and re-write the entire solution. Repeat this process multiple times, until you no longer have to consult the solutions. At this stage you then must leave the work for a few days, return and try again, if you can solve without the notes you are learning at full capacity.
The Optimisation Stage: This stage will give you confidence in your ability. You should be working on the most difficult problem-solving question and seeking out those concepts you are still not 100% sure of. By this stage, you should be confident with 90% of the entire module. Remeber it is perfectly normal to not be good at absolutely everything, so if you are confident with 90% of the material you will certainly get the top grades you deserve. We offer support within every stage of the learning journey please feel free to contact us for more details.
Are You Ready?
I hope by now you feel confident and inspired to study for your chemical engineering exams. If you apply all the points mentioned in this post I promise you will have no trouble getting top grades. Everything mentioned here is based on my own experience and how I achieved a 1st class honours and Masters with Distinction!
As a thank you for reading this whole post I would like to offer an exclusive 10% discount on all our courses. Simply use code STUDY10 at the checkout, and please keep in touch with your progress, I love hearing how all our students are getting on! Best of luck and I wish you every success in the future!