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(Why cannot we human beings be like the lovely little creatures above!)

My underlying assumption in writing these blogs is that you have come here because you want some aspect of Chemistry explained to you. My blogs have therefore become longer in recent weeks because I am trying to explain things in greater depth. You can access my  books by going to the link “My Books” at the very top right of this webpage. Depending on what topic I am working on at the time (I am currently revising the Chapters on ‘Modern Analytical Techniques’), a Chapter in one of the two books will be updated almost every week during term time.

If you are in Year 13/the Upper Sixth, then this Autumn your life as a ‘child’ will come to an end and you will become an adult. The transition will be both scary and at the same time exciting! During that transition you will inevitably make some mistakes (and I made many), but mistakes can be massively helpful because if you are intelligent then you learn from your mistakes, and you then become a better person.

Here is a little trick that might help you in all your subjects (and not just in Chemistry)  –  and it will be especially valuable when you get to University or Med School. Create a “memory tree” for every important topic in every subject (cf. the Benzene memory tree in my Benzene blogs), and in the weeks leading up to the exams, twice a week go to bed early and spend three hours going through (in your head) every single memory tree in every single subject. The reason that some students do not get high grades is sadly NOT because they lack knowledge, but because they waste valuable time in trying to remember things that they could easily have memorised. For example, in 60 seconds can you tell me how to get from Benzene to an azo dye, and tell me ALL the reaction conditions that are needed for each of the four steps involved (and there is no thought process in this because all that it requires is recall from memory)? Now do you see what I mean! If you do not finish all the questions in an exam paper, then you just cannot get an A* or an A in the subject.

It is interesting that in 20 years of teaching ‘A’ Level Chemistry, only one of my students has gone on to read Chemistry at University, but almost all of my students have gone on to be extremely successful Doctors/Dentists/Lawyers/ Engineers/etc. Chemistry as such has thus been absolutely unimportant to them! What is important is that it helped them to learn use their brains, and to demonstrate to prospective employers that they had decent brains and knew how to use them.

When you have left University/Med School/Law School/whatever, other than for having to put the details in a box on an Application form, I doubt that anyone will ever ask you what University you attended/what you read/and what Class of Degree you gained. What will be of interest to everybody will be how well you do your job  –  and your two years of ‘A’ Levels and your time at University will contribute hugely to that.

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