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What high school courses should I take to prepare me to be a chemistry major?

The most helpful courses will be those that hone problem solving and critical thinking skills. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is also important. If your high school offers a technical writing course, take it.

Most chemistry courses assume that you've encountered the following material in high school, and they devote little time to explaining it anew:

  1. High School Algebra. A working knowledge of algebra is necessary. You should be able to do the following.
    • Understand ratios, direct proportions, and inverse proportion.
    • Solve both linear and simple nonlinear equations.
    • Set up algebraic equations from verbal descriptions (word problems).
    • Know what a dependent variable and an independent variable are.
    • Know what a slope and intercept are.
    • Graph sets of (x, y) data points.
    • Understand and manipulate exponentials.

  2. High School Geometry and Trigonometry. Some knowledge of geometry is helpful in following certain derivations of equations you will encounter in chemistry. Skills from basic geometry and trigonometry are very helpful in working with crystal and molecular models.

  3. High School Physics. Physics and chemistry are inseparable and the physical concepts of linear momentum, force, work, kinetic energy, and potential energy are recurrent in general chemistry.

  4. High School Chemistry. You should be familiar with the following items, since you will find that they are often mentioned in general chemistry before they have been formally introduced.
    • Know what atoms, molecules, elements, and compounds are.
    • Know what the periodic table is, and recognize some common element symbols.
    • Know what a chemical formula such as "H2O" means.
    • Know what a "mole" is.

Author: Fred Senese senese@antoine.frostburg.edu

General Chemistry Online! What high school courses should I take to prepare me to be a chemistry major?

Copyright © 1997-2010 by Fred Senese
Comments & questions to fsenese@frostburg.edu
Last Revised 02/23/18.URL: http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/intro/faq/high-school-preparation.shtml