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How hard is Physical Chemistry?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by jv00927, Apr 25, 2005.

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  1. jv00927

    jv00927 Member 10+ Year Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    I'm taking physical chemistry this fall. How hard was your physical chemistry class? What do you learn in that class?
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  3. riceman04

    riceman04 10+ Year Member

    Mar 21, 2005
    Los Angeles

    Ummmmmmmmmmmmm.....that is one of the harder classes at Rice. I have not taken it, but I used to sit in on it sometimes (I'm such a dork sometimes) b/c it was right before my immunobio. class. I just know that the stuff I saw was outrageously difficult.
  4. Darth Asclepius

    Darth Asclepius Dark Lord of the Sith 5+ Year Member

    Feb 13, 2005
    Don't stress. It's a really hard class, but if you keep up and master the concepts, you'll be fine. At my school, biochem for majors was harder than pchem, although pchem came in as the second hardest class I have ever taken. It's all about keeping up.
  5. Pontifex Maximus

    Pontifex Maximus Rads-a-palooza 10+ Year Member

    Mar 18, 2003
    Pittsburgh, PA
    It is tough. A lot of thermo, quantum. General chem on steroids.
  6. annh31

    annh31 Member 5+ Year Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    The first day of pchem, my prof told us that it didn't matter how smart we thought we were, and it didn't matter how much we crammed for tests before - if we tried to do that in pchem, we'd fail. And he wasn't kidding. You have to do the homework (I'm assuming you'll have homeworks) by yourself - at least try to - and then work together on it to get it done. And you have to study regularly if you want to do well. Overall though, I liked pchem. You learn concepts from gen chem again, just way more in depth. That's not to say that I never left lecture thinking "what did we just talk about?" because that happened sometimes. But, take it - it's a cool class and you'll have a huge sense of accomplishment when it's over.
  7. getunconcsious

    getunconcsious Very tired PGY1 7+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Cloud 8
    That class was a burden on my soul.
  8. Singing Devil

    Singing Devil Displaced Southerner 5+ Year Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA
    WARNING!!!!! Rant about to begin:

    I never understand threads like this. People have different abilities and learn at different rates. What's hard is entirely a matter of opinion and varies with perspective.

    How hard is a feather bed? Well, it depends if you're lying on it or if your hurdling towards it at terminal velocity. If it's the former pretty soft, if it's the latter, pretty damn hard.

    I'm sure gold once was pretty hard, then it was iron, then it was steel, now it's titanium.

    The point is, what can you possibly learn by asking people who are incredibly varied how hard a random class is? It just feeds this pre-med mentality of freaking out over every little class and every little grade. Plus, P-chem is different at every single college. It's not even the same level everywhere.

    It might serve you better to ask what P-chem is comprised of--calculus, lots of equations, theoretical models, derivatives and integrals, etc. Then you would know--oh, I suck at calc, I better watch out for P-chem OR oh, I rock at calc, bet I'll ace P-chem. Even so, it's going to vary widely from school to school and professor to professor. Surely you know someone at your school who has taken P-chem. Isn't this what classmates and college friends are for?

    Rant over.
  9. fizzlebottom

    fizzlebottom Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Mar 31, 2005
    You can't B.S. Physical Chemistry, I don't care how hard you try. You've either got it or you don't. It doesn't matter if your parents approve, if you have a lot in common, or how good the conversation is. There is only one important question: Do you feel horny?

    Can you tell I've already been accepted to med school? Sorry to make a lame joke about your post. Maybe in a roundabout way I'm trying to tell you that taking ****ty classes is not worth it in the long run.
  10. ms dagny

    ms dagny Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2004
    PChem is manageable. I thought in some ways it was easier than GChem or Orgo because the curve is pretty good in that class. Good luck! :)
  11. dopaminophile

    dopaminophile nerd extraordinaire 5+ Year Member

    Nov 29, 2004
    HAHA! That was a great post.... whew.

    About P-Chem... I took the first one on Colorado College's Block Plan, which is pretty damn intensive. You do a whole semester's class in 3 1/2 weeks. The class has an aura around it like no other... it intimidates some people so much that they drop chem or biochem for another major. When I took the class, though, I found that it wasn't a huge deal. If you put your nose to the grindstone and try to get acustomed to sometimes abstract ideas, good math will carry you through the class. When I say "good math" I mean it too. I think the hardest part for the other five people in my class was in (a) doing the math and (b) seeing how the math applied to reality. If you are really comfortable with calculus, then it'll be your best friend in P-Chem and you can get through with an A even if you didn't pay good attention in Gen Chem, as was my case. If Calculus trips you up, then brush up as much as you can before P-Chem starts.
  12. Iwy Em Hotep

    Iwy Em Hotep The Welcomer 10+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    This is a fantastic post. :thumbup:
  13. Ross434

    Ross434 7+ Year Member

    Aug 24, 2003
    I dont think gold was ever really hard.
  14. ShyRem

    ShyRem I need more coffee. Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I took PChem, and loved it. Actually thought it was easier than second semester OChem, and WAAAY easier than advanced calc. HOWEVER: I'm a math major. I'll say with absolutely no qualms that the other people in my class were NOT as happy in that class as I was - they didn't have the extensive math background. You can definitely do PChem with Calc I, II and III... but I found it much easier after complex analysis, linear algebra I and II, noneuclidean geometries, and a few other upper level math classes. I wish I'd had abstract algebra before PChem - would have made symmetry groups MUCH easier to really grasp and manipulate. I was told by four people that if I hadn't helped them through the math part they probably would have failed PChem. I picked their brains for OChem pearls in return.

    Make friends with a math major - if you can convince one to take PChem with you, pay them in copious quantities of pizza and beer for math "tricks" and your life will be much easier. If you like math and do it well, you'll have no problems and may even enjoy PChem!
  15. Medikit

    Medikit Plastic Bag Middle Class 10+ Year Member

    May 21, 2004
    Like most classes the professor is always a big factor. Physical Chemistry is a lot more headache inducing than either the introductory chem or physics classes. But I think that should be expected. The concepts are a little more out there as you sort of get to survey quantum mechanics and apply QM to atoms and molecules. The derivations are actually reall cool and you get a clearer understanding of what's going on in spectroscopy techniques and where some of the equations that we've been using come from. At my school we use McQuarrie and Simon which is a big red book that means business. We start with QM and then we learn stat thermo and finally see how stat thermo relates to traditional thermo. This is different than many universities but I also think it's the best way to do it. As for the class itself I really haven't stressed too much about it. It's very straight forward so there isn't a whole lot on the tests that I'm not expecting, which is different from some of my Biology courses. Once again I'm sure it's professor dependent and I may seem pretty relaxed because I definitely had an awesome professor who really took the time to explain things. Hell sometimes I even drop by his office and discuss metaphysics rather than chemistry. Talk to some of the students taking it now at your school and see what they think.
  16. fpr85

    fpr85 "newbie" 5+ Year Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    I haven't taken the course.
    I recently asked my Biology professor what was his hardest course back in undergrad and he said Physical Chemistry. He said he took it and dropped it a total of 3 times (he never completed the course)! Why? He told me he never had the math for it. I guess it just shows what a great emphasis upper-level math plays in the course.
    Come to think of it, I have awful math skills, won't be seeing me in that class, ha!
  17. ddmo

    ddmo BMF 10+ Year Member

    Sep 8, 2003
    Considering medical school and a 4.0 chem degree, it was the most difficult class I have ever taken. Although, I think it depends on where you take it, some places seem easier than others. It's more or less a semester of deriving every single equation you learned in gen. chem., then learning why those formulas don't work for sh*t, and if you really want to use them, then you need a different equation for every single varialbe known to man. That said, I got real lost in the forrest, could never see where we were going with what we were doing. When I restudied it for my senior comprehensive exams, everything seemed to fall into place.

    Pchem, like med school, is a like removing a band-aid... just rip it off as fast as possible and deal with the pain.
  18. riceman04

    riceman04 10+ Year Member

    Mar 21, 2005
    Los Angeles

    UMmmmmmmmmmmm at your school the curve was pretty good, but maybe not at others!!!!!!!!!!
  19. Singing Devil

    Singing Devil Displaced Southerner 5+ Year Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Which was my point. Not that I'm an expert in the specific history of metals, but it's obvious that harder metals have supplanted softer ones as time has progressed, and the older metals have been considered soft in retrospect. Whether gold or bronze or copper or whatever to what we have now. You get the illustration. I hope.
  20. iwutitan

    iwutitan Member 5+ Year Member

    Jan 5, 2005
    Just from the name P.Chem... you can tell that it's dry and hard. It helps alot with the MCAT though, ofcourse the PS part. Couple of my friends are so glad they took P.Chem because there was so much of it in their form (April MCAT last week)... but it depends on what form you get.
    Anyway, I believe if you want to be a chem major... you don't really have a choice, it is a must take class to complete the major. Good luck!
  21. AStudent

    AStudent Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jan 24, 2005
    I'm just now finishing up my chem degree now and only have 1 week of PChem left. It's not all that difficult as long as you stay up on things.

    I would recommend at least 3 bottles if you fall behind:
  22. japhy

    japhy Ski Bum 10+ Year Member

    Nov 8, 1999
    Alta, Ut
    ah sh!t, good ol' pchem.

    i enjoyed my first semester of pchem and was thrilled when i walked away with a b+. the professor was great and we had smart ta's.

    second semester was HELL. i got a 33% on the first exam... and i was above average! that professor didn't get tenure and is no longer with the university. i wonder why?

    pchem was THE hardest class i took in college. however, i genuinely enjoyed the material (at least 1st semester). the concepts were amazing and i was thrilled to learn that i could still do all that math.
  23. Learfan

    Learfan Machine Gunner 5+ Year Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    In a very dull place
    Yes, P-Chem.

    I remember the torment it like it was yesterday. An amazingly difficult two semester class filled with the most confusing nonsense where my efforts directed toward comprehending the torrent of information were all but totally wasted. As a chem major it was incumbent on me to pass but I was very scared. Turns out I was scared for a good reason.

    The first semester, the book babbled non-stop in partial differential equations, a language I was ill equiped to understand. Calculus never made much sense to me. After three semesters of it, I was just glad the torture was over. To this day, I have no idea what the p-chem book was trying to tell me. I should admit at this point that I am an organic chemist. My species is not gifted when it comes to math.

    I took the final for the first semester with the flu and got a B- for the course. Not too bad. If I had been coherent (no 103 degree fever, not wasted on various OTC flu remedies) I might have achieved a B.

    Then came the second semester. At the first meeting of the class, the professor held up the text and told us "Consider this book to be dehydrated knowledge. You just add sweat." A few bitter chuckles were heard eminating from the back of the room where all of the math majors sat. This pleasant welcome was followed by seventeen weeks of interminable and horridly dull lectures about statistical mechanics, canonical ensembles and other topics far too strange for my very limited organic synthesis oriented mind to grasp. The book continued to babble in partial differential equations except now the equations were much longer and far less comprehensible. To this day, I have no idea what the second semester class covered. I took the final and recieved an A- for the class, proving that one can actually fake comprehension of a very difficult topic.

    Good luck to the OP. I will say to you what Turkish judges say to convicted criminals as they are about to be sentenced to a long term in an inhospitable, dank, fetid, dangerous and dark prision where unspeakable things may happen to them:

    May it pass quickly.
  24. aikomidori


    Oct 3, 2009
    amazingly, I read this thread before starting my pchem class this fall, and now that it's over, i didn't think it was that bad actually...i got an A :D either 1) i'm smart or 2) the class was probably easier than what other people here had...

    It might be the second one. ;)
  25. novawildcat

    novawildcat Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2005
    It was a very hard class. My professor was very old and super hardcore. He worked for the government during the cold war for what would become the department of energy, and I suppose he was working on atomic weapons/energy programs. For some of the exams, some people were scoring in the teens and 20s out of a 100.

    The worst part by far is the pchem lab. It's extreeeeeeeeeeeeeemly tedious and time consuming, especially all of the error analysis.
  26. novawildcat

    novawildcat Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2005

    Ah yes, real analysis. It has to be the most beastly class out of most colleges. Adv. calc made pchem look like boy scouts.
  27. Omar Gooding

    Omar Gooding Destroyer 2+ Year Member

    Oct 14, 2009
    Yea, at my school we were required to take Differential Equations and Linear Algebra before we could take PChem.
  28. junjinie


    Sep 2, 2009
    you learn about a cat in a box with poison, and the cat is "alive" and "dead" at the same time.
  29. njbmd

    njbmd Guest Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
    Gone Walkabout!
    P.chem is no more difficult than any other class if you have sufficient math background. If you don't have the math background, either get it before you start or get a "P.chem math refresher" and try to master what you need. If not, you are in for a long semester.

    BTW, two semesters of baby calculus is not enough math for this course if it's taught at university undergraduat level.
  30. FlowRate

    FlowRate 7+ Year Member

    Oct 13, 2008
    Right now we're doing electrochemistry, physical transformations (expansion of gas, work, etc.) and what not. It's not too bad. We get lots of equation sheets, which makes life way nice. As far as I can tell, the class is curved to an A- = class average. Some friends and I are doing significantly better than the averages, so we're fine.
  31. avo


    Nov 16, 2009
    That's a disgustingly nice curve.

    My current pchem class is on kinetics at the moment, and our third exam is going to be the hardest, I think. The thermo stuff was very easy; the math wasn't bad for me and the professor is excellent. But kinetics is a bitch.
  32. aikomidori


    Oct 3, 2009
    man that's hardcore :eek::eek: my pchem class has an optional final and i didn't have to take it cause i got an A...oh well at least my pchem class was only a semester long:confused::confused: i couldn't imagine two semester of this:confused:
  33. BozoSparky

    BozoSparky 10+ Year Member

    Mar 13, 2006
    I found Mathematics for Physical Chemistry, by Mortimer, kind of a mathematical suppplement, to be useful as an undergrad in physical chemistry...also, there is a Shaum's problem set that gives tons of examples...

    You guys are right, the course depends on the teacher and you will have to do lots of problems to succeed.
  34. pelu


    Sep 18, 2009
    I still think most of it is made up. If you have a crazy p-chem professor like I did, chances are you'll be entertained throughout the class. This does not, however, compensate much for a poor grade. Just roll with the motions if you decide to take it, also realize that most concepts are extremely abstract.

    Once you get to learning about negative kinetic energy, quantum tunneling, and hermiticiy, get back and post on this thread...good luck.
  35. SoundofSilver

    SoundofSilver 5+ Year Member

    Dec 25, 2008
    I thought P chem was much easier than O chem personally.

    When I took P chem, it was more conceptually based than it was math heavy. While we still had to memorize an overabundance of equations, the focus was on what those equations truly meant and why they're important rather than simply solving seemingly irrelevant, yet sophisticated math problems.

    Viewing P chem in a more conceptual light made studying for physical sciences on the MCAT much more tolerable.
  36. Narmerguy

    Narmerguy Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Jul 14, 2007
    Please tell me there aren't surface integrals in this...anything but those.
  37. novawildcat

    novawildcat Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2005
    While not surface integrals, there's still plenty of path integrals involved since a whole semester in Pchem is thermo. Lots of work functions.
  38. EyEnStein 07

    EyEnStein 07 Senior ɸ Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    East Coast
    whats so bad about surface integrals? there fun
  39. Wildebeest


    Dec 2, 2009
    Chicago, IL
    P-chem is no doubt one of the most difficult courses in any undergrad. I'm talking mostly about the material itself, as many students at some institutions may get A's because the professor curves significantly. You cannot succeed in p-chem through memorization, it is a very conceptual/abstract subject and you really need a good basic understanding of the material. I felt that the best way to do well in that class was working on the course work individually and then sharing ideas amongst classmates. P-chem is do-able since most who take the course are chemistry majors and at least have some interest in it. I feel the professor who teaches it makes a big difference, because if they can't teach it well, how the heck are you going to learn it. Its not like having a crappy biology professor, because you can easily teach yourself biology using the textbook; trying to read a p-chem book will drive you mad. Talk to other students who have already taken it at your school to find out.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2009
  40. Fakesmile

    Fakesmile 5+ Year Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Pchem >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Orgo >> Gen Chem
  41. Narmerguy

    Narmerguy Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Jul 14, 2007
    Depends what kind of surface integrals you've been doing I suppose. I hated almost all of the ones that I did.

    What type of math is typically "challenging"? Obviously it won't be simple integrals and derivatives and things like that. What's the type of math that's tripping students up?

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