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Still not on a good start for Gen Chem 1 lab...

  1. Sep 8, 2015 #1
    Okay, so here is the deal. This is my third week in Gen Chem 1, and my first two labs so far were an 88 and a 74 out of 100 pts each. I do not know why I am getting this low of a grade. I do the work and I am a good student. I am taking Calculus III and Calculus Physics ATM, so I am a pretty good student.

    However, I just do not understand why my lab professor gave me low grades recently. I mean, I do the experiment exactly as it describes, write down the results and calculations, and answer both the pre and post lab questions. Despite doing everything right last experiment, I was given a 74. I am now pissed off that he would give me a low grade like that, especially since I need all A's so I can get into UC Berkeley, which is already super hard to get into. Aside from the complaining, what can I do to do better?

    I will say that this is my last chemistry class I need to take. I am only taking this because Computer Science Engineering and EE requires me to take General Chemistry 1 w/ lab. My strong suit is Physics and Math, mainly, and I study hard for all of my classes. However, lab is nothing like a regular class. I swear to God that I will never for the life of me understand how my other classmates all finish sooner than me in lab and get better grades. What the hell makes labs soo much different from lectures?

    I cannot afford another C grade, so this is really really important. If someone can help me out and give me hints that can pretty much get me straight A's for all future experiments, that would be awesome! Again, sorry for the rant, but you have no idea how infuriating this is to me.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2015
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  3. Sep 8, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    You should respectfully ask the professor why you got those grades. You should not demand an A so you can get into Berkeley. That will backfire.
     
  4. Sep 8, 2015 #3
    Don't worry, I understand the Asian values of utmost respect towards teachers and professors. To be the best, you have to learn from the best, and in the case of academics, the best would be the asians. Also, I definitely know better than to demand a grade. I don't think I have ever done that since most of the time, I work hard to earn my high grades. However, the last time I ever received a grade that low was the last exam before the final exam for Calculus 2 (which was utter BS and was fortunately dropped from my overall grade still earning me an A for that class). However, I know last semester, in my intro chemistry class, I received a lot of B grades for my labs for reasons unknown. To me, labs are just weird. In typical classes, you study, do the exams, homework, and pass with an A. In labs, the instructors are soo strict in terms of what they want, and if you do not get certain numbers they want to see on your notebook, they pretty much mark you -10 for that. I asked my professor why I got a 74 and asked if it was some kind of mistake, since you never know whether it was a technical error or if they mistaken me for someone else (which I hope is the case). If not, then he will hopefully explain carefully. I will let you know what the details are once I get them. In the meantime, I would like to just have some general tips on how to finish lab quickly and with a good grade. I am almost always the last person to finish an experiment and I do not like sitting in the lab longer than I am supposed to.
     
  5. Sep 8, 2015 #4

    berkeman

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    That sounds pretty racist to me. Are your chem problems with an Asian professor?

    And how in the world can you say that the grading of your lab work is arbitrary? Post your lab work here and we can help you understand why you are getting less than 100% scores.
     
  6. Sep 8, 2015 #5
    I don't know how that is racist. In fact, it was supposed to come off as a compliment. Statistically, Asians are the best in academics, hence why they are known for getting the highest test scores in sciences and maths. No, the professor is not Asian. The only professor I have that is Asian is my physics instructor, and aside from his thick Chinese accent, he is pretty cool.

    Anyways, the attachment contains the lab that I have done last week. Pretty simple and I followed all the steps pretty much. Like I said, I have no idea how professors in labs grade a project. I mean, all experiments are supposed to yield to different results, since there is no such thing as "the right answer." Also, as I implied in my main post, it is not a math problem since my math is pretty sharp. I cannot show more than that, however, since the professor still has my paper with my writings in it and I most likely won't get that back until a week from now. I know I am not the genius type, but unfortunately, I am not the offspring of parents with PHD's, so genetics isn't exactly on my side, unlike most of my peers in college. So aside from that working against me, then I think I would consider myself slightly above-average intellectually just from my hard work and self-discipline alone.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. Sep 8, 2015 #6

    Evo

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    I can't believe that you are coming to an internet forum saying you are last/amongst the last to finish a lab assignment and want to know how to finish quicker with a better grade and oh, woe is you, your parents aren't PhD's (unlike most of your peers, that's what you said).

    You cannot be serious. You cannot expect us to take you seriously.
     
  8. Sep 8, 2015 #7

    berkeman

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    Your attachment is not opening for me. Does it show the instructor's mark-downs?
     
  9. Sep 8, 2015 #8
    Like I said, it is just an assignment sheet that we print out. It contains the pre/post lab questions, the lab instructions, and the data-table to record measurements and calculations. The professor still has my original paper, so my handwriting and his marks is still with him. I emailed him about meeting him in office hours to talk about my grade, what I did wrong, and what I can do to improve in future labs. So unless I meet him this week, then chances are, I will not have that paper with me until next week. Is there anything else I can provide that can make help possible?

    If I wasn't serious, then I wouldn't even have a physicsforums account in the first place. I am not trying to obtain pity, I am simply explaining why I am unable to grasp the concepts. Otherwise, people are going to assume I am just a moron.
     
  10. Sep 8, 2015 #9

    Drakkith

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    A few questions:

    Do you read the lab manual beforehand so that you understand the experiment, have some idea of the equipment you need, and know how to use the equipment?

    Are you trying to do the calculations during lab when you should be doing the experiment instead?

    Do you focus on the lab or do you chitchat with others about topics unrelated to the lab?

    Is there any particular area of the lab where you're having trouble and you know that it takes you longer than most?
     
  11. Sep 8, 2015 #10

    berkeman

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    In the future, it is a good habit to keep copies of your work. If you had that here, we could try to analyze the mark-downs that you received.

    Post the last lab that you did with the mark-downs. Your surely have that.
     
  12. Sep 8, 2015 #11

    Drakkith

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    Well, was it because your results were typically a little too far from the accepted values?
     
  13. Sep 8, 2015 #12
    Before I go into lab, I have to have my labcoat and goggles, my pre-lab answered, and on top of that, I have to have my entire lab procedure written out as well; word-to-word.

    I will admit, I do try to do calculations in the middle once I received sufficient information. I can see why that slows me down. So I guess in the future, I should just record all data and do the experiment first, and then do the calculations after?

    My lab partner is studious and cares about her studies as well as I do, hence why I chose her. Yes, we are fixated and focused on the experiment the whole time and I'd say we do a good job staying focused.

    For me, I am a visual learner. So even if I do read instructions beforehand, it is different if I try to actually do it. For me, I have to see something before I can fully understand it. To just try and visualize text is very hard. On top of that, there are terminologies that I am unfamiliar with and names of lab equipment that I am still not quite aware of. To be honest with you, I just being in an environment where everyone else pretty much knows what they are doing, so it is like being dropped into shark-infested waters and being told "good luck."

    It is in the attachment. Let me know if you have trouble opening it.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Sep 8, 2015 #13

    Drakkith

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    Absolutely. Don't worry about the calculations at all unless you have to calculate something before moving on.

    I think you're overestimating the abilities of your fellow students. And even if you aren't, who cares if you're last? Why does it bother you? I can tell you right now that nobody cares whether you're first or last in your labs. Not the students, not the teacher, nobody. Someone has to be last and even if it's you, don't let it bother you. It absolutely doesn't matter. Instead, focus on doing the labs correctly and getting the most accurate data possible given your experience and the time constraints. Because the data WILL matter. Inaccurate results WILL fail you. Being last in lab will not.
     
  15. Sep 8, 2015 #14

    e.bar.goum

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    So, looking at your last attachment, I'm wondering how it can be that your poor grades are a mystery? In A, you haven't reported the measurements to the precision specified in the question, and your numbers are quite a far way off the accepted value. In B, your result for the volume is just wrong. For the definition of volume - a good hint for filling out worksheets is looking at the space you were given. If you're given 3 lines, it's pretty clear that your lecturer wanted more than an equation. Also, the symbol for density is ##\rho##, just for the record. Further, your definition of precision vs accuracy is off. The only fair complaint is that you didn't know what the mark allocation was, as it wasn't on the worksheet.

    Looking at this, my advice is to be careful in how you answer questions - if the question asks for a certain accuracy, report your numbers as such, if the question implies that it expects a long form answer, give one. Just take more care.
     
  16. Sep 8, 2015 #15

    symbolipoint

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    I have not looked at your attachment.

    Understandable. The planning and preparation to do before the lab class meeting should be drawing pictures based on what you read, and writing a procedure in your own organized form.

    Learning to use equipment in lab class of General Chemistry should be straightforward because the equipment is not likely very complicated.
     
  17. Sep 8, 2015 #16
    That makes sense. I will definitely try that in my next lab by getting rid of any temptations of wanting to calculate in the middle of an experiment.



    I get what you are saying. However, I always originally thought that I was doing everything right by not rushing out of the experiment. Of course, I am not arguing against your logic, but it is just demoralizing to see that the last person, who is supposed to have the most accurate readings, most likely got one of the lowest grades on the project.


    First, I did not know what significant figures we were using for part A. Maybe the directions for "yse 1mm increments" was a hint,but at the time, I had no idea. Also, looking at part B, I completely do not know what the question was asking. I thought it was simply just asking for me to record the volume that was on the cylinder. I have no idea where he got 13.5 mL from. I will admit, that answer for definition of density is very lazy. I should have opened my phone or textbook and write down the definition. Also, at the time I did this lab, I had no idea what the definitions of precision and accuracy was. It was only one or two days after that I learned the difference.

    Regardless, I appreciate you taking the time to look through my attachment and seeing that mess. I would say that I need to stop slacking and start studying better, but the problem is, I pretty much gotten rid of video games and most other hobbies from my life, and I am still not getting it. Ugh, balancing all of my classes/labs is very hard, especially since I have a calculus exam coming up later this week. It is a good thing I am only taking 14 credits this semester. Still, I need to change immediately and not make the same mistake again.

    That sounds like a good idea. The problem is, I just suck at drawing. Or maybe, I can youtube a similar experiment and watch it just so I can get a visual sense of what to do?
     
  18. Sep 8, 2015 #17

    e.bar.goum

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    Yes, it seems your issue is, at least in part, misreading the questions. This just is a matter of taking care. Part A told you about sig fig in "The data will be recorded to the nearest 0.5 mm". Part B explicitly asked you to "Record .. the volume of the liquid in the cylinder". This is also a matter of understanding the context of your lab! The objective was "To learn the proper use of a graduated cylinder". You should therefore expect that you'll be asked to use one! (Also, you were told about sig fig here - "estimation to the nearest 0.5 ml". In addition, you didn't need to open your phone to write down the definition of density - clearly, you knew it, as you wrote down the equation. All you needed to do was translate it to words! Basically you just need to be more careful, and think through what you are doing.

    Also, here's a pro-tip: when someone is marking work, they are way more likely to be lenient if your handwriting/presentation is neat. Putting the marker in a good mood is always advisable.
     
  19. Sep 9, 2015 #18

    micromass

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    Wow, your lab report is a mess. This looks like a draft version, not something you hand in. Surely, you can put in some more effort to make everything neat and tidy.
     
  20. Sep 9, 2015 #19

    Vanadium 50

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    I saw your original posting, before the mods edited it, and it was very much a "blame the professors" message. You've argued that you've done everything right, and that you need the A to get into Berkeley. Had you turned that in at Berkeley, the next thing you know, you'd be sailing over Telegraph Road. Micromass is right, it's a mess. And E.bar.goum is right in her assessment of what went wrong. Let me add to her reply:

    A. The density you got is 40% off, but correct given the measurements. The measurements therefore are off - by a lot. You should be able to do substantially better.

    B. "Record the volume of the liquid in the cylinder". You wrote 45 or 49 mL - I can't tell. Either way, that's nearly full. It was actually 13.5 - one-third full. If you can't tell one-third full from nearly full, this is a problem.

    You're going to have to up your game if you want to succeed at Berkeley, and the first step is to stop arguing that you've done everything right, accept that you've made mistakes and learn from them.
     
  21. Sep 12, 2015 #20
    Sorry for the late response, but I had a very busy week this week. Anyways, I found out the reason for why I got a 74, and it was because I forgot to turn in my pre-lab. I sent the scanned copy of it to him via email and he changed my grade to a 94. Yeah, I admit that I was a little hot-headed and I agree that I have a lot to work on. However, note that college and university is a place to learn, and even Berkeley students make stupid mistakes as well. That is why I am in college and why I am working to improve. Anyways, if the above posters are still interested in seeing my lab procedures to "critique it", I would be very thankful. Even though I got a good grade on my last experiment, I still feel that I can improve.
     
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