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Saturday, 20 June 2009

S205: The Exam

So the exam day dawns. I generally try to work through as many past papers as I can before an exam. Usually going through them 2 or 3 times.
The first time through is very slow, as I usually can't do or get stuck on nearly every question, or have nagging doubts about the answer. Either way, it means rereading sections of the books.
By the second time through, I've usually got better and can answer some of the questions without help, and others I still have to look up and check.
By the third time through, I'm no longer doing all the questions and only focusing on the areas I want to do. By this time, I'm starting to remember the answers anyway, so there isn't a lot of point going through them again.

So this plan worked well, although I quickly realised I just wasn't going to do much on book 9 - there is just too much seemingly random stuff in there to learn. I found the kinetics and molecular modelling and NMR/IR all quite good - but they are often in the same section so end up mutually exclusive.

There are 4 sections to the exam:
  • A is short answer questions - you answer 8 out of 12
  • B, C, D are long answer questions, and you do 1 from each section out of 3.
A questions are from all over, some can be answered in a couple of words, or with a simple diagram, others require maths of explanations. So its good to pick out the really short short answer ones, and build up some time for use later.
B is usually organic reactions and synthesis. Usually a retrosynthesis with analysis and some of the forward steps required. The rest are more conventional diagrams, but lots of curly arrows required (I took in a green pen just to draw curly arrows with).
C is typically kinetics, molecular modelling and NMR/IR stuff
D is often VSEPR, symmetry, and maybe some spectroscopy, thermodynamics (mainly Born Harber cycles) - and something on book 9.

Once the exam was a couple of days away, I sat down and did a timed exam using the sample exam paper they provide. This is good for showing up weaknesses, but very good for working out how much time you will have for different sections.

Anyway, in this exam I found a reasonable 8 I could do - I know your suppose to read the paper and digest, but I rushed straight into question 1, its nearly always of the same form. Fill in an orbitals diagram from an element. A nice easy 5 marks, as long as you get it right! In my mock I filled in 16 electrons when it asked for 14.

Question 2 was also so easy - I happened to know the answer, that I just wrote it down. You had to identify a compound from 4 possible options, and it happened to be very similar to a past paper - so although it was a book 9 question - I just knew it (or hope that is the case!).

Then I had to pause, and flicked through the whole paper.
I sorted out the ones I could do in the A section, and picked a couple of likely looking long questions. I worked through the A questions, leaving the thermodynamic one to the last, as that although fairly easy (and you can often check you got the right answer in the data book) it takes a little time and is easy to miss out a 1/2 or similar bit.

As usual, there is one that you can answer most parts of and one bit you can't, should you do this question or pick another one?


In the end I did about 10/12 from A, just in case (as they take your best marks). Also 5 long answer questions. I hope it's enough.

4 comments:

Simon said...

Hi,
did you ever consider doing SXR205 after S205?

Codec said...

I did vaguely, but as I'm aimed towards the life sciences degree, others took precedence (SXR375) and the S205 year we were away the whole summer.

Anonymous said...

Read this post with interest as I'm sitting the 2012 S205 exam a week today!!! Seeing you had answered too many questions has given me confidence to do the same...after all, if you throw enough mud, some is bound to stick?! ;-) I'd like to know if you passed though :-P

Codec said...

I did pass, hope you do too!