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Preparing to study chemistry

A summary of math and science knowledge to get you ready for learning chemistry on Khan Academy!

Welcome to the world of chemistry!

In this article, we'll summarize some fundamental concepts that will be helpful as you learn introductory or AP Chemistry. If some of the topics look unfamiliar or you don't remember them anymore, don't worry! We've provided links to help you learn or review the material on Khan Academy as you go. Remember, you can learn anything!


General skills

  • Properties of exponents and properties of logarithms: Being comfortable with using logs and exponents will be helpful for acid and bases, kinetics, and equilibrium.
  • Graphing slope-intercept form: Part of the fun of chemistry is running your own experiments. Once you obtain experimental data, you'll need to know how to visualize and interpret the results.
  • Quadratic formula: Knowing how to set up and solve quadratic equations will come in handy when you learn about chemical equilibrium.

Science-specific skills

  • Scientific notation: Chemists are lazy and don't want to write out all the zeros in numbers like 300,000,000 or 0.0000057, so we instead write these numbers using scientific notation. Understanding scientific notation will let you skip writing out all those zeros, too!
  • Dimensional analysis: My number two rule for learning chemistry is to always always check the units. Dimensional analysis is a helpful tool for making sure the units of different quantities make sense in any scientific calculation.
  • Significant figures: Scientists use significant figures to aggravate chemistry students (just kidding!) and communicate the precision of a measurement or calculation.

Physics and biology

  • The scientific method: Scientists are constantly uncovering new information about how the world works. The scientific method helps us ask questions about our observations and design experiments to test possible explanations.
  • Coulomb’s law: The force between charged particles can be used to explain the properties of matter down to the subatomic level.

Want to join the conversation?

  • starky ultimate style avatar for user TheNoob1020
    This question has been bugging me for a while. are most of the man made elements on the periodic table a combination of other elements from the periodic tables? If so why aren't they classified as compunds?
    (193 votes)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user mscott4413
    Does every element have an isotope(s)
    (37 votes)
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  • ohnoes default style avatar for user NOOR FATHIMA B
    can you please tell me what makes acids acid and bases base. what is special in them
    (0 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Mohak
      There are several definitions to acids and bases, all of which were created relatively at the same time. The Arrhenius theory states an acid donates a hydronium ion/proton(H+) and a base donates a hydroxide (OH-) subsequently increasing the concentration of each in a solution. The Bronstead-Lowry definition states an acid and base react to form their conjugate base and conjugate acid conterparts with the exchange of a proton (H+). Finally, the most emcompassing definition comes from Lewis theory. It states an acid is one that accepts electron pair (i.e. an electrophile) and a base is one that donates an electron pair (i.e. a nucleophile). This a very simiplified explanation for these definitions.
      (22 votes)
  • starky sapling style avatar for user Bom
    I am 10th grade student and I do not have any basic knowledge of chemistry
    I realised that there are no high school chemistry course in khan academy unlike physics
    Will you recommand me to study with chemistry library or Organic chemistry?
    (11 votes)
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    • leaf red style avatar for user Richard
      If you’re beginning a study of chemistry with no prior exposure to it before, I would begin with the chemistry library on KA first. It begins with the fundamental concepts. The chemistry library is essentially equivalent to high school chemistry. The AP chemistry section would be the next step up in complexity. But there are some topics which are more fully explained in the AP chemistry section compared to the chemistry library so the best strategy would be to mainly rely on the chemistry library, but check out the AP chemistry section when needed.

      I would also recommend only beginning organic chemistry after you’ve completed the AP chemistry section. Organic chemistry is one step more complicated than AP chemistry.

      Hope that helps.
      (23 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Irizi'tru'owmis
    What is an easy way to memorize the Periodic table of elements?
    (8 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user ideanazad
    Hi, can you please explain the last sentence?

    Coulomb’s law is a mathematical relationship which describes the amount of force two charged objects exert on each other. Charged objects being objects with either a negative or positive electric charge. In a chemistry context we can understand this as atom having unequal amounts of protons and electrons, since those particles are responsible for the electric charge of atoms. And force just being the physics concept of either a pushing and pulling motion between objects.

    The actual law is stated as an equation: F = (K(Q1)(Q2))/r^(2), where F is force, K is Coulomb’s constant equal to 8.988×10^(9), Q1 is the magnitude of one charged object, Q2 is the magnitude of the other charged object, and r is distance between the two charged objects. In a physics class we would be concerned with actually calculating numbers, but in a chemistry class we’re only concerned with it to show trends in the interactions between charged particles. The main points of this law for a chemistry perspective is that there is greater force between particles which have greater magnitudes of charge, and less force between larger particles.b
    (10 votes)
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  • starky tree style avatar for user Dalton Kimball
    why is there not another table for different types of bonds and molecules and how different elements react with each other
    (1 vote)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user awemond
      It's better to understand the underlying concepts of bonding than to memorize each different molecule and interaction. The number of molecules we can make is truly limitless. Chemists synthesize molecules for the first time on a daily basis.
      (15 votes)
  • leaf red style avatar for user matthew_elliott
    How do covalent bonds work?
    (4 votes)
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    • winston default style avatar for user Mehul Tandon
      there are different kinds of bonds, but a covalent bond is one which involves the sharing of electrons. For example, when 2 hydrogen atoms covalently bond, they share their electrons, forming H2. Therfore, hydrogen (which is naturally found as H2 because the single electrons really want to bond with other electrons) has 2 protons, 2 electrons, and 0 neutrons. I hope this helped :)
      (6 votes)
  • starky seed style avatar for user Nawal Abdirahman
    What is the subatomic level?
    (4 votes)
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  • starky seedling style avatar for user boihet345
    how can one study and prepare to take ap level chemistry in high school
    (7 votes)
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