Temperature & Heat Flow

Understand the basis of the Celsius and Kelvin temperature scale and be prepared to convert between Celsius, Kelvin and Fahrenheit.

Be able to solve basic thermal expansion problems.

Understand the molecular basis of heat capacity and be able to solve problems specific heat and molar heat capacity.

Be prepared to describe the physical basis of heat transmission by conduction, convection, or radiation and the factors governing the rate at which heat flow occurs.

The Ideal Gas & Kinetic Theory

Understand the definition of an ideal gas and how ideal gases may differ from real gases.

Possess a clear understanding of the quantities that specify the state of an ideal gas, its volume, pressure, and temperature.

Be able to fluently interconvert pressure units among pascals, standard atmospheres, and torr.

Be prepared to reproduce the formulas and solve problems using the gas laws including Boyle's Law, Charles' Law, the Combined Gas Law and the Ideal Gas Law.

Strive to understand in an intuitive way what it means to say that for an ideal gas there must be 0.0821 liter atmospheres for every mole degree kelvin.

Understand how Boltzmann's constant describes the relationship between energy at the individual particle level and temperature.

Relate the ideal gas macrostate (pressure, volume, temperature) to the behavior of the gas at the particle level as described in the kinetic theory of gases.

Be able to describe the relationship between the temperature of an ideal gas and the average kinetic energy of ideal gas molecules.

Understand the difference between heat capacity at constant pressure and constant volume.

Comprehend the relationship between molecular speed and molecular mass for two different gases at the same temperature.

1st Law of Thermodynamics

Understand the meaning of heat flow and thermodynamic work.

Explain the First Law of Thermodynamics in clear, simple terms.

Narrate an adiabatic compression or expansion, an isovolumetric transformation, and an isothermal compression or expansion in terms of the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Be able to interpret heat flow, work, and internal energy change for the model thermodynamic transformations of an ideal gas on a pressure-volume diagram.


Read chemical equations fluently. Understand the meaning of element symbols, coefficients, reaction conditions, reaction arrows and substance state symbols.

Distinguish empirical and molecular formulas.

Be able to solve percent composition problems.

Answer the question 'What is a Mole?' in clear simple terms. Explain the usefulness of the concept.

Understand how to balance chemical equations.

Confidently solve percent yield and limiting reagent problems.


Conceptually visualize the atomic, molecular and intermolecular level within a chemical substance to understand how internal energy changes during chemical processes.

Explain conservation of energy in chemical systems in terms of the first law of thermodynamics.

Understand the concept of enthalpy as a state function and what leads to enthalpy change.

Be capable of using thermochemical terminology to explain the time-temperature graph of the transformation of ice into steam.

Comprehend the importance of Hess's Law of Heat Summation both for intuitive reasoning and practical problem solving.

Appreciate the underlying basis in Hess's Law for the Standard Enthalpies of Formation. Obtain skill in using Standard Enthalpies to assign enthalpy change to chemical reactions.

2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Be able to explain the entropy of a system as a concept of statistics and probability.

Understand how the entropy of a system may change through processes such as heat flow, expansion, and mixture.

Be prepared to express the Second Law of Thermodynamics in a variety of ways and conceptualize how the different ways of expressing the 2nd Law are related.

Describe thermodynamic cycles and understand how to follow them on a pressure - volume (P - V) diagram.

Know how to determine the work done in a thermodynamic cycle from a P - V diagram.

Be able to narrate the Carnot cycle and understand the significance of the Carnot efficiency.

Recall the formula for entropy change due to heat flows at constant temperature and be prepared to bring this understanding to the understanding of the Carnot cycle.

Understand the determinations underlying the efficiency of a heat engine.

Comprehend heat pumps and be prepared to compute coefficient of performance.

Chemical Thermodynamics & Equilibrium

Understand the basis for enthalpy change in internal energy change and thermodynamic work under the First Law of Thermodynamics. Develop a facility for predicting the direction of heat flow in a chemical reactions.

Work on your intuitive ability to compare the degree of order between reagents and products in chemical reactions so that you can better understand entropy change.

Be able to predict the entropy change for phase transitions, changes in volume at constant temperature, changes in temperature at constant pressure, and changes in pressure at constant temperature.

Comprehend the relationship of the entropy change of the system and the enthalpy change (heat flow) in determining the availability of energy to drive a reaction spontaneously.

Be able to describe microscopic heat flows in a chemical system at equilibrium.

Appreciate the purpose of the convention of standard-state conditions. Be able to apply the standard free energy change to determine the free energy for various reaction quotients.

Understand the difference between an equilibrium constant and other reaction quotients in terms of free energy.

Understand the effects of changing concentrations, external pressure, and temperature on an equilibrium mixture through the qualitative application of Le Chatelier's principle.

The States of Matter

Make sure you have achieved the learning goals for Ideal Gases including fully understanding the gas laws and the kinetic theory of gases.

Be capable of problem solving using Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures.

Understand the foundation in kinetic theory of Graham's Law of Effusion and be prepared to solve problems using these concepts.

Be prepared to describe how real gas behavior deviates from ideal gas behavior. Be able to interpret the Van der Waals Equation.

Grasp the intermolecular / thermodynamic basis of surface tension.

Be able to explain capillary action.

For crystalline solids, be ready to discuss the basic vocabulary of crystal lattice structure. Comprehend the technique of x-ray diffraction.

Grasp the concept of vapor pressure in thermodynamic terms.

Understand how to read phase diagrams. Be ready to discuss the triple point and the criticial point.

Organic Physical Properties

Understand the relative strength of intermolecular force deriving from various functional groups.

Be prepared to rank organic compounds in order of melting point or boiling point.

Account for the effect of degree of saturation on boiling or melting point of compounds with long hydrocarbon chains.

From its structural formula, be able to predict the solubility of an organic compound in water.

Chemical Kinetics

Understand how the rate of a chemical reaction is measured.

Comprehend how to describe the relationship between the rate of a reaction, the concentration of reagents, and the rate constant k in a rate equation.

If presented with a rate equation, be prepared to determine the reaction order.

If presented with a graph of the logarithm of concentration versus time for first order reactions (or reciprocal concentration versus time for second order reactions), be prepared for questions involving determination of the rate constant.

Grasp the concept of half-life and be prepared to solve basic quantitative problems.

Be able to apply the Arrhenius equation to interpret changes in rate constant with temperature.

Be adept at inferring the reaction mechanism from experimental data generated by a kinetic study.

Understand the behavior of catalysts in interacting with reagents to lower activation energy.

If you asked, be able to describe the concepts underlying kinetic versus thermodynamic control of various competing reactions.

Bird's Eye View

Achieve a refreshed understanding of the material covered thus far in the course. Hold yourself accountable for having a mental picture of the field of reference for each subtopic. Try to think of the simplest situation describing the phenomena. What is the simple model system for each subtopic?

Knowledge Mapping

Understand heat flow, internal energy, and thermodynamic work in in terms of basic ideas from both physics and general chemistry, especially work & energy and electricity from physics and atomic theory, chemical bonding and intermolecular force in chemistry.

Be able to narrate the Carnot Cycle in terms of the concepts of both the first law of thermodynamics, and the second law of thermodynamics.

Be prepared to relate electrostatic potential energy changes in chemical bonding, as bonds are broken and new bonds form, to the overall enthalpy change in energy metabolism as glucose and oxygen are transformed into carbon dioxide and water.

Apply the concepts of thermochemistry and chemical thermodynamics to understand the factors that determine the position of equilibrium in important general examples such as phase change, dissolving an electrolyte in water, protolysis of an acid, and oxidation-reduction.

Be able to distinguish 'state of the system' reasoning underlying the concepts of chemical thermodynamics from 'path of the reaction' principles underlying chemical kinetics.

Psychology & Sociology

Critical Analysis and Reasoning

Make yourself a stronger reader and grow in your understanding of the thinking processes of the people who write MCAT verbal reasoning questions.