Is General Chemistry at Rutgers Hard?

Last Updated on September 29, 2023

This semester, I’m enrolled in two courses: General Chemistry 161 and Intro to Experimentation 171 (AKA Chem Lab).

In response to a request I received from one of my blog readers who also attends Rutgers University in New Jersey, I’m going to share more about my experience taking Chem Lab and General Chemistry at Rutgers.

Chlorine in Augmented Reality.

Gen chem is hard. That’s for sure. The numbers speak for themselves: The average on the first exam was only 65.6%… But as difficult as the class undoubtedly is, I think chemistry may actually be my favorite class this semester.

It is a lot of work, but I must admit: I find the periodic table of elements interesting! There is so much theory involved, yet I feel like I truly am grasping the conceptual nature of everything we are being taught.

I’d even go as far as to say that Chemistry as a subject can be fun!

My favorite lesson was last week when we were learning about atomic shapes. It felt like I was watching a cartoon. While taking notes in class, it began to feel a whole lot more like I was outlining the skeletal structure for a new cartoon creature, like a Pokemon or something, and a whole lot less like anything science-related.

Have a look:

Photo Oct 13, 6 57 59 PM (1)

The one downside, if you want to call it that, is the online recitations they make us take.

Since SO MANY PEOPLE take Gen Chem, Rutgers decided to make chemistry recitations online beginning last year. I’m not sure if they’ll continue this way into the future, but for the sake of FUTURE GENERATIONS OF STUDENTS, I HOPE NOT.

I didn’t like the online format using this website called “eGyan” at first because people always use the chatbox to post such foolish comments. WHY, PEOPLE, WHY? It’s so awkward reading some of the comments haha.

Did I mention the eGyan system crashes a lot? *Note: it IS slowly getting better*.

The comments speak for themselves.

In fact, now that some time has passed, I think I’ve changed my mind and I do prefer online recitations because you can attend recitation every single day of the week if you want and re-take the Chem quiz each day, and only your highest score counts. That’s pretty sweet even though it sucks up a lot of my extra free time.

Plus, you don’t feel as embarrassed to ask questions as you would in a real classroom!

People find the actual lectures kind of useless, but I personally enjoy them! I read the textbook before each lecture so I know what to expect in terms of the discussion and then I go to class, listen, and take notes on anything extra that I think I need to review more.

Pro tip: Read the textbook BEFORE the lecture. It’ll make all the difference!

… and sometimes I bring dinner

Chem Lab at Rutgers is also fun. It is 3 hours long and most of the lab experiments take around 2.5 of the 3 hours available to complete. I say that because you can leave early if you finish early. Most of the time, I never finished early. -.- Ugh.

My favorite lab so far was the Paper Chromatography lab experiment where we made pieces of paper turn different colors. It was a crossover between science and art! Of course, it was more complex than watching it run and saying, “Oooh, pretty colorssss,” but I don’t want to give away too much in this blog post in case you happen to be planning on taking the class. That wouldn’t be fair. πŸ˜‰

You’ll just have to take Rutgers Chem Lab yourself to discover the true secrets of Paper Chromatography.

The Lab is fairly competitive since only 2 to 3 students per section get an A but the experiments themselves can be enjoyable if you allow them to be. Don’t take school too seriously or you’ll blow things out of proportion and suffer.

You shouldn’t be miserable. So many of my classmates were so serious! Be friendly to your classmates and remember that if it weren’t for Chem Lab, you likely wouldn’t have any reason to be dropping metal ribbons into burets filled with hydrochloric acid and watching as they react and form bubbles. Isn’t that awesome? We’re in it together!

I’ll never forget the day one of my classmates screwed up her experiment badly and couldn’t believe it when I stopped mine to help her. I lost 20-30 minutes in a highly competitive class to help her at the expense of my own grade. I don’t regret it. (Because of that, we became friends and talk to this day. [Updated 7 years later in 2021.])

Photo Oct 16, 3 06 19 PM
This photo was taken during my lab today! My beaker was stolen so I had to pay to replace it……. πŸ™ As I said, things get competitive.

ALSO, BE CAREFUL NEVER TO TOUCH ANYTHING BAD. I’m not sure if the lab’s soap will “remove chemicals” from your hands or add more to them… I once spilled hydrochloric acid on my hands and had more fear over touching the soap than the acid that was burning through my skin.

Let that sink in. Also, you probably won’t understand what I mean unless you see the soap, so here’s an image:

If you’ve taken General Chemistry at Rutgers with or without the Lab and recitation classes, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below!

Remember to follow my blog too! I may have graduated now, but I have an entire section devoted to my 4 years at RUTGERS UNIVERSITY! πŸ˜€

Rutgers Class of 2017, here! What about you???



  1. rebeccarice93

    You must be very brave to say that Chem is your favorite class this semester! The way you talk about it shows that you are actually really interested in the subject. Keep up the good work and I hope that by the end of the semester you are still able to say you enjoy this class.

  2. Hopefully Gen Chem will be my favorite class too! Do you have any suggestions on how to study for the tests? I saw your post on studying for Gen. Bio at Rutgers, which helped a lot, but does creating organizers help for Gen Chemistry or not really?

  3. Hopefully Gen. Chem becomes my favorite class too! Do you have any suggesions on how to study for the tests? I saw your other post on how to study for Gen. Bio, which really helped, but does making organizers for Gen. Chem help or not really?

    1. Yes, it is definitely difficult to get an A in general chemistry at Rutgers. Even if you have a background in it (which is more than I had) I think it will still be a challenge at the very least because the exams try to trick you with small things like decimal placement and similar answers where one is wrong because of some small detail that you might not catch. The curve is very decent (no proof but I suspect it’s normally between 5-10 points) and the online quizzes can be retaken every day of the week but you must consider that in order to retake a quiz you must sit through a 1 hour recitation, with classes you may not have time to attend everyday, and they are timed so if you must finish all of the questions in like 10 minutes. I would not recommend taking the class unless you’re up for a challenge. I liked chemistry but it did not do my GPA any favors. Having said that, I do not regret taking the class for fun.

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The Rocky Safari