How to Review

Reviewing and understanding the mistakes you make is the first step towards continual improvement. However, it isn’t enough to simply write down the mistakes and swear to never make them again. Instead, we must turn our mistakes and the lessons we learned from them into actionable steps and eventually practice.


To begin we will go through a structured review process. If you have already attempted some problems on your own go ahead and pick one to try this with. If you haven’t tackled any problems yet no worries we can use the sample problem shown below:

Identify the Error

First, we will focus on the reason we missed the question. It could be a content gap, not knowing where to start, or overlooking a NOT in the question stem. Whatever it is make note of it so you can create a plan to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Reason: Forgot the Ecell equation thought that I had to subtract the cathode from the anode, which is backwards

Get it Right

Next, reflect on what you did do well. We want to make sure we understand why we are getting things correct as well as incorrect. That way we can replicate the thought processes that help us pick up points.

Correct Steps: Recognized and found the correct Ered values, knew this was a galvanic cell and which Ered corresponded to the anode and cathode respectively

Up next we will pick up at our last correct step and resolve the question this time with the correct information or thought process. It is totally fine to look up as much content info as you need, but try to avoid looking at the explanation unless you are truly stuck.

What I needed to do:

Better Ways

Another way: Elimination of answers would have allowed me to get to a 50:50 since I knew this was a galvanic cell and that the Ecell must be positive

Efficiency potential:

Now let’s turn this review into a list of takeaways.


  • Content: When calculating Ecell of a galvanic cell you have to subtract the Ered of the anode from the Ered of the cathode
  • Content: Galvanic cells always have a positive Ecell and -delta G
  • General: Question is a 50:50 without having to calculate anything only requiring one piece of information

Next we want to think about some actionable steps we can take to ensure we don’t miss this type of question again.

Action Plan

  1. Memorize the Ecell equation by reconceptualizing it (In a galvanic cell I can just flip the sign of the smallest number and sum the two values) and create an Anki card for this topic if one doesn’t already exist
  2. Do 5-10 practice problems that require me to apply the Ecell equation
  3. For each practice problem, I complete seeing if I can eliminate any answer choices before calculating the actual value

In essence, the action steps turn our takeaways list into a powerful tool that prevents us from missing another question similar to this one. We will address our memorization issue for this content area. Overlearn the question by doing 5-10 more questions like it while practicing elimination strategies.

It is possible that a similar question will come up and that we will miss that one too, but pretty unlikely if we follow through with these action steps.

I Don’t Have Time For That

A lot of students tell me that they don’t have time for this process. I agree that this is a time-consuming way to review exams and questions in general. However, it is also a long-term investment that should save you time in the long run.

It’s very unlikely that you will miss a question similar to this one again and thereby you shouldn’t have to review the material again. You can instead move onto the next topic or question that you struggled with and solve it. Rather than constantly rehashing the same topic multiple times over.

You also don’t have to do it all at once I advocate setting aside 30 minutes per day to work on this. If you start this process at the beginning of your study period, you can master a great number of questions. As you become more and more confident with reviewing questions and exams you can start to skip straight to creating an action plan saving even more time.