CHEM 444 Course Policies

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The University of Delaware

Physical Chemistry II, CHEM 444

Course Policies



  • Thomas Engel and Philip Reid, Physical Chemistry (3rd Ed.), Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco, 2013.
  • C. Dybowski and A. Teplyakov, Essential Data and Equations for a Course in Physical Chemistry (2nd Ed.) D&T Publishing, Newark, Delaware, 2011.


  • Thomas Engel and Philip Reid, Student’s Solutions Manual for Physical Chemistry, Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco, 2006.


Quizzes and Exams

Quizzes are given weekly, as indicated on the schedule.

Two midterm exams are given during the semester. Each exam’s coverage is announced in class during the week preceding the exam.  These are given on Saturday mornings (listed in the Assignment page) so that students have more than sufficient time to finish these exams.  The final examination is a three-hour comprehensive exam.  The examinations and quizzes are graded only on what is written on the paper.

For problems with numerical calculations as an outcome, credit is given for a complete set-up of a problem. The answer must, at a minimum, be a final formula to obtain the requested parameter in the question (with an indication of how the formula is derived from equations in the handbook).  All values of parameters must be in the final formula at their known accuracy, with correct units indicated.  For answers presented without a final numerical value, the proper units of the final answer must be indicated, and the grader should only have to perform a simple calculation with a calculator based on your bottom-line equation to obtain the correct numerical answer. Thus, the final equation must include all actions such as conversions of units.  You must always give the correct, REASONABLE units of the parameter being calculated. [For example, ergs/cm3 is not an appropriate reasonable unit of pressure.]

Because many equations are given in Essential Data and Equations for a Course in Physical Chemistry, NO credit is given for just writing down an equation that is in the handbook.

Of course, we emphasize that a correct numerical answer to such questions is preferred.  Numerical answers must be correct to within the proper uncertainty of the input infomration. Obtaining the final numerical answer to a question has advantages; it helps you eliminate various errors originating from unit conversions, mix-up of formulas, and mistakes of logic (such as using the wrong formula for the situation).  It is a good practice (and you get lots of partial credit) to derive formulas using symbols for all quantities. Solve for the unknown (answer) and below this solved equation write the same equation with numbers and their units for all the symbols.

Answers without units are wrong. In an exam or a quiz, pause at the point of choosing a formula to review your choice. This is the crucial part of problem solving.  Answers to questions not asked are totally wrong.  Multiple answers to a question, even if one is correct, receive no credit  (Yes, we have had that happen.) because they indicate a fundamental failure to understand the underlying principles whose knowledge the examination seeks to determine.

All answers must be fully justified by the work shown on the exam. Merely writing down the answer, whether from memory, intuition, or “peeking” will not cut it. No matter how much a student may state it (and truly believe it), knowing something in one’s head or heart does not count; only what is on the paper counts.

The bottom line: Exams and quizzes are methods of communicating what you know to the grader.  Take time to SHOW that you know what is going on.  Only the written words on the page tell the grader what you know,

Material for quizzes and examinations:

  • Exams and quizzes are closed book.
  • You may use your copy of the Essential Data and Equations for a Course in Physical Chemistry (also called the handbook) for exams and quizzes.
  • Do not write anything (notes, formulas, problem solutions, or the like) in your handbook unless you are told to do so by the instructor; it is not a crib sheet. Handbooks may be examined during, before or after exams. Using a handbook containing any unauthorized material is cheating.
  • Bring a calculator and straight edge to exams and quizzes.
  • Programmable calculators are permitted, but, since you must show ALL WORK on the paper, they save little time. Answers without supporting work are worth nothing!  You may not store answers or formulas on constants in the calculator before and exam or quiz.  Doing so is considered cheating.

Appeals on Grading

If you feel your exam or quiz was not graded correctly, bring this to the attention of the grader no later than 7 days after it is returned to you. The longer you wait, the less likely we will make a change in the grade. No change in grading will be made if the exam contains erasures or has in any way been altered since its return.


Homework problems are suggested in the assignment sheet.  Homework is not graded and does not have to be turned in. However, you are strongly advised to work all problems and keep current in the course.  Do homework problems at exam speed with the handbook. You should expect to put at least nine hours per week outside of class in this course on homework. You are encouraged to work and discuss problems together, but remember that your only help on the exams or quizzes is your own knowledge. Make sure you understand every step and can solve similar (not analogous) problems; do not just follow along as someone else solves a problem.


You are responsible for knowing all material taught in lectures, as well as the assigned readings, including any you miss by an absence from class.  Most students find regular class attendance essential to passing the course.  If you must be absent for a valid reason on the day of a quiz or exam, contact the instructor before the absence occurs if possible, but within a week of any quiz or exam that is affected, and present your reason for the absence.  If reasonable (See below), you may be granted an excused absence.  [Only the instructor of your section may give you an excused absence, at his discretion.]  The default is an unexcused absence if a paper is not received from a student.  It is the responsibility of the student to contact the instructor about absences and to make sure all papers have been properly recorded; if in doubt, talk to the instructor.

There are no make-up exams or quizzes in this course.  Generally quizzes are not given early.  Quizzes and exams missed with an unexcused absence are given a grade of “0”.  Quizzes missed because of an excused absence do not count towards the quiz average, but missing them makes each of the other quizzes count a slightly higher percentage of the quiz average.  If you miss a midterm examination because of an excused absence, an equivalent grade is substituted for it based on that part of the final exam covering the same material.  Do not miss exams and quizzes needlessly; it may have a significant negative effect on your grade.

The following are examples of valid excuses for absence:  (1) required attendance at a university-sanctioned event (band, sports, etc.), (2) representation of the university at regional, national or international meetings, (3) observance of religious holidays, (4) death in the immediate family; (5) personal illness.  Desire to go home early for the weekend or to leave for a special occasion are, unfortunately, NOT valid excuses for missing a quiz or exam; the university calendar is quite explicit, and you are expected to plan your time to be at the university for all classes.


Grade Weights:

  • Quiz Average        =  1             (12.5% of final grade)
  • Midterm Exam 1   = 2             (25% of final grade)
  • Midterm Exam 2   = 2             (25% of final grade)
  • Final Exam            = 3             (37.5% of final grade)
  • Total Weight         = 8             (100% of final grade)

Note:  In addition to these materials, the honors section receives a grade based on special projects and class participation, such that work on quizzes, special projects, and class participation are equal to 12.5% of the final grade.

Grade Cutoffs: (in percentages of total points at end of semester)

  • A greater than 90%
  • B greater than 70%
  • C greater than 55%
  • D greater than 45%
  • F below 45%

Note:  These are the percentages for the lowest grade in the category; these are for the “unsigned” grades.  No “curve” is used in this course, nor is there any predetermined quota for any grade: we shall (happily) give all A’s or (unhappily) all F’s, if the grades are earned.

Learning Goals

{Numbers in brackets indicate the departmental goals.}

A student who successfully completes CHEM 444 should be able to do the following:

1. Understand the nature of matter at the atomic and molecular level.

2. Apply theoretical principles and mathematical analysis to the solution of problems. {1}

3. Be able to explain clearly reasoning in written examinations. {10}

How to Pass Physical Chemistry

  • This is probably the hardest course you have taken or will ever take, and extensive, consistent work is required to do well in it.  Expect to spend 10 to 20 hours per week outside of class studying.  We rely on Stanley Kubrick, the film director, (as quoted by Matthew Modine in the New York Times) to tell you what must be done to succeed, and how not to:  “People don’t do their homework.”  He then goes on to say he has to waste time because “people are not learning what their job is supposed to be” because they haven’t done their homework beforehand.  Learning requires practice that can only be done by the learner alone, by careful reading, re-reading, and working of homework; it is as true in learning physical chemistry as it is in any pursuit.  Instructors and friends can help, but the student must put in the effort to gain the information and make the connections so necessary to being an educated person.
  • Read assignments before lecture; reread them afterwards.  Reading scientific writing is SLOW; one cannot scan and get the information, as one does in reading a novel.  It requires reading a sentence and then thinking about the meaning, then reading further, then going back to make the intellectual connections to what one already knows.  It is slow, and sometimes boring; but proper study brings great rewards.
  • Attend class regularly; do not fall behind.
  • Do problems! Each assigned problem illustrates an important concept — careful rereading and study of the text is usually required to work problems. You cannot learn by reading or copying problem solutions any more than you can learn to swim or play the piano by watching someone else. Do all the problems assigned; then work some of your own choosing from the others in the chapter!
  • Timing is important.  Attempt problems immediately after covering the material; if you can’t do them, reread the material. If you still can’t do a problem, seek help immediately. This is a time-consuming process, but is important for the learning process.  You CANNOT learn physical chemistry the night before an examination.
  • Seek help immediately if you cannot work a problem; the instructors and teaching assistants can help, but only if they are aware of the problem.
  • Study all text examples carefully, filling in the missing steps and checking units at all stages. In some cases it will be helpful to work them out using Mathcad.
  • Consider problems to be diagnostic: if you can’t do them, you have missed something important; copying from someone or a book will not help.
  • Students are reminded that, by faculty senate rule, the minimum penalty for cheating is an F for the entire course. Any incident of cheating or suspected cheating will be reported to university authorities for appropriate action.

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Last Updated: February 15, 2018.
This page maintained by Andrew V. Teplyakov and Cecil Dybowski.