How to study Chemistry for IMAT

Studying chemistry is lots of fun, right? We bet it is one of your favourite subjects.

Do not despair. This subject is a hassle for most students. Chemistry is not pleasant, especially when approaching the subject for the first time. However, having a good grip on it is actually fundamental and probably the best strategy to pass IMAT


Important note: the test has 12 chemistry questions, i.e. 18 points. They can make the difference, especially in tests considered “simpler”, where reaching a higher score means being rewarded for coming as close to the maximum points as possible. For example, in the 2016 Italian Admissions Test (not IMAT), an exercise was so simple that everyone got it right. The candidates’ admission chances ended up depending on more complex questions.


The only way to approach this challenging subject is to have an efficient study method based on a well-planned schedule and stick to it with firm determination.


Here is a general outline of how you should approach the summer before the test: 

  1. Study Theory
    For this part, you do not want to spend hours leafing through books, rereading the same pages endlessly. Chemistry is a practical subject: you will be required to solve exercises.
    It’s imperative to have a daily plan for each topic: first, you want to study the theory chapter and then do around 20 practice quizzes on that same topic. In this way, you will maximise your study. Remember to do active recall: once in a while, look back and revise your work. This will help you memorise better.

When should you do all of this? Within the first week of August.

  1. Thousands of quizzes
    Get a medium-high level exercise book with explained solutions and get on with it. Every mistake you make before the admission test is actually an excellent chance to consolidate your learning. Always correct your exercises and learn from the corrections. With time you will make fewer mistakes. Chemistry is quite repetitive: you’ll find the same exercise over and over, simply written differently. Practice makes perfect. Once you learn the underlying mechanism, you are ready to go. 

When should you do all of this? Within the first 2/3 weeks of August.

  1. Simulations (i.e. mock exams)
    Now that you have reached this level, individual subjects no longer worry you. Find old admission tests and simulate the exam. Remember to time yourself! Do one or two tests a day, as if you were taking the actual IMAT, and once you have corrected them, learn from your errors. The last thing left to do is a bit of final revision. 

When should you do all of this? The last week of August and the first few days of September, just before IMAT. 


Let’s focus on chemistry now. We must make a disclaimer first. Depending on the school you attended, you might have studied chemistry more or less than other students. Don’t panic! If you’re not confident with stoichiometry and the pH, it doesn’t mean that you’re a lost cause. You’ll simply need to work a little harder. 

Here are some tips to guide you: 

  • Start with the periodic table. You will need it in the months to come anyway. Put it on the wall of your room, learn it and commit it to memory. Yes, learn it by heart! At the test, calculators or periodic tables are not allowed. Many of the test questions assume that you know where the elements are located, so do not be fooled into thinking otherwise. Besides, once you have mastered it, many of the inorganic chemistry topics will be easier to understand.
  • Try to understand and remember the mechanisms behind certain exercises, and you will start to get them right. Quite often, logical reasoning rather than specific knowledge is tested.
  • Discover which topics come up most frequently and make them your strong points.
  • Write down your mistakes and the specific revisions in an exercise book to not make those mistakes again.
  • Create a formulary to write down the most important formulas and measurements (many test questions are tricky).
  • Ask for help if you do not understand a topic. If you keep getting the same exercise wrong and your textbook is not helping, reach out to someone who knows better. It will be of great benefit to you, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Those are our tips for you. Take into account that hardly anyone studies hard for chemistry! Being well prepared is not that difficult and can really make a big difference: the effort will be worth it.

Not convinced yet? You should also know that chemistry is one of the first exams you will have to take during your first year of Medical School.

Study hard and good luck!