Is physical chemistry hard? (solved and explained)

physical chemistry is very hard and here is how…

Is physical chemistry hard

Physical chemistry is one of the most confusing subjects in stem courses because it contains a lot of math and physics courses. As a physical chemistry student, you are required to be good at math especially calculus and physics studying Thermodynamics which is the most confusing physics subject student study.

This is not to offend you but the truth is like it is, if you are good at math, especially multivariable calculus which is the hardest calculus class. Therefore you would be automatically good In thermodynamics.

In physical chemistry, the curriculum is 70% thermodynamics subjects related to Calculus math so you won’t be focusing a lot on chemistry except for some subjects that we will list in this article. but in general, it is like studying mechanical or material Science.

 So if you are good in physics or don’t love physics,  in audition being bad, or have weak foundations in math, we will not recommend taking this major.

 is this post we’re going to discover the all details about what physical chemistry students study and what you should expect to face during this journey.

So we choose to list the five interesting and hard subjects that you will study in this course.

The hardest subject that you will study is physical chemistry

1- Calculus

The first thing you have to be good at studying physical chemistry is calculus. As we know calculus is the most complicated math subject that college students can study. you won’t Study simple calculus classes like in high school.

 you would need in this case to have Advance knowledge in calculus subjects like multivariable calculus and so on.

So in physical chemistry, you need to be good at these 4 principal points of calculus:

  • derivatives
  • integrals 
  • differential equations 
  • partial derivatives 

1 derivative 

The first interesting thing that you have to revise as a future chemistry physics student is derivatives, in other words, you need to be good at this subject to make complex derivative equations that can hold multi variables.

Derivatives require one to be good at making a lot of exercises or solving problems to gain experience. The thing that makes the derivatives hard for most students is in most cases they don’t have solid Basics courses in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.

algebra 1 vs algebra 2

 so in general if you suffer or have weak foundations in math we will not recommend studying physical chemistry. That is to say, you have to be very good at math.

 to make some insurance, the good sign that would allow you to study physical chemistry is being good or getting good grades in high school math exams including calculus and algebra.

2 integrals

Integrals are the second subject that physical chemistry students will be using frequently especially solving complex thermodynamics issues that are based on making double or triple integral equations of an issue.

But unfortunately, to be good at integrals you must be good for sure in derivatives. So if you aren’t good or struggle in Integrals. Therefore you will suffer in integrals and be unable to solve or use them in physical chemistry which is highly required.

3 differential equations 

Differential equations are also important in physical chemistry especially when it comes to solving some chemistry or Thermodynamics equations you will need in some cases differential equations to find the solution.

 what makes differential equations hard, especially for students who did not understand them well derivatives. So, for this reason, we mentioned that. In order to be good at differential equations, you must be good at derivatives so you could not face any problems.

4 partial derivative 

The latest hard and important subject in calculus that you would need in physics chemistry is partial derivatives.  To clarify, partial derivatives is Is making a derivative of a function that has more than one variable for instance functions like in this form below.

f(x,y,z) = 5x² + 5y² + 5z²

As we can see in this example we have three variables that we should make for each one, a special derivative. That is to say, we have to make a derivative of  a function by considering:

  1.  in the first step, x is a variable and y and z are constants
  2.  in the second step, why is a variable and x and z are constants?
  3.  in the last step, z  is variable, and x and y are constants 

Partial derivatives require one to be good in derivatives and have solid basics in algebra courses like fractions, factorizations, etc, all basics of algebra.

So to summarize all that we said you have to be very good in math calculus if you want to succeed in physics and chemistry classes.

 if you don’t you invite to read this article that teaches you how to prepare yourself for calculus before taking this class.

2 – Thermodynamics

The first thing that makes physical chemistry the hardest subject, is thermodynamics. That being said, thermodynamics comprises a lot of subjects that have a lot of rules and equations which finally require a lot of memorization and analytical thinking.

 physical chemistry students are required to study a lot of thermodynamics subjects, we can say that thermal dynamics cover More than 70% of the curriculum physical chemistry subject. That being said, you’ll be studying physics more than chemistry in this program.

 We will listen to you as a principal subject that you will study in the thermodynamics physical chemistry course:

  • the first law of thermodynamics
  • the second law of thermodynamics
  • Gaz nature
  • entropy
  • energy cycle tronsofamtions
  • Properties of a System
  • State and Equilibrium
  • Processes and Cycles
  • the relation between pressure, temperature energy
  • moles and gas laws
  • Maxwell Boltzmann distribution

Thermodynamics is a subject that you will need to use and apply the all knowledge of Calculus math that talked about in the previous paragraphs.  To be honest it is the most confusing and hard subject that you will face in the physical chemistry curriculum.

 if you want to know more about Thermodynamics and why it is hard you can read this article below:

Thermodynamics is so hard and here is why: 9 reasons

3 – equilibrium

The third subject that you will study in physical chemistry is equilibrium that’s being said how objects can change their energy and you reach some state of equilibrium.

 for instance, if we put two objects close together:

  1. one object’s temperature is 100 cc’s 
  2. The second object’s temperature is 0 Celsius.  

After a few minutes, both objects’ temperatures are going to reach the equilibrium state, which is 50 Celsius for each subject. So the Energy of the 100Celsius object has been transferred to the second 0-celsius object.

In Addition, you will study some equilibrium concentrations that are related to chemistry in the biology subject.

 but all of these subjects base always on thermodynamics rules so thermodynamics is the Foundational subject in physical chemistry.

4 – dynamics

In Dynamic subjects, you would be focusing on two  physics principles:

 energy kinetic and potential kinetic

Energy kinetic energy that an object holds when it’s moving like the energy of a car when it moving. the principal relation of energy kinetics is this  famous  relation below:

Energy kinetic =1/2mv² 
m is a mase of an object
v is the speed of an object

So the more speed the car has the more its energy kinetics grow.

Potential energy Is the energy of an object when it Falls from a Certain altitude its relation is written in this form below

m is a mass of an object
g is a constant of gravity 
h is an altitude

So the mall speed the car has the more its potential kinetics grow.

5 – chemistry

As we can see in this article chemistry is not a center concentration of physical chemistry subjects. That being said more than 70% of courses are pure physics courses while the rest is chemistry.  so if you don’t like to study Physics you have to be away from this major or course.

 in general, in chemistry, you will study the following subjects:

  • chemical potential
  • Acid equilibrium review
  • Real acid equilibrium
  • ️The pH of real acid solutions
  • Consecutive chemical reaction


There is a great course that you can find for free on YouTube where you will discover the all details about the physical chemistry curriculum. If you are interested to discover more information about physical chemistry you can visit or click on this link.


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.