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Start by checking the element's location on the periodic table. Elements in Group 1 have one valence electron, those in group 2 have two valence electrons. Then skip to group 13, under Boron. Group 13 elements have 3 valence electrons, then group 14 has 4, group 15 has 5, and so on until you reach group 18, which has a full valence shell.
A good reminder of how many valence electrons is to look at the group number, which is typically indicated above the top element of each column. Group 1 has 1 valence electron, 2 has 2 electrons, 13 has 3, 14 has 4, 15 has 5....18 has 8. Groups 3-12, which are the transition metals, behave differently and therefore, this rule of thumb isn't applicable.
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