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For CN (Cyanide) yes you must memorize the charge of -1. There is a list on Professor Lavelles website titled "Naming Coordination Compounds" that has all the ligands you need to memorize along with their charges. If its not on there, its either a transition metal that can have multiple oxidation states or its charge can be found by simply counting which group the element is in.
I think it's helpful to just memorize the oxidation states of the molecules that we've been practicing during the lectures because they'll most likely pop up during the exam at some point and it'll be helpful if you know it right away. But if you don't, you can always try doing the Lewis structure. For cyanide, the carbon has a triple bond with nitrogen, so the carbon has a lone pair which gives it a negative charge of 1.
There are some common ligands that you should familiarize yourself with the charges. But as for finding the oxidation state of transition metals, it is based on the overall charge of the coordination compound. For example: Ag(CN)2- has an oxidation state of +1 because CN has a charge of -1 and there is 2 of them. The overall charge of the compound is -1 so therefore the charge of silver must be +1
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