Friday, December 30, 2011

How To Ace Organic Chemistry

Like the title?  Want to LOVE organic?

I did.  I went into the semester, not fearing organic but biology.  Got an A in biology, and a B in orgo.  Go figure!

Here's what I learned:

  1. Flashcards help if self-made and organized
    1. Alcohols (there a TON of these reactions in orgo 1)
      1. Synthesis
      2. Dehydration
      3. Epoxides
      4. Mechanisms
    2. Carboxylic Acids
      1. Synthesis
      2. Reagents
      3. Intermediates
      4. Mechanisms
    3. Ketones/Aldehydes/Enols
      1. Synthesis
      2. Reagents
      3. Intermediates
      4. Mechanisms
    4. Reagents - Miscellaneous
      1. Alkene creation
      2. Alkyne ---> Alkane
      3. Alkyne ---> cis alkene
      4. Alkyne ---> trans alkene
      5. Solvents - aprotic vs. protic
    5. Sn2, Sn1, E2, E1
      1. Why
      2. How
      3. Stereochem
      4. Mechanisms
    6. Miscellaneous
  2. Homework Problems
    1. Without the solutions guide
    2. Tabbed for questions of professor or tutor
    3. Sheets with concepts not yet mastered
    4. Repetition - repetition - repetition
  3. Old Exams
    1. Without the solutions guide
    2. Tabbed for...
    3. Sheets with...
    4. Repetition - repetition - repetition ....
Had I followed my own advice above and not studied only each and every weekend, I would have had a solid A in the course.  I did not, I got a B.  An unpleasant reminder that an A in ochem is tangible and achievable if one organizes, synthesizes, and manipulates the flashcards and data from above consistently.

I loved organic.  Thought it was a great class (and... I'm glad I'm not going next semester!)

If you need help, ask early.

If you have questions, feel free to drop me a line here - I'll try to answer it or point you to an expert who can.

Do not fear the course!


Unknown said...

I have organic chemistry coming up this semester (starts Jan 12). I'm already dreading it after hearing what others that took the course last semester have said about it. One told me to forget about sleeping, ugh. So I'm already studying...2 weeks before the class starts.

A Doc 2 Be said...


It is really not that bad.

How are you studying? What are you doing that constitutes studying?

I thought I was doing everything right - lots of hours in the library going over homework problems, solving problems, making flashcards.

I was.

I just was not repeating it consistently during the week.

It is NOT a bad class. It is NOT a hard class, it is just a LOT of material to cover.

Speculative Speculum said...

I think that I went wrong (also got a B in the first semester of organic) by not doing enough practice questions and by underestimating the difficulty of my professor's exams.

Only one person in my class got an A, so I don't feel too badly.

A "B" is great in organic. I was upset about it at first, but now I'm okay with it. I worked harder in that class than I did in other classes that I received A's in.

Slamdunk said...

Fantastic work--glad your efforts were rewarded. It is hard to type now as I am bowing in respect. I won't bore you again with how I dropped Quant and never looked back.

Anonymous said...

You made two statements that sort of surprised me...

1) As you mention, studying only on the weekends is probably not sufficient. I found that doing some every day helped a lot. Perhaps not every day, but most every day at the least.

2) You aren't taking the second semester? I thought that a year of organic chemistry was mandatory at virtually all US medical schools.

@Jackie I have written extensively on my blog about my thoughts on success in organic chemistry. From your comment, it appears you have already started prior to the class starting. I would recommend starting here:

Ignore the long drawn out schedule (I reviewed for most of the summer beforehand) and just focus on the basics. Learning nomenclature, reviewing orbital hybridization, and getting used to the line structures can really help you out a lot.

A Doc 2 Be said...

@ MSO - many med schools are in the process of evaluating the merits of ochem 2 and a few - Harvard, U of MN, among others - have done away with an ochem 1 OR 2 requirement completely

The caveat is this:

biochem requires a solid understanding of ochem 1 so while you are not required to have taken ochem 1 for the medical school, you are required to have had it for UD biochem.

Same goes for the MCAT - ochem is still covered on the bio section of that fine and lovely exam

If I am not in position to apply this summer, and therefore, am taking another year, I will probably take ochem 2 next year.

IF, however, I am admitted to my 1st choice school, one that does not require ochem 2, I will never take it. Instead, I will have loaded up on the biochem, neuro, physio, etc that I've noted elsewhere.

As my biochem and chemistry professors both say:

ochem 2 is not very useful to medical doctors and as one physician has told me, ochem 2 is just a hazing ritual with no value add whereas ochem 1 teaches a person to assimilate lots of data

Unknown said...

A Doc 2 Be, I went and found my professors course syllabus and course outline on the college's website and going by the outline I'm looking up terms/topics and reading and making note cards. Main downfall to doing this is that this may not be the syllabus he uses for class and so may go in a different order.
My main goal right now is to not feel like I'm drowning when the semester starts in a couple weeks.

A Doc 2 Be said...


What book are you using?

On the current course syllabus, what are the first 5 topics?

Then, what are the first reactions you cover?

Unknown said...

A Doc 2 Be
Sorry I didn't come back sooner, been busy getting ready for the semester (which started today). Anyway the book we are using is Organic Chemistry, Bruice 6th edition.
The first 2 subjects on the syllabus are Structure and Bonding. Then Functional Groups, Electrophilic Addition and Stereochemistry. The professor has 3-6 subtopics listed under each topic.
Today was Lewis structures, intramolecular forces and macroscopic properties.
Thank you for all your advice and I enjoy reading your blog.