How to Conquer Organic Chemistry

Benzene and the founding scientist, Kekule

Organic Chemistry is known to be one of the most challenging college courses for second or third-year students. It is highly vital that you stay on top of the material and follow a routine consisting of the following tips:

1. PRACTICE for AT LEAST 2 hours a day!! This is very important because the more problems you do, the easier it will be to solve similar and harder problems. NEVER CRAM THE NIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM! Organic Chemistry is all about CONTINUOUS practice!

Some helpful study guides to help you build up fundamental skills:
As a Second Language: Organic Chemistry I: Translating the Basic Concepts
, David R. Klein, 2nd edition, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008
Pushing Electrons: A Guide for Students of Organic Chemistry, Daniel P. Weeks, 3rd edition, Thomson Learning, Inc., 1998

2. Attend workshop or review sections regularly and try to do the problems ahead of time. This way you know what questions to ask and you can learn other ways to solve the problem from your peers, especially useful when you’ll be doing organic synthesis problems.

3. Make flashcards for the reactions and info on its stereochemistry or special properties (where the reagent adds onto the reactant, need to use specific reagent, etc.) you have to memorize. Practice with them whenever you have spare time. Make them as you finish each chapter because they will accumulate! VERY useful for synthesis problems!

4. If you have trouble with stereochemistry, chirality, R/S, etc., use a molecular model kit to help visualize the molecule and placement of groups. If your professor allows you to use this kit on the exam, BRING IT because it really helps!

5. Master the first 5 chapters, because they will be the foundation for the rest of the subject.

6. Read the textbook to understand the concepts and do ALL the problems or ALL assigned problems in the book.

7. DO NOT hesitate to ask your professor questions! Best way to clarify concepts.

8. Have a study group, or study with a peer! Exchanging ideas on how to solve problems helps a lot.

9. Do the practice test at least 2 days ahead of the test day so you know how you’re doing!

Again, I reiterate: DON’T TRY TO CRAM BECAUSE IT DOES NOT DO ANYTHING IN THE LONG RUN! The exam is designed for you to THINK about the ways to solve the problem! You need to be alert for that, so a good night’s sleep and continuous studying will help significantly!

10. Other useful internet resources for problems/tutorials: