Organic chemistry is hard, even for the best of us.
Many students find organic chemistry to be one of the most daunting classes that they take during college. And they’re right, it’s not easy! But with some good study skills, it’s possible for anyone to succeed and become a master organic chemist.
The most critical component to setting yourself up for success is to work on chemistry a little bit every day. This is not a class you can cram for—it takes real practice! While there is some memorization involved, the hardest problems will be the ones where you have to think creatively about how molecules are made. It’s very common to see molecules that you’ve never seen before on an exam, so you need to have good foundation knowledge of how similar molecules behave from which you can draw. And this comes from practice! A little bit of study time every day will help save you a lot of time in the days leading up to your exam.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your study time:
- Write out problems from class handouts and problem sets multiple times to get a feel for how molecules tend to behave. This is especially important for mechanism problems. Consider making your own blank “problem sets” from examples from class and your textbook.
- After you have a good handle on the material, go back through class handouts and problem sets and give yourself a specific amount of time for each question to practice working under time pressure. Reduce the time until you can do them very quickly. (But don’t memorize specific problems!)
- Retake past exams and practice exams to get used to working under time pressure.
- Make and use study guides effectively: Consider consolidating your notes from lecture, sections, problem sets, and the book by copying the important mechanisms and concepts on new sheets of paper, and then use those as your notes from which you study.
- Form a study group. Using the reactions you’ve learned, write new mechanism questions and then give them to your friends. Talk over and explain the answers to each other.
- Review your notes and practice mechanisms on a daily basis. Practice active learning by writing out problems or talking through things out loud rather than just skimming.
- Consider purchasing a model kit. This will be especially helpful for stereochemistry problems. Some courses may even let you use a model kit on your exams.
- If you’re confused in lecture or section, write down everything the lecturer is saying and figure it out later. You don’t want to miss anything!
- And lastly, the most important one: focus on understanding and pattern recognition, not memorization.
Follow these tips as soon as you start your organic chemistry course and you’ll be one step closer towards getting that grade you want. If you’re still struggling, consider contacting Cambridge Coaching to ask what working with an seasoned organic chemistry tutor in New York, Boston, or online can do for you. Either way, remember: take it step by step. Your hard work will pay off!