Orgo, O-Chem, Organic, whatever you call it; is known as one of the hardest classes for pre-meds. Some call it the weed out, or gateway class for med school. In some respects this may be true, but I also believe that people make it out to be harder than it really is. Yes; there is a lot of content, which must be covered in a short amount of time, and yes many people do not naturally grasp it, but it is not impossible to beat. We at PMH have assembled a small list of “pro-tips” that we believe will help you survive your battle with organic chemistry.
Pro-tip #1: Don’t fall behind
The reasoning behind this is simple; organic chemistry covers a lot of material, in a fairly short period of time. If you fall behind even a chapter you will have to bring yourself back up to speed pretty fast. The concepts are all interconnected, and the material builds upon itself, so until you catch up you will have trouble learning new material. There is almost no way to survive this class, if you try to cram everything in before your exams. Keep up with your reading, problem sets, and your notes; also study continually throughout the semester.
Pro-tip #2: Memorize with reason
The sheer amount of material, which one covers in a semester, is impossible to memorize, instead learn trends, figure out where the electrons move, and how they move. This gives you 2 advantages, the first being that your basics will be extremely strong, and the second is that you will never be stumped when you are given a different reactant or product. In some reactions you may be given an intramolecular reaction, if you don’t know your basics you might be stumped, but if you know how electrons flow you will be able to wrap the reactant upon itself.
Pro-tip #3: Nomenclature is easy points
Naming is free points on organic exams, and quizzes. Keep up with the naming schemes and trends. You never want to lose points over cis, trans, or R,Z, or forgetting a number. The naming of organic compounds follows a logical method, keep up with your naming.
Pro-tip #4: Do practice problems
Practice makes better, if you can answer the practice problems, chances are you can answer test questions. Work through a various assortment of problems, so that you can get a taste of different types of questions.
Pro-tip #5: Don’t use the answer keys till you finish all the problems
It is often very tempting to us the answer keys, or solutions manuals provided to us. This can hurt you, don’t look at them until you have worked through or tried your hardest to work through the problems. Looking at the solutions doesn’t help you until you have actually done the problems.
Pro-tip #6: Read your textbook before the lecture
Come to class prepared for what is in store for you, make this a habit. The lecture will help to reinforce the concepts that you read earlier, and clear up those that don’t make sense. Also make it a habit to go over you text and notes after each class.
Pro-tip #7: Study in groups
This is one of the most under-rated study techniques, by studying with others, you can learn from others, and quiz each other, finding each other’s weaknesses and helps your friends to fix them. Teaching someone else is one of the best ways to solidify a concept in your mind.
Pro-tip #8: Practice the mechanisms blind
Until you can repeatedly draw out a mechanism without looking at the book, using various compounds, you don’t know it for sure. Make sure that you can take a blank sheet of paper and draw out the mechanism from pure recall.
Pro-tip #9: Go to office hours
Your professor will not give up on you, go and ask for help. This is a difficult subject and your professors understand that you will need help, they are there for you. Use your resources, if you have tutors at your school use them, use your friends that understand the concepts. Get help fast.
We hope that these tips can help you survive organic. You are all samurai, and we have armed you with a sharp blade, now go out there and slice organic up. We want to see all of you go out there show orgo who is the boss.