Let’s face it, we’re always looking for organic chemistry tricks and study aids to get a grasp on what is considered one of the hardest — if not the hardest — but ultimately rewarding courses in college. This post will aim to accomplish just that: we’re going to discuss different ways to help master learning concepts ranging from simple organic chemistry elimination reactions to isomerism.
Tip #1: Keep it simple
You’re not going to jump right into organic chemistry and intuitively understand isomers, enantiomers, Schiff bases, and so on and so forth. You need to be able to break things down into the fundamentals and understand simple organic chemistry before you can build upon it and grasp the advanced material. For example: learn the IUPAC naming system for molecules. That way, you can be able to name molecular structures, and then you can work backwards and draw the structures from the name.
By working your way up from the basics, you will be able to go from molecular name to structure and back again.
Use the OMS naming guide, and you’ll be able to build up your knowledge and work your way up. From there, you can also practice drawing resonance structures and arrowing pushing, which is an essential skill to have in the rest of the course.
Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice
The best way to learn is through practicing, the tried and true method of trial and error. Get a hold of different practice problems and work through them. For example, once you’re able to draw structures from names, draw various isomers of that molecule. Now you can practice naming that isomer and seeing if you really get the hang of the IUPAC naming system.
Tip #3: MEMORIZE what you need to, LEARN the rest
It is an exercise in futility to try and memorize your way through the course. Instead, just learn what you need to — build up your mental orgo toolbox. Then from there, use those tools to work through problems and learn the concepts. One of the most important lessons that orgo taught me was to manage my time efficiently. I learned the IUPAC system, then I memorized the different functional groups. That way, I was able to avoid mindlessly memorizing which names correspond to which structures, and instead break the names down into components to “build” the structures. Furthermore, because I memorized the functional groups, when it came to learning organic chemistry elimination reactions I could quickly understand and predict which functional group would dissociate from the molecule.
Tip #4: Be positive!
Organic chemistry as a course is tough — there’s no doubt about it. But the individual components and concepts can be broken down, and if you stick with it and review the concepts regularly then you will succeed in the course. There will be highs and there will be lows, but just stay steady and confident, and before you know it you just might find yourself an organic chemist aficionado.