Whether you’ve just begun your Organic Chemistry journey or you’re looking to improve your current study habits, here are some useful tips for being successful in your Organic Chemistry course.
First and Foremost: Keep Your Cool!
Organic Chemistry is one of those subjects that somehow automatically elicits a series of fearful groans whenever mentioned. College students have vilified the course for decades, passing down horror stories like old folktales of a mystical, unconquerable beast. But just like folktales, these stories are often exaggerated and, at times, completely false. Organic Chemistry is not an impossible course. If you approach it with confidence and open-mindedness, you may realize that it can be quite interesting and even, dare I say, fun!
But even though Organic Chemistry may not be as intolerable as your peers make it out to be, it is still a very challenging course. Therefore, it is useful to be strategic in your approach.
Second: Forego the Flashcards
Up until this point, you may have been able to survive off the good old “memorize and regurgitate” method of studying for science tests. You find yourself waiting until the last minute to cram an entire semester’s worth of information into one night. Though this can be a fast and simple way to cut out hours of studying, this method will not work for Organic Chemistry.
Organic Chemistry is fundamentally more conceptual than most other science courses. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a firm grasp on not just what is happening but why it is happening. This takes time and practice, and it cannot be mastered in just one or even two nights of studying.
Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by building a strong foundational and conceptual understanding of the principles of Organic Chemistry early on. This will help you when you move on to more complex concepts like mechanisms, especially in the second-semester Organic Chemistry course.
Third: Take Really Good Notes
Unlike the General Chemistry and Physics courses you may have taken in the past, Organic Chemistry is primarily concerned with the physical nature of molecules. This means that, rather than using formulas and functions, Organic Chemistry uses molecular structure and 3-dimensional shape to explain scientific concepts. A good way of orienting yourself to this change is to take notes that will supply you with a rich visual understanding of the concepts that you are learning. In this way, you may find it useful to take color-coded notes or use a whiteboard when studying for tests. You can also watch instructional videos online that provide visual aids.
Bonus Tip: If you are finding it difficult to draw out molecules or if you’re interested in having a more tangible representation of reactions, you should consider buying a molecular modeling kit. These can be easily purchased online and allow for you to build out molecules as a visual aid.
Fourth: Practice Makes Perfect
It doesn’t matter how much you’ve read or how perfectly drawn out your notes are. If you do not practice, your chances of being successful in Organic Chemistry are very slim. The more practice that you can get, the more prepared you will be when it comes to exam time. This means completing your assigned homework, textbook problems, and practice tests when available. In total, the time you spend studying outside of class should equal to approximately twice the time you’ve spent in lecture. So if you’re taking a 3 credit hour class, you should be spending about six or more hours a week studying.
Finally: Ask for Help!
If you are having a hard time grasping Organic Chemistry concepts on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out to your classmates, TAs, or professors for extra help. Often, an alternative explanation or demonstration can clear up any confusion or misunderstanding.
Additionally, you may find it useful to find a tutor who can guide you through the ins and outs of Organic Chemistry, providing additional support when needed. Check out the tutors we have available through Smart Alec! Our top-of-the-line tutors provide in-home and video tutoring services in a wide variety of subjects, including Organic Chemistry.
Unfortunately, there is not a simple plug and chug formula for getting an A in Organic Chemistry. Just give it your best and don’t give up! If you’re ever feeling stuck, remember these tips and don’t forget to ask for help. Good luck out there!