Organic Chemistry: A Science Major’s Hell on Earth

I’d like to be able to offer comfort to all science majors out there who have to take organic chemistry and say its not as bad as you hear but unfortunately it was. Unless organic chemistry just comes naturally for you and it clicks in your brain, you will have to study and do extra work to get the grade you want. I just finished my first, and luckily only, semester of Organic and I just barely managed to get the grade I needed to pass. In fact, after the final I was on the verge of tears because I thought there was a chance I didn’t get the grade I needed to pass the class. So I’m hoping to save some of y’all the trouble and share some things that helped or would’ve helped me with the class.

  1. Choose your class wisely. This is definitely one of those times where I would research my professors before taking a class. Organic has hard enough material as it is, you don’t need to add a hard professor to the mix. So read reviews on, but be thorough, don’t just look at the average rating. Read through the comments and decide for yourself if that professor fits your learning style. Also use your connections, typically you don’t take organic your freshman year, so ask people you know who they’ve taken or what they have heard about different professors. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the best professor but it definitely makes your semester a lot smoother. My roommate and I both took organic this past semester but we had different professors, we compared our tests from over the semester and mine were much more difficult than her’s. Her professor gave them some multiple choice questions as well as let them know what information they would be tested on. While my professor’s tests were all free response which he graded strictly. 
  2. Be prepared going in. I cannot tell you how much I wished I had prepared better going into the class. I especially recommend knowing functional groups backwards and forwards before the semester even begins. Know what they look like, their names and be able to take a large compound, like amoxicillin, and identify all of the functional groups in it. Also be familiar with acids and bases, know the definitions of each for Bronstead-Lowry and Lewis and be able to identify strong or weak acids and bases in reactions. This will provide a better foundation so you don’t get behind and struggle to keep up when you begin learning the hard material.     
  3. Have a game plan and stick to it. If reading the textbook helps you, do it or go ahead and buy extra material to help you out and give you extra practice. I wish I had kept up with doing this, it would’ve made studying for tests much less stressful. Read the class syllabus and see if your professor recommends a certain book or email him or your TAs and ask them what they would recommend. I also recommend using videos on the internet if you still aren’t sure about a topic or if you want to be exposed to the information before you start the class. was pretty helpful for me with reviewing the basics of organic so if you have time before or at the start of the semester watch some of their videos to expose yourself to the material and it’ll  help with remembering it later on.
  4. Take good notes IN A NOTEBOOK. Organic is all about the structures of molecules so you need to be able to draw things out and do it quickly during lecture. If you have a program on an electronic device that will allow you to do it than thats great but in my experience a notebook worked best. I also kept at least one colored pen out to highlight things I felt were important like the arrows showing where atoms or electrons move in a reaction.
  5. Take advantage of all opportunities. Do the homework. Go to class. Get help from TAs. Any opportunity to boost your grade is worth the extra effort, even if you did great on your first test. Usually thats on the easiest material and it goes downhill fast in organic, so keep making any extra effort to help keep your grade as high as possible. Having some extra wiggle room will be nice at the end of the semester and you won’t be like me stressing over the fact that I might’ve failed the class (Happiest day of my life when I realized I passed and wouldn’t have to retake it). 

Good luck with organic and if you have any tips to add let me know.

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