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A/A+ study habits for Organic Chemistry

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by byeh2004, Dec 16, 2005.

  1. byeh2004

    byeh2004 Senior Member
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    I know I shouldnt be complaining so I won't... I just found out I got an A- in my first quarter in ochem today... kinda disappointed but I expected to do much worst... but I feel there is always room for improvement...and I was wondering to those who have gotten As in both semesters/quarters in ochem... how did you guys pull through? Organic Chemistry was intense for me.. (wayyy different from G-chem) and I had to struggle for that A-.... if there are any suggestions you could give me to study better it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    I know practice is one of the key elements to success in ochem; I redid problems in the back of the chapters over and over and over again... went to lecture everyday... didnt take much notes though in class because it was already on powerpoint (maybe thats the mistake?) put reactions and mechanisms on flashcards...

    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?
     
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  3. Sooz

    Sooz Member
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    Well, I just found out I got an A/A-(lab) in my first semester of O. Chem--I guess I'll post but take my information with a grain of salt ;)

    1. I'm not sure as I was also working and volunteering this semester, but if I had to guess I would say about 8-10 hours a week.

    2. I was pretty locked into my grade going into the final so I didn't start to study for it until the day before I took it. For the midterm, I think I started about 3-4 days in advance.

    3. Memorize, memorize and memorize...and repeated the reactions over and over and over. ;)

    4. I am a non-trad (38) and almost all of my study time came after I got my 10 year old to bed. So, solo study at night...

    5. Sex with my husband.
     
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  4. nimotsu

    nimotsu 荷物
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    This was my fav chem class as a chem major. You really can't memorize or study every single detail or you will not do that well. You have to step back and look at the basics of reactivity.. nucleophile and electrophile. Then it becomes more like using general principles to THINK through more complex problems. Of course, there is some memorization. Most of the mechanisms I imagined it was street gang drive-bys to make it more entertaining. I also played with my model kit ALOT to look at orbitals, bond strains, etc.
     
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  5. Will Ferrell

    Will Ferrell Senior Member
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    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?

    I did about 8 hour for each exam, so it averages out to about 2 hours/wk.

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?

    Exams were on Thursdays. I started saturday, finished learning sunday night and lightly reviewed the next couple days.

    Final- probably 12 hours total over 4 days.

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?

    Reactions/Mechanism - i went through the notes and took out all the reactions. On seperate paper, i wrote out the mechanisms for 4 reactions/paper. Had a nice 6-page packet for each exam. I made sure i knew each reaction cold. I did this by remembering the reactions in groups and then, without looking, regurgitating them all on paper. Took up the most time.

    I rarely did any back of the book problems. If your professor doesn't test on them, don't waste your time.

    Concepts- just looked through notes and made sure I got them.

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?

    Solo studying always.

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?

    Lots of sleep. Food (bad idea, i gained 8 pounds sophomore year). TV. Video games... stuff you enjoy doing.
     
  6. Sooz

    Sooz Member
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    Oh yes, I forgot my model kit...Geez, I can't believe I forgot about it. I used it more than any other single thing.
     
  7. redclover

    redclover Senior Member
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    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?
    I think 5-8 when there werent exams and prolly 5+ hours per day when it was close...sorry been a while

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?
    I studied the entire semester little by little and more during tests

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?
    write them down over and over again (reactions)
    practice w/ old exams

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?
    Exclusively Solo, its not really a group subject imho

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?[/QUOTE]
    I don't study the night before the exam, I just chill. Also make a "battle plan" of what u still need to focus on and when youll do it
     
  8. byeh2004

    byeh2004 Senior Member
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    lol thats so true... it took me close to 8 hours just to memorize 8-10 reactions...mechanisms are worse bleck...

    thanks for the input guys! keep them coming! =D
     
  9. Will Ferrell

    Will Ferrell Senior Member
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    try to see patterns when you memorize the reactions. many mechanisms can be generalized into a few sequences. also, try to rationalize them. it'll make it much easier, quicker, and you'll recall improve.
     
  10. shantster

    shantster Eye protection!
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    I second that advice. When it finally clicks on the basics of why a particular mechanism works the way it does (such as lone pair of electrons being attracted to a partial positive charge), it makes things so much easier because if you are giving a problem that you haven't seen before, at least you can rationalize why it is happening. Very good skill to pick up. :thumbup:
     
  11. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    Just got my A+ in orgo I.

    I second what everybody else is saying. Of course you need to study a ton, but I tended to do most of my studying in the few days before the exams. I kept up with the problem sets, but then the few days before the exams I would just buckle down (one time I had an exam on Monday and all I did was orgo on Saturday and Sunday).

    The most important thing for me is stepping back from each individual reaction and thinking about the overall patterns. Write out the general class of reactions, memorize them, but also UNDERSTAND what is happening (the mechanism, the partial charges, etc.). If you understand and have memorized the general classes then you can reason your way through nearly every reaction. Don't bother with flashcards and all that junk. Go through your notes, book and problem sets and write out EVERYTHING that you need to know on plain white paper. Study that guide a ton, then go through and condense all the reactions onto a few sheets of paper. By then they should all make sense, and you have all your reactions in one place. Finally, when you get to the final exam, write out every reaction (in name only) and all of the main concepts on a single sheet of paper. Go through that sheet and make sure that you can explain every single concept and reaction and apply them.

    Remember that when in doubt, just push electrons toward positive charge and you're golden.
     
  12. Mr. Tee

    Mr. Tee Indentured servant
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    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?

    less than 5

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?

    half a week

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?

    memorize them dearly; you should be able to recite all the reactions and equations off the top of your head (ie. have the ability to re-write all of your notes w/o looking at your notes); you should be able to do multiple-reaction synthesis problems off the bat too

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?

    solo only

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?

    worked out at the gym
     
  13. gdbaby

    gdbaby Prettier than before
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    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?
    8-10 hours. The key for me was to study a little bit every day. I wouldn't let myself get overwhelmed by studying for hours. If I wasn't understanding something after one-hour, I would go to office hours and ask.
    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?
    I guess I was studying all the time for it, but specifically for about 4 or 5 days before the exam. Ususally the weekend before was dedicated to O Chem.
    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?
    I would make falsh cards to memorize the NAMES of reactions (e.g., all the reactions that alkenes can do) and the types of functional groups (those nitrogen groups confused me for a while, amides, imines, enamines--I mean REALLY!). But for the reactions I found it best to take a more intuitive approach. O Chem is about nucleophiles and electrophiles. Know which types of groups will function in which roles (e.g., alkenes are usually nucleophiles, unless they are part of an alpha/beta unsaturated carbonyl complex.) Think about the reactants at work. t-butyl nucleophiles are going to be big and bulky--chances are they won't want to attack a tertiary electrophile unless there is some REAL incentive to do so. So stuff like that.
    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?
    Little of both. I would study with the same two women every Sunday. Mostly we just studied individually, together and if we had a question, we would belt it out.
    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?
    Still working on that. My profs tests were SOOOO hard. Just remember that you have studied as hard as you could .

    Let me also say that my O Chem prof was telling me in his office hours that there are people for whom O chem comes easy and there are people for whom P-Chem comes easy. Rarely do these two overlap. I was fortunate enough to have the "O-Chem" gene.
     
  14. Fermata

    Fermata Hold me.
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    It really helps to have a good teacher which I was very fortunate to have.

    That said, there doesn't seem to be a general rule of thumb. I know people that had to do tons of problems whereas some just studied the basic reactivities.

    I would advise doing both.
     
  15. Igor4sugry

    Igor4sugry Junior Member
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    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?
    Two hours after each lecture (three lectures in total). 4-6 hours of problem solving. Total = 10-12hr

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?
    Three days before midterm, 4 days before final

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?
    You should memorize the type of reactions. Know the basic mechanisms by heart, but understand why things happen (nucleophiles donate to electrophile, etc)

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?
    I always study by myself. In fact, I think that group study slows you down since you can study only as fast as the least knowledgable student in the group. Call that person the "rate limiting factor".


    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?
    Have a good grade going into the exam.

    Study for exams by reviewing concepts and reactions. Our final only had reactions, and just 5% of beginning chapters. Don't study by just doing problems, since there are too many of them. Expect that on exams you'll be given the oddest reactions.
     
  16. Igor4sugry

    Igor4sugry Junior Member
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    From Previous post:

    Know which types of groups will function in which roles<b> (e.g., alkenes are usually nucleophiles,
    unless they are part of an alpha/beta unsaturated carbonyl complex.) Think about the reactants at work. t-butyl nucleophiles are going to be big and bulky--chances are they won't want to attack a tertiary electrophile unless there is some REAL incentive to do so. So stuff like that.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Just a correction, alkenes are bad nucleophiles, and will not carry out substitutions or eliminations. They will do so when they are converted into say, ethers or alcoxides.
     
  17. BuckyBoy_DDS

    BuckyBoy_DDS Member
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    I got an A..All you have to do is memorize..

    Our teacher told us "you dont ahve to be smart to get an A in this course....You just gotta know 200 reactions."


    You need to learn how the professor writes the exam and study to his style of writing the exam..and NOT study like you are trying to understand everything..
     
  18. IDforMe

    IDforMe Not recovered...
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    I got an A too, but I think the type of studying that works best is different from person to person.

    My advice is to try to understand WHY, do lots of practice problems and memorize as a last resort. For me personally, if I can't see why something works the way it does (or at least have a rational hypothesis--even if it is dead wrong and nobody knows how it really works) I have trouble memorizing all that info.

    In other words, take the advice here and use it to come up with the gameplan you think will work best for you.
     
  19. stookie

    stookie Slick Nasty
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    1) Around 6 hours a week

    2) 9 days before the final 2-3 hours a day (Here's the sad part, I think I might have failed Ochem 1, I am atleast hoping to get a D so I can graduate)

    3)I took careful notes from the text book as I read through each section and wrote out all the mechanisms, and I practiced alot of problems

    4)Mostly solo study, but I went to review sessions at school

    5)I didn't reduce my stress

    I took my O chem 1 final yesterday. I went in there knowing everything I need to know but when the professor placed the test papers ( yes I said papers, there were 2 separate test as part of the final, and one of them was not for lab) i froze up and forgot everything, so I struggled through the test. I am a horrible test taker when it comes to chemistry, but everything else I can do really well in
     
  20. Chris127

    Chris127 Senior Member
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    After Chem 1201 and 1202 comes Orgo I, right? If so, I'll be taking Orgo I summer of 2006. This way I can dedicate all of my time and effort into this single one course, and not have to worrry about 4-5 others courses.
     
  21. novawildcat

    novawildcat Senior Member
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    The problem with o chem is that a lot of people try to memorize every reaction, which is humanly impossible. There are databases with 100s and 1000s of reactions. If you learn the theory, you can guess correctly most of the time what will happen when you mix A and B together.
     
  22. StevenRF

    StevenRF Senior Member
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    Bingo!!

    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?
    Just the night before the test, usually after I got home from the gym. ~5 hrs ish
    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?
    Midterm: Night before Final: Same, but I had 2 finals that day so didn't spend much time on ochem
    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?
    Understand the concepts, the reactions easily fall in place.
    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?
    Solo
    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?
    Gym it up

    If you find yourself having to brute force ochem by making 100's of flashcards and spending hours and hours per week, there is something wrong. Avoid having to memorize. If you understand the reasons behind the reactions, you can predict what will happen with other reactions, and only memorize the ones that don't go as expected.

    Whatever you do, don't be the person who gets to the exam an hour early to sit in the front with the book filled with dozens and dozens of little post it book marks, your 3 inch binder exploding with extra notes because you felt the need to rewrite the entire book, 1000 flashcards sitting in a perfect stack rubber banded and color coded, and your molecular model set prebuilt to show you benzene, R/S, etc. :laugh: Study smart, not hard.
     
  23. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    ha ha, that's probably true, but you can definitely still learn organic even if you're a p. chem (math-inclined) person; I'm a perfect example of that. I definitely had to work much harder in organic than I ever did in p. chem. But I liked organic so much that I didn't mind studying for it so hard, and I even ended up going to grad school in it.

    OP, here is the link to a post I wrote a while ago about how to study for organic chemistry. It echoes what a lot of other posters have said about the importance of understanding rather than memorizing.
     
  24. Dr.Erin2B

    Dr.Erin2B Member
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    One thing I did that I thought was VERY helpful:
    I kept a dry-erase board next to my bed. Every night before bed I'd write out all of them mechanisms that I had learned up to that point... using notes. Just going through them and processing them at some level every day or two made memorization before the exam very easy.

    I got an A both semesters of Orgo.

    You should try it. ;)
     
  25. jon stewart

    jon stewart Senior Member
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    i kinda read my textbook the bruice one, 4ed. It helped me understand things soooo much better since our prof would kinda breeze through cetain things in class. I wouldnt go abt memeorizing everything, i rather tried to understand key features of reactions and applied them. There are somethings that you just have to memeorize however. Other than that, problems, problems!
     
  26. eartoocean

    eartoocean Junior Member
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    Take O-Chem over the summer when you can dedicate more time for it. It is a great help to see the material every day instead of M/W/F from 1-2.
    And no matter what book that is required, always try to read ahead for the day's topic. Pre-exsposure is key for something as abstract as O-Chem.
     
  27. remo

    remo Senior Member
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    For mechanisms: Be able to work the major mechanisms (Aldol, Claisen, etc...) in reverse. If you can do them in reverse then you really know what is happening. Most people don't practice this but knowing how to go in reverse saved my A in Ochem 2 because there was a big question that I needed it for on the final.

    For synthesis problems: Develop a "toolbox" of reactions that you know really well. How to add this kind of group, how to take this one off, etc..

    One last thing it that you have to have a gameplan for your specific professor. That really determines how you should study because you have to focus on what types of questions they like to ask. Some like to ask mechanism problems, some reactions, some NMR, nomenclature, etc... If they give you old exams then work those like crazy because they will probably be similar.
     
  28. 1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?
    - 6-10

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?
    - regular tests: 4-5 days, final: 3-4 days

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?
    - read the book, did basically every problem in the chapter and assigned, when I got a wrong answer I went back and read the section and kept working the problem till I got it.

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?
    - Solo.

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?
    - A lot of whiskey.
     
  29. kdburton

    kdburton Ulnar Deviant
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    Do every single problem in the book and you'll be fine :)
     
  30. byeh2004

    byeh2004 Senior Member
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    revitalizing this thread for more advice :thumbup:
     
  31. _ian

    _ian Senior Member
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    1) Don't know. Not much at all, because I spread it way out.
    2) Our tests are a month apart. I spent the entire month preparing for the next test.
    3) Read the book and took notes, went to lecture and took notes, did every non-trivial problem in the book, and practice tests (which my class provided)
    4) Solo for the most part, I worked with a friend to go over the practice tests and we helped each other with any concepts we didn't have perfect.
    5) I wasn't stressed at all.

    If you prepare throughout the term and stay up on the material, you'll have no troubles whatsoever.
     
  32. waterlily

    waterlily Senior Member
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    I got A's and A+ for my quarters of OChem. As some previous posters have said, don't memorize rxns...look for patterns, it'll be so much easier.

    Also, I used supplemental study materials. I actually bought materials that other SDNers suggested a few years back when I started taking ochem. I don't know what textbook you're using, but you should buy the ochem textbook by Wade. Everyone on SDN then recommended it. The book presents the material in such an understandable way. The newest edition is 5th, but you can still buy the 4th edition for cheaper since it's mostly the same.

    Also, I bought OrgoCards (by Barron), which other SDNers suggested. If you make flashcards of your own, it won't even turn out as good as these ones. Plus, others have said that these flashcards come really handy when they started studying for MCAT.

    I bought all of these online, like at half.com for a pretty decent price. So how I studied...class notes, my school textbook (only to a certain extent since it's kinda crap), Wade textbook (used A LOT more), and Orgocards :thumbup:
     
  33. byeh2004

    byeh2004 Senior Member
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    whoa orgo cards!! coool


    any other recommendations of supplemental material?
     
  34. lynn42

    lynn42 Senior Member
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    Two words: WHITE BOARD. Invest in one of these buggers. Write and re-write all the reactions you can think on these boards. It will save you. It also helped me to study and memorize with a buddy. :luck:
     
  35. kimmcauliffe

    kimmcauliffe Surfer Chum
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    I don't think sex with your husband will work for all of us LOL :laugh:

    Thanks for sharing your tips though!
     
  36. ragda26

    ragda26 Senior Member
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    all u need is to make sure you can rewrite the rxns without LOOKING into the book
     
  37. drmota

    drmota 2K Member
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    don't get drunk 5 nights a week. oops.
    -mota
     
  38. Sooz

    Sooz Member
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    You bet! ;)

    Also, I enjoyed reading your blog, thank YOU for sharing! :)
     
  39. kimmcauliffe

    kimmcauliffe Surfer Chum
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    Thanks Sooz!
     
  40. hopster

    hopster Member
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  41. shapirrl

    shapirrl New Member

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    The biggest mistake I found people make with Orgo is they try to memorize everything. I had a great professor who taught us the trends that controll the major reactions. I reccomend that you learn what controlls each reaction then you will be able to know why things occur the way they do and that is the key behind getting an A.

    I also made up a single page review sheet for each chapter with the mecanisms and the controlling factors behind the mechanisms and would review them all twice a week untill i could pratically recreate them from memory. Orgo is a tough class but getting an A is totally worth it.
     
  42. Pontifex Maximus

    Pontifex Maximus Rads-a-palooza
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    1) 1-1.5? If that? I don't do a lot of studying during the week but I pay very close attention to lecture.

    2) The day before the final. I don't start anything before that.

    3) Studied basic trends, really. So much in orgo is based off similar principles that relate to a LOT of reactions.

    4) Solo study. Asked a friend if I had any questions or anything.

    5) Don't let yourself get stressed just because of a test, stay positive.
     
  43. Dave_D

    Dave_D Senior Member
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    My main advice is largely what everyone else has said, learn the concepts. Hell, the second semester is largely application of concepts of the first semester.(So much so I would often write in the margins "Hey, this is that concept from page X) For example learn the concept of resonance since alot of the stability of molecules in the second semester is just resonance. (It also helps explain ortho, meta, para in benzene. I didn't have to learn much since I already had the concept.) I guess I'm going to second the study alone concept. I know that the prof suggested study groups as a way to do better but I found that didn't work. You always get that one person who has really fallen behind so naturally they show up late, slow down the group, and can't even do basic stuff.(Hell, I had one that couldn't do a graph. I'm serious, we were suppose to do a graph for distillation where you first got two known data points to make a graph and then used it to figure out percentages of stuff we distilled. She never did that and made this screwed up graph where her distilled stuff was at 0% and 100%, made no sense.) Definitely do the homework and make sure you buy the solution manual. Basically try to do as many problems as you can then check them as you do them.(Sometimes you'll catch little mistakes.)

    Oh one other thing, when you do the homework ask yourself "Why did the author give me this as a problem?" Usually each problem had a point the author wanted you to learn.(If you can figure that out you'll be way ahead of the game so to speak.) Admittedly I prefered gen chem and physics to orgo since they're more algebra/calc based but that's me.
     
  44. rcd

    rcd .2K Member
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    state school ;)

    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?
    Nothing regularly, about 12 hours the day before each of the 4 tests.

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?
    2 days, pretty much 10 hours each.

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?
    Problems for the concepts. Writing and re-writing reactions/mechanisms until I had them down. Problems for those too.

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?
    Solo for tests, group for final with 1 friend.

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?
    Ethanol.
     
  45. werd

    werd Senior Member
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    1) about 4
    2) about 4.
    3) went thru the notes, when i was done went thru the notes again, then old homework and exams, then notes again. never looked at the book. only as a stool for the notes. lecture material >>> whatever else. also learned the "rules" and reactivities, not all the minute details.
    4) solo study, except for ~2 hours group the night before the exam
    5) always went out the night before the orgo test. no, i'm not kidding.
    frankly it doesn't sound like awesome advice, but you asked, and it got 3 semesters of A+.
     
  46. g3pro

    g3pro Dr. Mogley
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    If people put as much time in other classes/life as they do in organic chemistry, the world would be a better place. Too bad there are people who obsess over one particular class which has little bearing in medicine, and when biochemistry is the only real important subject related to chemistry that you need to understand. Diels-Alder reactions in biochemistry? Grignard? Nope.
     
  47. renordw

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    I know this is an enormous necro (sorry) but I couldn't agree more. I just got a 100 in o-chem II coming from a 99 in o-chem I and I'll leave my advice here for posterity.

    I didn't memorize anything except reagents, the reactions are all so similar once you step back and see the commonalities. You need to look for the themes, like where are the most acidic hydrogens, what makes for a good nucleophile, what makes for good resonance, what makes for a good cation (hint: oxonium ions).

    I went into the final on Wednesday nervous from not "memorizing" very much compared to my study partners, but wound up with the highest grade in the class of 68 students.
     
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  48. MoDiddy

    MoDiddy SDN Gold Donor
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    1) What many hours did you put into studying a week for just ochem?

    Prob ~18 hours a week

    2) How many days or weeks did you study before your ochem midterm or final?

    2 weeks

    3) How did you study the concepts/reactions/mechanisms?

    Read textbook & many practice problems. Learn the flow of electrons for mechanisms by practicing each reaction over and over again.

    4) Solo study? Group study? Or a little bit of both?

    Solo but that's just how I study.

    5) How do you reduce stress when ochem midterms are coming?

    Try to do work every single day. If you don't understand a topic in class study it and figure out how to do it. Start studying 2 weeks prior to the exam you should be fine.

    Ended with an A+ in Orgo I.
     
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  49. Cyberdyne 101

    Cyberdyne 101 It's a dry heat
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    ^^^^^Excellent post.

    Approaching o-chem like a serious part-time job is an ideal strategy.


    Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
     
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  50. I had the highest grade in a class of 300. This book contains all of the practice and topics you probably need to know. There are 2 different books for 2 separate semesters so look for the one that matches your curriculum.

     
  51. mistafab

    2+ Year Member

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    My ochem professor for both semesters gave us the silver bullet for A+ in ochem. He said "listen up (you pansies), the silver bullet to getting an A+ in Ochem is to study one hour, every single day, for this course. That's it - that is the silver bullet. It is not hard to succeed (so stop making it so complicated)."

    I followed his instructions and received an A+ in I and II. Don't make this hard. Study an hour a day just for Ochem. Make sure you are in the zone every time. Cram flash cards starting a few days before each exam on top of your 1 hour. Review the flash cards on the way to your test, while taking a poop, and while eating.

    'nuff said
     

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