Organic Chemistry Teachers - Memorize vs Understand?

Mar 30, 2010
189
0
Status
I was wondering if anyone else could clear this up for me: I took Organic chemistry 1 and did really well in it. It was something that was very conceptual and easy to understand once you understood the basic processes behind it.

Fastfoward to Organic Chem 2. This class seems like it's AT LEAST 50% memorization. They're throwing a bunch of reactions at me without any thought process relating to mechanisms, and expecting me to predict products based off of memorizing reactants. Granted, the mechanisms are sometimes unknown but not for 90% of the reactions that they present.

Questions:

Is organic chemistry 2 largely a "memorization" class or is it basically like Organic 1 where you can conceptualize and reason your way through it?

Especially for an MCAT setting...to those who have taken the MCAT: Did you understand or memorize organic chemistry reactants and what kind of products they would make?
 
Oct 17, 2010
428
1
Status
Medical Student
I was wondering if anyone else could clear this up for me: I took Organic chemistry 1 and did really well in it. It was something that was very conceptual and easy to understand once you understood the basic processes behind it.

Fastfoward to Organic Chem 2. This class seems like it's AT LEAST 50% memorization. They're throwing a bunch of reactions at me without any thought process relating to mechanisms, and expecting me to predict products based off of memorizing reactants. Granted, the mechanisms are sometimes unknown but not for 90% of the reactions that they present.

Questions:

Is organic chemistry 2 largely a "memorization" class or is it basically like Organic 1 where you can conceptualize and reason your way through it?

Especially for an MCAT setting...to those who have taken the MCAT: Did you understand or memorize organic chemistry reactants and what kind of products they would make?
UNDERSTAND... you can memorize it and do quite well.. However, then you'll need to stuff all that information into your brain again when the MCAT comes along... My professor was amazing, he actually wrote our text book. I understood the information so when it came to studying for the mcat, I knew how to do it all.
 
Jun 8, 2010
1,478
1
Status
UNDERSTAND... you can memorize it and do quite well.. However, then you'll need to stuff all that information into your brain again when the MCAT comes along... My professor was amazing, he actually wrote our text book. I understood the information so when it came to studying for the mcat, I knew how to do it all.
I agree with this. Understanding Organic is a much better way to learn the material.

If you are having a difficult time with understanding what is going on, you might want to pick up "Organic Chemistry as a second language," by Klein. He has one for each course. I would recommend you read them both if you aren't familiar with the "why's" of what you are doing now. They are pretty quick reads with a number of practice problems to show you how you should think through the reactions.
 

gatorfann14

5+ Year Member
Jun 14, 2010
424
4
Bradenton, FL
Status
Medical Student
I agree with everyone, and I think that if you try to truly understand the class becomes infinitely more easy. At least in my class and the way I saw things, when it comes to the reactions almost anything involving a C=O it is just the same reaction with slightly different quirks. When it comes to everything else if you can follow the logic in C=O chemistry then for me at least it became soooooooooo much easier. I memorized next to nothing in my class and ended up TAing orgo 2 because of it. Even if they don't want you to know all the mechanisms just learn the basic ones on your own. They are probably in your book, and if you do then it will cease to be hard. Knowing that it happens means nothing, WHY is the interesting part.
 

PinkStarburst

5+ Year Member
Jul 31, 2010
48
0
Status
I honestly tried to memorize my way through both Ochems. I felt that OchemI was more of actually understanding the info which is probably why I ended up with a B in the course and an A in Ochem II. Good thing there weren't too many passages on organic chem on the MCAT else I would have been screwed!
 

Helen Wheels

10+ Year Member
Dec 12, 2008
1,383
61
Status
Attending Physician
I honestly tried to memorize my way through both Ochems. I felt that OchemI was more of actually understanding the info which is probably why I ended up with a B in the course and an A in Ochem II. Good thing there weren't too many passages on organic chem on the MCAT else I would have been screwed!
I struggled with both o chems but it seemed even worse in Ochem 2. I tried to memorize without understanding and found that not to go well. Perhaps it was my instructor, I had the same one for both ochems. He was totally focused on mechanisms and electron diagrams and since I didn't understand it was rough. I feel like I didn't actually learn anything and hope I figure it out or it isn't that important in med school.

I agree with Pink Starburst 100%! I think there were only 1-2 ochem passages on each of the MCATs I took last year. I was thankful there wasn't much ochem on the MCAT.
 

orgohacks

Organic chemist
5+ Year Member
Mar 16, 2010
242
3
Status
I was wondering if anyone else could clear this up for me: I took Organic chemistry 1 and did really well in it. It was something that was very conceptual and easy to understand once you understood the basic processes behind it.

Fastfoward to Organic Chem 2. This class seems like it's AT LEAST 50% memorization. They're throwing a bunch of reactions at me without any thought process relating to mechanisms, and expecting me to predict products based off of memorizing reactants. Granted, the mechanisms are sometimes unknown but not for 90% of the reactions that they present.

Questions:

Is organic chemistry 2 largely a "memorization" class or is it basically like Organic 1 where you can conceptualize and reason your way through it?

Especially for an MCAT setting...to those who have taken the MCAT: Did you understand or memorize organic chemistry reactants and what kind of products they would make?
Ochem 2 is definitely more of an "understand" class, especially when it comes to carbonyl chemistry. With carbonyls there's really only a handful of mechanisms and once you understand the trends, figuring out the products will be difficult, but not completely unlike conjugating verbs in a foreign language. Brute force memorization in Org 2 is not the way to go.
There are a bunch of unique/weird reactions however which might seem like they just need to be memorized - things like the Wolff Kishner, clemmensen, Baeyer-villiger, etc. However even these reactions boil down to a set of fairly straightforward principles. The key is practice.

If you PM me I can send you a sheet I've been working on but haven't posted yet re: carbonyl mechanisms that summarizes them graphically.
 

Slane

L|E|C|O|M-Erie LDP
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Mar 13, 2007
402
3
34
Pennsylvania
www.andrewslane.net
Status
Medical Student
It definitely helps to understand it, beyond taking the MCAT even--you'll need to understand the concepts for the biochemistry you take in medical school as well. Organic is one of those subjects that just doesn't go away, so you might as well learn it right the first time. And if your professor only teaches the memorization of reactions and not the concepts behind them, you really need to find a new professor (or skip lectures and hit the books to learn it the right way on your own.)
 
Oct 29, 2010
62
0
Florida
Status
Medical Student
I was wondering if anyone else could clear this up for me: I took Organic chemistry 1 and did really well in it. It was something that was very conceptual and easy to understand once you understood the basic processes behind it.

Fastfoward to Organic Chem 2. This class seems like it's AT LEAST 50% memorization. They're throwing a bunch of reactions at me without any thought process relating to mechanisms, and expecting me to predict products based off of memorizing reactants. Granted, the mechanisms are sometimes unknown but not for 90% of the reactions that they present.

Questions:

Is organic chemistry 2 largely a "memorization" class or is it basically like Organic 1 where you can conceptualize and reason your way through it?

Especially for an MCAT setting...to those who have taken the MCAT: Did you understand or memorize organic chemistry reactants and what kind of products they would make?



"Oh my gosh........the molecules are in 3-D" LOLOLOLOL Sorry, that was an exact quote from a class mate during office hours of Orgo 2. In all honesty it depends on your professor. My Orgo 1 and Orgo Lab professor was pretty much a "memorize" and "regurgitate" type of exam writer. Orgo 2 was a completely different scenario from a seperate professor.
 

lftbndlbrnchblk

7+ Year Member
Jul 27, 2010
187
0
Status
I was three years removed from ochem when I took the MCAT and used a book called Organic Chemistry Demystified to UNDERSTAND the Ochem rather than just memorize a handful of rxns (the way prep books urge you to do) and how the products USUALLY end up. Helped to get me an 11 on BS the first time and a 12 on the second time however I credit the increase to being a biology major and I'm sure the 12 had more to do with taking physio.