Tips to Study Organic Chemistry

Tips to Study Organic Chemistry

How To Master Organic Chemistry in the Best Way?

Stuck at remembering the endless number of reactions and finding it hard to learn Organic Chemistry? We’ve all been there, organic chemistry has had its fair share of taking a toll on our exam preparations. Generally, organic chemistry is known to have a reputation for being a challenging subject, however, if you are able to create a smart approach to understand the subject and not plain memorizing, you’ll not find it hard and would start enjoying learning organic chemistry. Everyone is capable of acing this subject with the right amount of hard work and efficient work. Here are 10 tips to master & study organic chemistry in the best way. Let’s make organic chemistry simple and easy!

First, let’s have an idea of how exactly is organic chemistry. Here’s an example: Organic Chemistry is more like the perplexing time travel Netflix series ‘Dark‘, or any other long series, wherein many characters have their own story and the show would not make sense to you if you jump in between without following the plot from the beginning. The main element at the focus in organic chemistry and the one that is the key and central to all living organisms is Carbon. Carbon has the ability to create a mind-boggling array of structures as it can form covalent bonds with itself (catenation) and other elements.

Organic chemistry involves studying the reactions used to synthesize carbon-based structures, the analytical methods to characterize them, as well as studying how those reactions occur on a molecular level with reaction mechanisms, and is basically the study of the structure, composition, properties, reactions, and preparation of carbon-containing compounds with any number of other elements. Originally, this branch of chemistry was limited to compounds produced by living organisms but then was widened and includes substances such as plastics and other human-made substances containing carbon. Let’s now look at the tips to study organic chemistry:

Strong in Basics: 

As mentioned above, in order to understand this subject, it is crucial to start from the basics so that you can build a strong and solid foundation. It is the most basic and important step in studying any subject. Organic chemistry is like a pyramid – without a strong base, the top will collapse. Sometimes, people tend to jump straight into the “important topics” of the subject without actually learning the early chapters first. This is a blunder because you will not be able to understand the advanced topics if you have skipped the most basic earlier ones, which are key for building a strong foundation. You would rather be surprised as to how much easier it would be to understand the important topics once you have thoroughly understood the basics. As you learn new concepts and reactions in the long run, learning and practicing the basics of Organic Chemistry will help you greatly.

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Study the Structures

Given the large number of compounds involved, organic chemistry can be a vast subject to cover. Luckily, it can be made easy to understand by arranging all these compounds into groups based on their structure and nature of the functional groups under different categories. Structure gives properties to a compound and tells what are the possible reactions and which ones are not possible. Learn about structures by understanding how to identify valency based on the number of bonds, hybridization of different atoms, and how to draw structures from a name and to derive names from structures, how to draw, and read bond line diagrams and dot structures. In some aspects, organic chemistry seems to be like another language. It would seem overwhelming in the beginning, but you will become more familiar with the structures and formulas once you start practice looking at and drawing organic molecules.

Master the Acid-Base Reactions

Almost half of the organic chemistry is based on acid-base reaction, and thus, mastering these reactions would give you a solid understanding of the subject. When it comes to organic chemistry, acids and bases are crucial. For example, carbocations are Lewis acids and carbanions are Lewis bases.  Rather than just memorizing, understand the Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowry, and Lewis definitions in a logical manner, understand Ka/pKa/acid strength relationships, the factors that help you in ranking acids and bases, and so on so that you are able to understand the concept thoroughly and apply the knowledge for acid-base reactions related topics. Most of the organic chemistry will be a breeze for you once you know in detail about acid-base reactions.

Make Your Mind Maps

You will find many reagents in the course of organic chemistry. Many are reducing agents(LiAlH4), few bring about dehydration (conc. H2SO4), some are oxidizing (KMnO4, OsO4, O3, etc.), while others are C-C bond-forming reagents (organometallic reagents). Understand what they do, categorize them according to their function, and remember them by making a list. You can make a chart and list out the reactions of a specific class of compounds in order to help you remember easier. It is important that you do it yourself according to your understanding, the more you do, the more you get better at learning organic chemistry.

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Concentrate on Understanding, Not Memorization

Surely, there are areas in organic chemistry, which need memorization such as functional groups, reagent names and acronyms, nomenclature terms, and others. However, in other topics, memorization is a poor strategy. Understanding a concept will make you remember it automatically and will also enable it to answer different questions related to the concept. Whereas, just memorizing what is given under a topic and not understanding will not help you in answering application questions in organic chemistry. Thus, understanding is always better than memorizing. In order to remember what you study, first is to thoroughly understand the topic, then you can make your own revision materials, or use memory-centered devices, or flashcards, in order to remember and recall the concept whenever needed. You could also try explaining a concept to yourself or your study mates, which will help you analyze how much you know and remember about the concept.

Problems Workout

Problem-solving in organic chemistry is one of the reasons why students find organic chemistry to be a tough subject. Organic chemistry is all about the reactions and mechanisms and there are various problem-solving questions that might be hard if you do not understand the basic concepts. Practicing problems is necessary at all times while studying organic chemistry. Of course, you will be able to solve problems only if you have a strong understanding of the subject’s core. You can solve as many as possible by using past year papers, or reference book exercises. Once you have a solid ground on understanding the basic theoretical concepts of organic chemistry, you can invest your time in working out the problems. The more you do, you will be able to question yourself with the possibilities, the more you understand certain patterns, and the better you will get at solving problems.

Use Study Partners for Homework & Tests

As mentioned earlier, you will be able to get a clear picture of your understanding of the subject or a topic when you explain the same to others. This will also enable you to remember it better because it is your own unique answer and understanding of the topic. Working with your study mates and learning will surely benefit in mastering the subject. You can get help from them on the topics you are struggling with and you can also help others. When you explain the topic that you already are aware of, you will get a stronger grasp on the concept.

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Get Help When Needed

You can of course approach your teachers anytime you feel the need and get the help you wanted. You could also make use of the internet and browse through various trusted sources in order to get help. Just reach out in any way that is possible for you and make sure that you are not stuck with a particular concept.

Ask Questions

Plain learning without assessing your own understanding may lead to overconfidence and underperformance in examinations. Keep asking questions to yourself whether you can answer the questions from the concept you have already learned. If you are, then you’re doing good; if not, it’s a wake-up call. While you are attending the lecture on organic chemistry, be it online or offline, it is always best to have your doubts and questions solved right then. However, it is advised first to be a good listener, have little patience, some questions get automatically answered as the lesson progresses. If not, you can jot down all your doubts and questions and approach your teacher to get them solved, and thus, have a better understanding of the concept.

Keep Practicing 

Practise, indeed, will take you closer to becoming perfect! In order to master a subject like organic chemistry, you sure need to dedicate yourself to practice studying it every day and get better at it each day. You can use various kinds of materials to keep you practicing the theoretical concepts as well as the problems. Practicing reaction mechanisms over and over with pen and paper is the best way to strengthen your conceptual knowledge. You could also make your own notes while studying. You can master organic chemistry if you take it at the pace that suits you.

Overall, to Master Organic Chemistry: Begin with the Basics, Memorize less, and Apply More Always!

Mastering organic chemistry requires focusing on learning concepts, understanding the basics, solving problems regularly with utmost discipline and dedication. Remember organic chemistry is volatile chemistry, evaporates if not attended regularly. Following these 10 tips to study organic chemistry, you can surely see yourself becoming a pro at it. Make sure you learn the subject in order to gain the extensive knowledge that it provides and not just for scoring marks.


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