5 Great Ways to Fail Organic Chemistry

There are several definite ways in which you can waste your time, waste your money, and be certain your dreams of going into a science based field, can be utterly ruined.

Only a small minority of students who take organic chemistry actually intend to become chemists. Many of them are going into fields like biology, medicine, pharmocolgy, or forensic science.

Why be a second rate failure, when following one or more of the following suggestions can make you and your parents shake their heads. You can have them wonder aloud:

“What ever happened to our wonderful child?”

1) Believing Organic Chemistry is the Most Difficult Course Ever Invented:

“Oh, no! You have to be a genius to get this. I’m expected to know things that weren’t even covered in class. How is anyone ever expected to know all of this? I can’t believe it’s really this hard. I may never get into medical school”.

These are the sentiments heard time and time again as they echo through the halls of chemistry departments: disappointed students who take their frustration out on the course. In some cases, even on the professor. If you hear someone saying this, do yourself a favor. Carefully consider the source.

Contrary to what many people report about this, often having gotten less than stellar grades, organic chemistry is certainly not the hardest course offered at an undergraduate level.
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It is considered to be on a level of difficulty appropriate for a sophomore or junior level at almost every college or university that offers the course.

The fact is, many students do well in organic chemistry. That means you can do well, too. What most students have difficulty with, is that it requires you to think and use principles in a way you may not be used to doing. The vast majority of textbooks have many example problems which can be worked through, and then applied to the homework problem set.

Every college and university has resources like tutoring services, books in the library, practical how-to books in the book store, and the professor herself. Use the resources easily available to you before you conclude it is just too hard.

2) Waiting Until Four or Five Days Before the Test So You Can Memorize the Important Points:

“I can’t possibly memorize hundreds of different reactions. There are just too many arrows going every which way. I also seem to get them wrong! There just isn’t enough time. The professor must be doing this on purpose.”

This reflects two terrible misconceptions about studying an introductory course in organic chemistry.

The first misconception is that the student in question has not put enough time aside to study. Any course, regardless of what it is, should be studied two to three hours per week for every credit hour you sit in lecture. For a three hour course in organic chemistry, which meets for three lectures, one hour a piece, that means a total of six to nine hours a week should be spent studying organic chemistry.

If you are taking four courses with four lectures, that meet for one hour lectures three days a week, that means you spend twelve hours in lecture. If you spend twelve hours in lecture and multiply that by two hours for every hour spent in lecture, you will spend twenty-four hours studying minimum outside of the lecture for each week. That’s a total of thirty-six hours to accommodate all of your academic obligations. If for some reason you feel even more studious, and spend three hours of study per one lecture hour, the total hours in studying and lecture will be forty-eight hours per week.

So if you spend exactly forty hours a week studying, which is exactly same as any work week if you were not in college, your grades should be fairly reasonable–with plenty of time for fun.

The second misconception is that when you study organic chemistry, that this is an exercise in memorizing as much as possible. It is not. So you can ditch those flash cards. What you are being asked to do is recognize a set of rules like geometry in highschool, or how a computer responds to certain types of commands from a programming language.

What you are being asked to learn are these rules of interaction. Especially with organic chemistry, things like the type of solvent, the concentration of the reactants, or the identity of one reactant compared to the other, affect the outcome of the reaction. That if anything is what you must learn to work with. Believe it or not, the method of pushing arrows was invented to make life easier, not harder.

3) Insisting Organic Chemistry is Nothing Like Any Other Course You Have Ever Studied:

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