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How to Get an A in Organic Chemistry

Updated on May 23, 2012

Which Organic Chemistry Class Was Harder For You?

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Organic chemistry: the bane of many college students' existences. However, fear not! It is possible to succeed in this difficult course and its sequel. With a little hard work and dedication, you can rise from your battle with organic chemistry as the victor. Here I will share with you a few tricks and techniques that really work and can aid you on your way to success.

Organic Chemistry I

The best advice I can give you to tackle Organic Chemistry I is to get your hands on a copy of Organic Chemistry I As a Second Language: First Semester Topics by David R. Klein. This book contains clear explanations of nearly everything taught in Orgo I, as well as practice problems and answers. Plus it isn't an enormous textbook, making it much easier to read! This book nearly guarantees an A in Orgo I, without the need for excessive studying or long nights spent reading an incomprehensible textbook.

Distillation apparatus
Distillation apparatus

Organic Chemistry II

Organic Chemistry II was much more difficult for me than Orgo I, but it was not unmanageable. I did not purchase the Organic Chemistry II As a Second Language book, so I am unable to tell you if that would have helped. If it was as useful as the first one, I suspect it would have been useful. In any case, there are other ways to approach Orgo that can still lead to an A. It is very important to attend class every day. The textbook is often incapable of matching the teaching ability of a trained professional, not to mention the professor knows the material that will be on exams. Take copious notes, which isn't hard to do since the whole class is about memorizing reactions. It helps if you take the time to determine how the reactions work because a large number are very similar. There are always going to be those that you will have to straight up memorize, but many can be more easily remembered if you take the time to figure out general techniques and mechanisms. It can also be very helpful to work through previous exams if you can obtain these because it shows the types of problems the professor typically uses and allows for extra practice.

My flashcards for both semesters of Organic Chemistry (Orgo I on the left and Orgo II on the right); notice that there are many, many more flashcards for Orgo II
My flashcards for both semesters of Organic Chemistry (Orgo I on the left and Orgo II on the right); notice that there are many, many more flashcards for Orgo II


Making flashcards is a must. It is best to make flashcards as you go along so you are not overwhelmed by the number you need to create near the end. The act of writing the flashcards is helpful in itself in the memorizing process, but going over the cards a few times can be exceptionally useful for remembering the material later on. The pile of flashcards by the end of the course can look a bit overwhelming, so try working through sections instead of the whole pile at once.


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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 2 years ago from Ljubljana

      It's interesting to see how many students find Organic Chemistry I harder than II (more than half), but there is logic behind that. It brings many new ideas and if the approach of the professor or the reader doesn't suit you, you will be in trouble. I also had MUCH more problems with first installment of Organic Chemistry, but despite that fact I decided to continue studies with specialization in this area, not in Inorganic, Analytical or Biochemistry which were other options (o.k., there was Physical Chemistry too, but this was out of the question for me).

      I never regretted this decision. Organic Chemistry is in my opinion the most creative part of natural sciences and when you master the basic ideas, whole universe of opportunities opens for you. I learned them by Super Memo method which helped me to memorize thousands of reactions in few weeks and flash cards were among my best friends for months, until everything clicked.

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