giving-myself-to-ashes said: What is the best way to study for organic chemistry? I never learned how to study and I really need it now. If you have any tips that would be really helpful and awesome of you!
Sure! Studying is a really difficult skill to learn I think, but the key is to figure out how you absorb information best. Most people can’t really absorb that type of information by just reading, so you need to figure out what works best for you and do that with whatever material you’re trying to learn.
I’ve known people who record their notes and/or the lectures and listen to them over and over again. And people who find an empty classroom and write everything out on the whiteboards so they have space to completely diagram things and see exactly how they connect. It’s all about what works for you. Personally, I rewrite all of my notes, which I hand wrote in the first place, because I learn best through writing and drawing things out. Ultimately to be an effective studier you have to understand how you learn best and how much time you need to learn certain types of material. That takes time and experience, but it’s the best in the long run.
Unless you can memorize text, which some people can but isn’t all that common I think, I would suggest skipping reading the chapter, because that won’t be as useful as going over the class notes, unless your professor really likes the text book, which I think is unusual in an science professor. A lot of people try to read the chapter and end up wasting valuable study days on something that they don’t really absorb. So don’t do that.
I can’t emphasize class notes enough. This is the material the professor cares about and will test you on. I’ve never met an undergrad science professor who tests on material not covered in class unless explicitly stated. Ignore the text book and go right to what was talked about in class for your review material. Use that to make flashcards or recopy or record yourself reading and then listen back to. That’s the important material.
I generally spend a day or two recopying my notes or the class notes from the powerpoint slides depending on the class and how well my notes correspond to the class notes. This forces me to reread everything and write everything out again. Then I spend some time going over the specific mechanisms I need to know, redrawing them until I can do all of them from memory and understand the concepts at work. Understanding concepts is key in ochem. Brute force memorization won’t work because when you inevitably forget something you’re SOL, but understanding the concepts will help you on the mechanisms and the reactions you forget on the test, because you can make an educated guess about what’s happening.
Some people like flashcards for structures and reactions, but if you go this route I would suggest making them yourself because writing them out will probably help you learn them as much as actually using them will. These can be a great tool for learning reaction specifics like reagents, catalysts, and reaction names and properties.
Then I go over any posted practice exams, doing them all and seeing how much I can do without referencing my notes. I’ll use my notes if I need to, but at this point (usually the day before the exam) I am trying to test myself and see how much I know.But even if I use my notes I won’t reference the posted answers (if they are available) until after I’ve completed the practice exam, because trying to work out the answer, even if you get it wrong, will help more than just looking up the answer. The act of working through it and spending some time thinking about it will help.
IF YOUR PROFESSOR POSTS OLD EXAMS TO PRACTICE FROM THEY ARE THE BEST RESOURCE YOU HAVE BECAUSE THEY TELL YOU HOW THAT PROFESSOR LIKES TO ASK QUESTIONS AND WHAT TYPE OF MATERIAL THEY VALUE. DO NOT SKIP THESE. IF YOU ONLY HAVE TIME TO DO ONE THING TO PREPARE DO THESE.
Then I go back and review any concepts or reactions/mechanisms/structures that I was missing or go consistently wrong on the practice exams. If I still have time left at this point I go back to the text book and do any suggested problems if I haven’t already, to reinforce the concepts and get more practice. I learn best by doing, so I just do as much as I can until I know the material for the exam.
Day of, I usually just read through my notes one last time and maybe redraw anything I am unsure of, but I don’t usually do much right before an exam. At that point I just try to be calm and trust in my abilities, but I know that this can be really difficult for people. I actually really like the ten minutes right before an exam, I think it’s a bit of a thrill, but I’m weird so there’s that.
The other advice I would give you is to try to keep as positive an attitude as you can on the exam itself. Going into a test you have prepared for convinced you are going to fail isn’t going to help your chances. You don’t have to be convinced you’re going to ace it, but guarded optimism and trust in your intelligence can help you do better.
That and don’t get down on yourself if you don’t know the answer right away. Move on and come back later. I know everyone says this, but I’ve found it to be true. Sometimes you need to step away and work on something else for a while, and when you come back your mind is fresh and you can look at a problem from a new angle.
A lot of college exams are not meant to be finished easily within the time limit. They are designed to push your limits and see what you can and can’t do rather than to be aced by everyone. Ochem exams often have averages in the 60-70% range, and that’s how it was designed. If you came out of an exam feeling poorly about a couple of problems I would guess many other people felt the same way because those problems were designed to be really difficult to solve. Also try to remember that scoring the average in a curved class is not a bad thing at all. It means you are on track with the class and are learning what is expected.
tldr: do the practice exams and the suggested problems and write everything out until you know it. Don’t just try to read things that won’t work. Do problems, write shit down, and draw shit out. Try to understand the concepts and not just memorize because you can learn more that way and remember it better.
I hope this helps!
Yeah pretty much this. I found that practice was the only way to go. Do lots of syntheses also! My exams were like 75% synthesis and it was super helpful so do lots of those and check with my professor.
So I completely forgot that synthesis problems were a thing…it shows how longs it’s been since I took ochem…but yeah, make sure you practice any of those that are available, and if you have time, checking them with your prof and/or TA during office hours can help a lot too!