Organic chemistry is set up to help you learn to think critically, as a chemist would. This discipline is hard to learn, but incredibly useful in the research/medical field later.
Organic I – big picture
Largely, organic I is giving you a foundation to understand how molecules typically react and behave. Additionally, you learn some foundational mechanisms that will be built upon in organic II.
Organic II – big picture
Organic II builds upon organic I’s foundation to teach you how to synthesize small molecules, predict products, reagents needed for products and understand how the molecules are reacting. This will ultimately teach you to begin thinking critically, as a scientist, based on how molecules behave.
What is the most important part of organic study?
Working practice problems regularly and often is essential to succeed in organic. Work the ones in the chapter, at the ends of chapters and the ones online, if you feel you need more practice.
A good study system
Try to build up two “toolboxes” as you read, take notes and do problems.
Toolbox 1 – a list, on a poster board or notebook, of how molecules behave. This includes mechanisms, the reasons for the mechanisms and rules like Markovnikov and Zeitsev. This list will actually become easier and easier to remember the more problems that you do.
Toolbox 2 – reagents; a great starting point for this list are the blue boxes at the end of the chapters that summarize the key reactions. You will need to know these! Chapter 11 and 14 end chapter blue boxes are good summaries, but reagents are not always listed. Pencil them in if you like. I also highly recommend putting these on a poster board somewhere.
Note: All mechanisms have similarities. Use these to create a “family tree” of mechanisms and help organize them in your mind. Straight up memorizing mechanisms is not near as helpful as understanding how they work. Based on what you know of how molecules behave – with resonance, carbocations, nucleophile strength, steric hindrance, etc. one can usually even “guess” mechanisms correctly if one cannot remember them specifically.
How to get the most from reading:
As you read, note the following….
1. Naming – helps to read line by line; also, summarize in notebook for reference
a. Work problems
b. Check solns
c. Fix mistakes in red on your notebook and put why it is wrong
d. Ask questions
2. Note all reagents and list them in your 2nd toolbox
a. Note how they work
b. whether they are strong/mild
c. what conditions they work on
d. what kind of substrates they require and why
e. other similar conditions
3. Note all mechanisms – most all of them, you will need to know; below are a few questions to get you started on what to pay attention to
a. Note why the mechanism works the way it does
b. Does it need a primary or tertiary nucleophile?
c. Are there any special conditions?
d. Under what conditions does it work best?
e. Does it need high or low temperatures?
f. Does it give mixtures of products?
g. Does it form a carbocation? Why/why not?
h. Does it function via SN1, SN2, E2, E1 or some of each? Under what conditions?
4. Making notes in the margins of your book or highlight the key pts above
5. DO the practice problems in the chapter, go over the solutions, and mark mistakes in red ink.
6. NOTE: The green boxes in the back of chapter 11 are very useful in formulating a mindset to thinking about problems. Also see my diagram, as a starting point for problem solving.
Online Review and Practice Problems:
Organic Chem study guide, do’s and don’ts: http://www.chem.arizona.edu/mcgrath/courses/studyguide%202.pdf
More orgo study advice: http://www.chem.arizona.edu/mcgrath/courses/studyguide%202.pdf
Topical review site: http://www.education.com/study-help/study-help-chemistry-organic-chemistry/
Sites offering practice problems:
1. http://www.studyorganicchemistry.com/ (lists the sites #2-4)