Organic Chem Study Tips

I Memorized 875 North American Birds During Paternity Leave

I Memorized 875 North American Birds During Paternity Leave

October 20, 2015

What I Learned From A Massive Memorization Project This spring I had a weird obsession with birds. I ended up learning the names of all 875 birds of North America and trained myself to recite them from memory. It was the perfect activity for paternity leave. I even made what might be the most boring […]

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This Is Why Students Use Flashcards

This Is Why Students Use Flashcards

October 2, 2015

A long but interesting letter from a reader who I’ll call “Annie” on how preparing for an exam the “right way” (learning the mechanisms for every reaction) as opposed to the ‘wrong way’ (flashcards) actually led to worse results (emphases are mine). My entire life I’ve been hearing people say variations of “In first semester ochem […]

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Learning Reactions: A Checklist (PDF)

Learning Reactions: A Checklist (PDF)

September 14, 2015

Let’s Get More Specific About Where Memorization Works And Where It Doesn’t Recently, we tried to understand what instructors mean when they say, “Don’t Memorize!”, or its darker variant, “If You Try To Memorize Everything You Are Doomed To Fail“.  You can read the whole post here, but it basically boiled down to this: • Brute […]

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“Organic Chemistry Is Like…” – A Few Metaphors

“Organic Chemistry Is Like…” – A Few Metaphors

September 7, 2015

What’s organic chemistry, and how is it different from most classes you’ll encounter? In this post I share a few useful metaphors from commenters on a recent Reddit thread, “Organic Chem: What Is Meant By “Don’t Memorize, Learn The Concepts”.   Organic Chemistry Is Like Math If you take the time to understand the concepts, you won’t […]

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What Does “Don’t Memorize!” Mean, Anyway?

What Does “Don’t Memorize!” Mean, Anyway?

September 4, 2015

“Memorize Everything!” was good organic chemistry study advice in 1952. From the MIT Technology Review, a letter to the editor: A Memorable Chemistry Final There is only one final exam that i can date from my four years at MIT. In May of 1952, I took the final for organic chemistry, a course that I […]

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How Esther Bounced Back From a “C” To Get A’s In Organic Chemistry 1 And 2

How Esther Bounced Back From a “C” To Get A’s In Organic Chemistry 1 And 2

October 8, 2014

The importance of attitude The student who is the subject of today’s success story, Esther,  didn’t start off doing well in organic chemistry. Actually, she says that the first time she took organic, she got a C. This is because she believed that her NOT doing well was almost inevitable. Esther: “I am not going to […]

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How Concepts Build Up In Org 2

How Concepts Build Up In Org 2

September 9, 2014

OK. Having looked at the Org 1 Concept Map, let’s ask the next logical question: what does a typical Org 2 course look like? One general observation: the way functional groups are covered in your typical two-semester organic chemistry course generally follows the oxidation ladder. Look at the progression:  alkanes (low oxidation state) first, then […]

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How Helena Aced Organic Chemistry

How Helena Aced Organic Chemistry

August 28, 2014

How Helena Got 93 In Organic Chemistry An Australian reader, Helena, recently wrote to say she’d earned a 93 in her organic chemistry class as part of her course requirements as a biology major.  Here’s how she described her background: I’m a “mature age” student. The last time I studied chemistry was in high school twenty […]

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How To Apply Memory Techniques In Learning Organic Chemistry

How To Apply Memory Techniques In Learning Organic Chemistry

March 10, 2014

In the last post we talked about how having a great memory is no guarantee of doing well on many types of organic chemistry exams. As an example I shared the story of one reader, Hussain, who’s developed the ability to memorize an entire deck of cards in just a few minutes, but got a […]

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How Much Does Having A Great Memory Matter?

How Much Does Having A Great Memory Matter?

February 28, 2014

I recently heard from a reader, Hussain, who told me that he’d been working on memory techniques that allowed him to memorize a deck of 52 cards in just a few minutes. Inspired by this awesome story,  last week I asked my readers how much would it mean to them to have a great memory. […]

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