Synthesis Study Buddy

by Kiley Lynch

Last week we went through some important principles for doing synthesis problems.
The final ingredient in learning synthesis effectively is practice!!!! Having a good set of study problems to work on means that you will make all the necessary mistakes during your “practice” time – not during the exam, where mistakes will cost you grades.

If you are lucky enough to have a study partner, here’s a different way of practicing synthesis problems.

Take a reaction you are trying to learn. Pick an appropriate molecule to start with, and practice “transforming” it according to the reaction. Keep things simple!

Now take this molecule, and see if there’s another reaction you can practice on it.

Doing this, you can build up short “chains” of two or three reactions. It’s important to keep things simple and not to go too far out of your comfort zone.  You can use your textbook for inspiration if you want.

Now, here’s where the study buddy comes in. On a separate sheet of paper, draw out the starting molecule and the final molecule, and leave the rest of it out. Give this to your study buddy.


Congratulations, you’ve just created a synthesis problem. The answer might look obvious to you – it should, because you created it! But it won’t necessarily be obvious to your partner.

Your study partner can give a similar problem to you.

The good thing about this is that it benefits you both: you both gain practice in learning reactions in the forward and reverse directions.

Thanks for reading! James

P.S. Important: don’t make these problems with the intention of “stumping” your partner. They’ll probably find it difficult enough, even if it seems “simple” to you.

P.P.S. Here are some good resources for synthesis problems: Ian Gould (scroll to bottom)

P.P.P.S Organic chemistry study tips: How To Use A Study Buddy