Sorry I haven’t been too active around here lately but Ochem is killing me. So far I am failing the course. However, I am optimistic as I still have a slim chance to make an A and an even better chance to make a B. But, since I’ve failed the first 4 out of 12 tests I really need help to do that. Lemme 'splain…
This instructor takes pride in failing people. Her comment at the beginning of the course was that most people fail the first time they take her course and that she’s NEVER had anyone pass that hadn’t had Chem II. Thankfully that doesn’t apply to me!! Right now I don’t know anyone that is passing this class. To say I’m discouraged is an understatement!! FYI, there are NO other options for me to take Ochem. It just isn’t offered anywhere within 100 miles of me in the evening. It’s frustrating since I studied extra hard for the last test and the best I can get on that test is 61% since I didn’t have time to finish it up.
I guess what I’m asking/hoping for is that there is someone out there that is able/willing to help me out with this stuff. My options are fairly limited and any input is greatly appreciated.
Geoff, I've sent you a PM…
Actually, I have a great idea for you. In my undergrad, OChem was horrible and it is my weakest subject. I plan on relearning it for the MCAT. I discovered some good tools that will help.
The first is a set of Videos called “The Standard Deviants” They have a 3 video set for organic Chemistry. It got some good reviews on Amazon.com. Here is the link
I also bought a set of organic flashcards from Barrons, also on Amazon
If you supplement your lectures and text with these 2 items, your average should increase. Try them and let me know.
I hear your pain, except my problem is in physics, and you know my math limitations. However, I'm doing okay in Organic, so I thought I'd pass along what I've been doing. Maybe it will help you out.
1. You've got to learn those funcational groups. Know them backwards and forwards.
2. Practice lots of problems.
I've been getting up at 5 a.m. and studying for three hours every morning before class. This massive amount of time is what I think is making the difference.
Hope that helps. Remember: you can do this. And i'm sure you will.
I don’t envy either of you. You both are obviously working very hard, and I wish you both the
best of luck.
One thing I found helpful in physics is to ask the instructor to walk you through a problem,
explaining why he/she did each step NOT just what they did in each step. I find that getting into the instructor (or TA’s) head
is very helpful to learning and understanding the material and doing the problems. It’s not
just the math or steps, it’s how to approach the material, how to think about it conceptually and concretely.
Someone who excels at something – whether it be physics, math, chemistry, racquetball, piano, whatever – is more than someone who has practiced the material; it’s also how they THINK about the material or their task. This explains how child prodigies and idiot savants can excel at material that they have only brief exposure to. If you can get into the head of someone who excels at what you want, and then learn to think like they think, it may help you do better.
I found this approach very helpful in learning physics. During office hours I would ask my
instructor to explain a problem and why he chose to solve it a certain way. “What is going
through your mind?” I’d ask. “What made you choose one approach over another?” “Why this way and not that?” “What aspects of this problem (or material) influenced your decision?”
Hi Geoff and others struggling with OChem,
After posting my last message, I asked a few of my friends who did very well in OChem
what they recommended to help them in getting through the class. Besides flashcards and lots of practice, here are two books they recommended:
William Groutas. ORGANIC REACTION MECHANISMS. (Wiley)
Peter Sykes. ORGANIC REACTION PATHWAYS. (Halstead Press)
Because I have not taken OChem nor looked at these books myself, I am only
taking my friends' advice. I hope these books help.
Don’t let her comments psyche you into failing this course. You have some damage control to do but put those insensitive (read stupid) comments out of your mind. You are an intelligent guy and you will figure out how to study for these tests. Any professor that “takes pride in failing” students has a personality disorder and needs some serious shrink time.
That being said, plot yourself a strategy. Go to the professor and ask for her advice. Be humble if she wants you to kiss B–T, then politely ask her to bend over. Do anything legal that will get you on the right track. Sometimes when insecure types smell fear, they feed on it. Try to get her to help you find out where you are making mistakes. Sometimes that can be the best thing you can do. Go to office hours even if you think you understand everything. Sometimes professors steer you in the right direction by the way that they help you solve problems.
Do not entertain for a second, that you cannot figure out how to study effectively for this course. Remember, your future patients are counting on you to be their physician. I have an attending surgeon that strikes fear into almost every resident. I try to drag every bit of the teaching that I can squeeze out of this scary man every time I am in the OR with him. I keep telling myself that it is good practice for handling high pressure situations. Hang in there dude and keep plugging away.
I know that you will conquer this so don’t let your head talk you out of a good performance.
I feel your pain… I’m in OChem 2 and having a MUCH better time with it than I did with OChem I.
Here are my recommendations.
If there are SI (supplemental instruction) hours… use them… even if it means rearranging other parts of your schedule… I have this luxury this semester and it has made a WORLD of difference.
Last semester people recommended (including the professor) a book called Pushing Electrons… it didn’t help me… but then again, I didn’t use it much… so it might be worth a read.
Work out reactions on a chalkboard or big wipe board…learn “the tricks”… There are some pretty basica patterns that reactions follow… once you’ learn these patterns, it’s downhill fromthere… you may discover new patterns once new functional groups are learned/discovered… but they are all fundamentally the same…
If your professor requires you to draw the mechanisms (arrows in reactions) on exams… ALWAYS, I repeat ALWAYS… start AT THE ELECTRONS… all you’re basically doing is moving electrons… lone pair here to there…
Primary carbocations ALWAYS rearrange ( I say this being where I am now… there may be some circumstance where they don’t but I haven’t seen it yet)…
Do lots of practice problems… OChem books are DRY… working the problems and the reactions over and over is a really good idea… learn the mechanisms and you will find many are very similar.
Master the different types of reactions, Sn2, Sn1, E1, E2, PT etc… once you realize what they are and how they work you will see them OVER AND OVER…
Several people have recommended learning those functional groups… I am just realizing how important this is… this helps with the pattern recognition…
Learn what the reagents do… if you can remember what the reagents do in certain reactions (or in many of the reactions that they’re used for) you will know what they do in later reactions… what happens when there’s an acid? usually there’s a PT (proton transfer).
Find a group of people to study with if you haven’t already… more than likely there are others in the same position as you… I find that sometimes just keeping my head stuck in my book is not always the best way to go… talk to people about the reactions… maybe one of your classmates will have a view of the reaction and can explain it for you… During the SI sessions here, our TA does this to me… DUH is my common remark after he’s put it into plain english for me…
Make friends with your lab TA… they can be a really good resource for help… ask them LOTS of questions… especially during lab when they’re at your disposal… Request outlines of the lab reactions… this will also help you understand the reactions… most likely they’ll be duplicates of ones you’re doing in class…
Don’t be afraid to ask former teachers/TAs questions… I got some help at the end of last semester from a former Gen Chem TA… he wasn’t a HUGE amount of help… but he did help… and that was great… probably got me a couple of extra points on my exam with I badly needed.
Some professors are bad… really bad… I’ve got a bad Physics prof now… no matter what questions you ask him he dodges the answer or talks over your head… I think he’s a sadist really… but doesn’t want to admit it… it sounds like your prof is similar… Don’t be afraid to go above/beyond them for help… if they won’t help you… or can’t help you (ie have no interest or can’t explain it in a way that you can understand) ask one of their peers… you’d be surprised how willing other professors are to help.
Lastly, because I know this has gone on way too long…
Take advantage of any resources that your school has to offer… if there’s a walk-in study center… go… sometimes these places will help quite a bit… or ask your TA for lab if they have hours in the center and can help you then, especially if they’re too busy during labs… if your TA for lab sucks (this DOES happen), someone else’s TA might be great… ask around…
I wish you the best of luck…Ochem is really hard…believe me I know… once it starts to click though. it clicks… and you’ll find it making a lot more sense…
Incidentally, never let them smell fear…
Oh, wow. I totally feel your pain. Very much.
Did not do as well on exam one for Orgo, though a lot of that was my fault.
Got up at 4:30 this morning to get to school to finish studying for an exam tonight. Fellow students have decided our book is truly a time machine, we open it and we are transported hours into the future.
This class has been kicking my ass.
So, while I have no words of wisdom, I know what you are going through.
Hang in there.
just another idea - get an MCAT review book (if you can spring for it) or look at them in the library - often the “review sections” of the book can give you a 30,000 foot view of the topic that will help you make a conceptual grid wherein you can place the detailed pieces you are learning now -
these also often have handy review grids and tools that might also be useful to you now as you go through OChem -
you of course learn Ochem in A LOT more depth and detail than the review books cover - but sometimes they cover a subject in such a way as to make the lightbulb go on for you -
I’ll also recommend the Orgo cards…great memorization/review tool.
This class makes me feel like I should be in a corner drooling on myself because I am obviously an idiot.
I understand completely. Biochemistry I is killing me. My biochem teacher is big on “practical” problems. And the book is horrible, which makes it even worse because he presents lecture from the book. I enjoy the subjects we go over. I dropped my Calculus II class so I can focus more on this course. And thats not working either. My only hope is to get a “C” out of the class or by some miracle for the final, he pulls no surprises I may be able to get a “B”
I feel your pain with OChem. Taking it put every other class I’ve been in since then in a whole new light. I’ve had so many people say (when they heard I was taking it) “I really wanted to be but couldn’t pass OChem…” It has got to be one of the hardest classes in college! Hang in there! You’ll make it.
I have to admit, I am pretty sure my head is about to explode.