So, I made the mistake of looking at an Orgo book today...

Um, wow. It looks like a foreign language.

Someone reassure me that a reasonably smart person with a French degree and a law degree (can’t imagine a more unscientific background than that!!!) can learn to translate this into English or some reasonable facsimile!!!

On the bright side, the LSAT and being a lawyer sure does prepare you well for the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT. I have been taking practice sections for fun (I have a warped sense of “fun”) and killing it. If only that were the whole test!


Do not panic! As you said: it’s a foreign language that you have to learn to understand! A huge chunk of Orgo I is actually devoted to learning the nomenclature etc. You’ll be just fine :)!


Do NOT freak out! I am the biggest “chem-phobe” out there and I did the same thing you are doing now. Over the summer I bought an O-chem review book and started panicking! I have not taken gen chem since 2000, and got a B, so I had legitimate reason to worry. However, I just started the class at my local 4 yr university and so far so good. With a good professor and a good work ethic, which I’m sure you have mastered as a lawyer, you will be fine. I’m acing the quizzes and HW problems so far and I am actually enjoying myself. I took advice from a post I read on this site a few weeks ago… the advice was to go into ochem with an open mind and don’t go into the class thinking you’re going to hate it. Wouldn’t you know I am actually enjoying it, now if I could only do the same with physics :wink: Anyhow, don’t panic, you’ll be fine. Also, use the office hours, and if you have a good text book, read every word of it!!! Also, get the molecular kit… it helps a lot, unless you are already able to envision molecules in their 3d form :slight_smile:


Thanks, guys! That helps a LOT!

I just picked up a commercial Bio outline today and started reading it and will do the same with Chem before next semester. The summer before law school, I read commercial outlines of all the 1L classes cover to cover several times (I had a boring job with lots of time on my hands!) and it was an enormous help when school started. Given that I have no science background, I think this is a good idea. I am also going to buy the texts as soon as class schedules come out and start reading now.

I think if I can continue to prepare in advance as I take my prereqs, I’ll be able to identify areas I need to give extra attention to ahead of time.

Thanks again! I feel better!

Actually for a French major it will probably be easier than for an average student. The reasoning is that learning OChem is very much like learning a new language.

If your language processing centers are already well exercised, as I suspect yours are, learning a new language should be no problem at all.

I’ve been using a little book called “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language.” It’s incredibly helpful. Breaks the topics into manageable pieces. Translates the textbook for me

Ditto on Klein’s book. Great help for the thick-headed like me.

to be honest, alot depends on your professor. My orgo proff is a very smart guy, obviously, but not a very good teacher. He speaks to students in introductory Orgo as if we are his graduate students. Most of the class doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about.

What you need is someone to explain it to you in ways that work best for you. Whether this is a book ro tutor is up to yo.

I opted to go the tutor route. Ive never been the kind of person who studies alot honestly, and generally i do well, but i need to have someone to explain the topic properly. I got a tutor who had taken this proff’s class before, so he was able to explain what his tests would be like, and basically “translated” the ridiculous notes i got in lecture into something far more simple than the professor made it out to be. Other people in the class studied for weeks and weeks before an exam. I studied a few days, got an A- average.

If you have a tutoring service at your school , or just an independant tutor that’s preferably taken the class at your school before, I’d say its money well spent. Or you can try to get a review book, but i find those are only minimally helpful because each professor has their own way of covering material. I found it to be very helpful to have a tutor just review stuff with me who had laready taken the class with this same professor. Anyway, just my input

Thanks, guys! These courses are a ways off for me, but I am feeling better about it reading your responses!

Oh, and Dazed, your post is very encouraging. Foreign language is a real strength of mine. :slight_smile:

  • heartoftexas Said:
Oh, and Dazed, your post is very encouraging. Foreign language is a real strength of mine. :-)

No problem...don't worry, you'll knock it outta the park!

My friend,

Your analysis is precisely correct!

The general rules of Organic Chemistry

  1. Organic Chemistry trips a higher proportion of pre-med students up than any other of the pre-requisites (I am not entirely sure why?). It might be because it is a lot like learning a foreign language, one has to learn the nouns then verbs and how to make sentences, rules of syntax etc. and like a language is TIME intensive.

  2. However you did in General Chemistry; FORGET it; Organic Chemistry is a horse of a different color. Many who struggle in General Chemistry SAIL through Organic Chemistry (because of the relative lack of mathematics) Organic Chemistry is very visual and spatial, if you have a visual orientation you will find it understandable.

  3. Organic Chemistry is THE PROTOTYPE of a CUMULATIVE hard science, the things you learn the first week of Organic Chemistry I, you will see and use on the Organic Chemistry II final 10 months later.

    It was once explained to me (and I saw plenty of supporting evidence as I went along) what one receives on the first exam is likely what you will get for the course. Therefore, hit the ground with your feet moving and get that first “touchdown strike”.

  4. The key to success in Organic Chemistry is repetition, repetition and more repetition. We used “Wade’s Organic Chemistry fifth edition” which came with a “solutions manual” (a VERY good one I might add), while assigned a representative sample of questions, I can confidently say that I worked EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM in the book, I pushed the electrons around.

  5. Try, if you can, to work ahead of the lecture, I found that if I had already worked through material, when I heard it in lecture it was often a little bit of a different look, I caught myself often going, “Ain’t that some stuff a little different way to look at this”.

  6. While generally allowed, I would advise to take the lab sections WHILE you take the didactic portion, it is so full of minutia to remember, it might be tough to pull it out of your butt later. Also, it is best if possible to do I and II consecutively (usually by the same professor). There were some transfers in our section for II, and they were off balance from the very beginning.

  7. If you have planned your path well, you should be able to take a lighter load with Organic Chemistry, (while at KU Organic Chemistry and lab together were worth 6 credits, it demanded a considerably more than 6 credits worth of time) I actually saved Western civilization and took a “History of Christianity”