Organic Chemistry is the most interesting and easy to learn subject of all the sciences. However a lot of students find it daunting. The fear of Organic chemistry pervades from a lack of understanding of the subject which itself stems from a incorrect approach to learning the subject.
There are two basic steps in learning organic chemistry – Reasoning and Practice. In my experience of twenty years teaching chemistry, I have come across a lot of students and they have done very well for themselves by just following the above steps. Some of the basic considerations that go into learning chemistry are as follows:
- Organic Chemistry is Not Tough. Organic chemistry is not tough at all. It is one of the most systematic sciences. This subject needs more practice and if you are comfortable in writing and identification of compounds from different structural notations, I am sure that it will provide you with a good start. Remember that 40 percent of organic chemistry is done if you are good at identification of structural formulae or writing the structures.
- Don’t Just Read It – Practice It. – You can clear your concepts only by doing questions. You need to do minimum 10-20 different questions from every concept in order to master it. For example, Carbocations concept governs the preferred product formation in many a reactions. Every book has a detailed explanation of the meaning and stability of the carbocations. Understanding the concept of order of stability is very simple and straightforward, However the problem occurs when you start to apply the concepts to the problem. Identification of different types of carbocations becomes easy only after you have practiced different questions based on it.
- Breakup Your Chapter Into Small Topics. For example, Writing Lewis Structures, Resonance, Tautomerism etc. You need not cram the language given in the book, Read the topics thoroughly to understand them. For example in the resonance topics, there are many do:s and don’t:s. Do not cram them because you will not achieve anything by doing so. What is important is to practice the rules by doing questions based on the notes. You can rest assured that no professor would ask you to list out the rules during the exam – but applications of the rules forms the favorite questions of many a professors. They may also appear in the True / False statements but they can be attempted very well if the topic has been understood well by you.
- Understanding The Organic Reactions To Master Them. Organic reactions can only be mastered by understanding them. Every atom behaves in a reaction with a strong reason. It is therefore important to understand the reason behind every reaction. For example, in the case of Markovnikov’s rule , you may try to memorize it – you may also succeed in learning it by heart. However you will find it very difficult to retain it in the long run. However if you have learnt along with it with the reasoning for the stability of the carbocation, believe me you will hold it in your memory for a long long time.
- Master The Reactions By Practicing With Different Examples. My advice is to practice at least ten examples from each reaction in order to master it. For example consider the reaction for reduction of alkene by using a metal catalyst. If you practice 10 different examples of the reaction, the reaction will get engraved in your memory as a cis addition of Hydrogen on the double bond. Any time later when you come across this reaction, believe me, the reaction will snap back to you right away.
- Exceptions Or Awkward Behaviors In organic chemistry, like in every part of life, there are a few exceptions or awkward behaviors of some of the molecules.- Thank God there are only a handful of them. You will find every book provides a detailed explanation for their exceptional behavior. Just understand the reasoning behind it and the exception will no longer appear a exception to you.
In the end, I can sum up all my teaching experience in Organic Chemistry in a single sentence:
LEARN ORGANIC CHEMISTRY WITH PRACTICE AND REASONING AND YOU WILL FIND IT TO BE THE EASIEST SUBJECT OF ALL.