How to Study Organic Chemistry – A Pre-Med Survival Guide

I'm SO excited by today's post! I've brought onboard McKenna, who runs the gorgeous and hugely popular instagram account @magnolia_med, documenting her pre-med study journey. McKenna shares her secrets for how to study organic chemistry - how she turned a 65 into an A in Organic Chemistry, and her top tips for the ACS final exam!

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How I went from a 65 to an A in Organic Chemistry

I made a 65 on my first O-Chem II exam. After all A’s + B’s in O-Chem I, I was shocked. I'd never scored so low on an exam in my life. O-Chem II is very different than the O-Chem I, you can pass using memorization in the first semester, but once the second comes, you have to learn how to understand concepts and find connections. Doing so helped me make an A on my ACS final with an upward trend in my exam grades all semester. How did i do it?

4 Secrets for Success in O-Chem II

  1. 1
    Forget memorization. It won’t help you now. The only things you should be memorizing are common names for benzenes with substituents, and ochem 1/gen chem stuff. Do not try to memorize the reagents back and forth.
  2. 2
    Classify reagents by what they do! Are they ortho directors? Do they add markovnikov or anti? Will this turn an aldehyde into a carboxylic acid? Does this perform addition to the most or least substituted carbon? Classify them HOWEVER makes most sense to you, and look for patterns. If you can’t find any among some, find a new classification they fit in.
  3. 3
    Track reactions. Mark where the nucleophile is at the beginning, and where it is at the end. same for electrophiles. TRACK CHARGES. Understand every part of the reaction. Don’t make a single change in a molecule without knowing why it happens. This is a huge reason I use whiteboards - I can mark these things in different colors over and over and over.
  4. 4
    Practice problems. Do everything your professor gives you. Have an MCAT prep book? Do all the ones in there. Look them up online. Taking the acs final? BUY THE PRACTICE TEST.

How to Study for the ACS Organic Chemistry Final 

Speaking of the ACS final, here are my specific tips:

  • know resonance and how it affects a molecule
  • know how to transform one functional group into another, and what reagents would work
  • you should know functional groups in your sleep, even the benzene-based ones (phenol, toluene, etc).
How to Study Organic Chemistry - McKenna does a 'peace out' sign next to the whiteboard that is full of organic chemistry study notes, which helped her ace organic chemistry

The ACS final feels hard when you’re taking it. It tests on so much that you can NOT memorize everything. Get a good night's sleep. So many of the questions can be solved by thinking things through.

You got this!


If you have any more questions, drop them in the comments below or on Instagram! Feel free to bookmark this for future reference!

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magnolia_med

About the Author

magnolia_med

McKenna Waller is a pre-med psychology major, an ER scribe, anesthesia tech and prodigious Instagrammer. Follow her pre-med journey studygram - @magnolia_med.

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