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Why organic chemistry is so difficult

lurching

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/edlife/how-to-get-an-a-in-organic-chemistry.html

http://science.slashdot.org/story/1...hemistry-is-so-difficult-for-pre-med-students

"Science writer and 42-year old pre-med student Barbara Moran writes in the NY Times that organic chemistry has been haunting pre-meds since 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a landmark report calling for tougher admission standards to medical school and for medical training based on science. "The organic chemistry on the MCAT is chemistry that students need to know to succeed in medical school," says Karen Mitchell, senior director of the MCAT Program. Basically, orgo examines how molecules containing carbon interact, but it doesn't require equations or math, as in physics. Instead, you learn how electrons flow around and between molecules, and you draw little curved arrows showing where they go. This "arrow pushing" is the heart and soul of orgo. "Learning how to interpret the hieroglyphics is pretty easy. The hard part is learning where to draw the little arrows," writes Moran. "After you draw oxygen donating electrons to a positive carbon a zillion times, it becomes second nature." But the rules have many exceptions, which students find maddening. The same molecule will behave differently in acid or base, in dark or sunlight, in heat or cold, or "if you sprinkle magic orgo dust on it and turn around three times." You can't memorize all the possible answers — you have to rely on intuition, generalizing from specific examples. This skill, far more than the details of every reaction, may actually be useful for medicine. "It seems a lot like diagnosis," says Logan McCarty. "That cognitive skill — inductive generalization from specific cases to something you've never seen before — that's something you learn in orgo." This takes a huge amount of time, for me 20 to 30 hours a week writes Moran. This is one thing that orgo is testing: whether you have the time and desire to do the work. "Sometimes, if a student has really good math skills, they can slide through physics, but you can't do that in orgo," says McCarty ."
 

23536

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Stop resisting!
Organic Chemistry is not difficult. Honestly it was the easiest science I took. The labs were fascinating too.

You have to have played with legos a lot as a kid, and you have to be able to visualize dynamic things coming together.

The MCAT is hard not because of the subject matter, but because of the length of the questions. Every handful of questions comes with a dense scientific passage that you have to waste time reading attentively. Even if you know the subject matter in and out, you will have a very hard time finishing the sections, and will probably have to go into a lightning guessing round towards the end of the clock. It is ridiculously and unnecessarily difficult.
 

nuke

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Organic chemistry came easily and naturally for me, so much so that I didn't even study for my midterm in OC I and got an A. I don't think it's necessarily that bad, it just depends on how well you can integrate with the language of chemistry and understand concepts relating to them, like configuration/conformation/nucleophilic attack/etc.
 

scureto1

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For most students, organic chemistry is their first exposure to a discipline that requires analogical reasoning to learn and understand effectively. Since every other course, including prior chemistry courses, they have ever taken has required other types of reasoning, they understandably try to apply that same logic to organic chem. They spend hours and hours trying to memorize structures & reagents or single reactions instead of looking at the whole system or dissecting the system into its relevant parts. Some students are able to adapt and learn appropriate studying methods unique to the course, others try to apply study methods that worked in other courses and end up sinking loads of time into it and getting very little payoff for the time spent.
 

babylonboy

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Being able to visualise objects in three dimensions is really important, as numbers says.
 

sekio

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There are lots of chemists who are excellent at drawing syntheses out on paper, but can't do practical chemistry to save their lives. (Ph.D student: "How do I make an ice bath? What's the recipe?") Book learning and practical chemistry skills are very different.

Organic chemistry is like the art of baking. You can approach it from an angle where all you have to do is mix the ingredients in a bowl and get a cake, or you can take a ground-up approach. If you're treating it as a memorisation excercise, you'll have a hard time.

Also, you do need math and algebra in organic chemistry. It's a little more complex than Tinkertoys. Measurement skills count.
 

Username123

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The most difficult aspect for me was the initial "Here's a bunch of shit you need to memorize".

I much prefer physical chemistry.

Then again, I was a math major and switched to chem after taking PChem, so O-chem was the weirdest chemistry class for me.
 

Solipsis

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Yeah I guess that's personal, Org Chem was the only thing I got grades like A's in but physical chemistry incl kinetics, those formulae are like greek to me.
Took me 3 years to complete the first year math and physics as well...
 

Roger&Me

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all posts made by the Bluelight username "Roger&Me
organic chemistry came naturally to me, i never understood how it was perceived as so difficult by all the pre-meds (i think, in general, pre-meds just tend to be lame and complainers; those jokers complained about everything and they didn't even have to work in a lab like the chem bs students); i enjoyed it because there was no math lol, and when it comes down to it reaction mechanisms are kind of a seat of the pants type thing, if you copy enough of them you'll eventually just start to understand how organic species behave and be able to figure them out on the fly. i took advanced organic and then synthetic methods after orgo 1 and 2, and found every one of those classes to be easy and a great deal of fun.

and yes, i agree with sekio that book problems and actual synthesis work are totally different animals. there is a real craft to synthesis; and it requires dexterity, common sense, and the ability to think on your feet. but mostly it requires just spending a lot of time working in a lab, it is not something you can teach yourself from a book. there is no substitute for working in a real research group

Also, you do need math and algebra in organic chemistry. It's a little more complex than Tinkertoys. Measurement skills count.

yeah but you don't have to solve hamiltonians and bs like that, of course you need to be competent with numbers. it is chemistry. but i always found it refreshing that it doesn't involve any real mathematical complexity, unless ofc you get into p-orgo stuff.
 
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Hammilton

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BASF keeps bragging how they make chemistry on tv. I'd ask them why they made it so hard
 

SwampFox56

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"I don't believe in god" That doesn't matter. He
Organic Chemistry is not difficult. Honestly it was the easiest science I took. The labs were fascinating too.

I bet that's one of the reason why you found it easy ;) I know people who took chemistry and they had no idea what the hell was going on the whole time (I pity those people.) If you're really interested in a subject, focusing on learning everything you can about it is quite easy. Most of my spare time is spent reading everything I can about neurology these days. Many wouldn't find that interesting but I love spending my free time learning more about a subject I'm fascinated by.

If you know what you're doing, and you know the insides and outsides of chemistry - I'm sure it's one of the easier jobs. At least, that's what Ron Sawchuk told me...

Chemistry is something else I find very fascinating. However, my understanding of chemistry is elementary at the moment and therefore, I'm waiting until my college classes on chemistry start next semester before I really start obsessing about it. In fact, one of the main reason I'm excited about learning more about chemistry is due to the fact that I want to contribute to the Pharmacology forum more than I already can with just my understandings of Pharmacology and Neurology.
 

Hammilton

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In bought an orgo for dummies book and slowly progressed from there. Slowly started with basic chemistry at home, nitrations and stuff. I moved up and started doing more complicated stuff. If you wanna learn you can, but you have to put in effort and do what you can.
 

SwampFox56

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"I don't believe in god" That doesn't matter. He
In bought an orgo for dummies book and slowly progressed from there. Slowly started with basic chemistry at home, nitrations and stuff. I moved up and started doing more complicated stuff. If you wanna learn you can, but you have to put in effort and do what you can.

My ultimate interest is psychopharmacology/neurology. That requires a knowledge of chemistry, pharmacology, and neurology. Specifically, I am going to study the effects that substances have on the human central nervous system (but especially the brain) and how that influences human behavior. I have a moderately advanced understanding on the ladder, but since this subject fascinates me so much I'm trying every way I can to advance my knowledge.

The next step is gain an advanced understanding of Chemistry so I can relate that to Pharmacodynmaics and Neurology. I actually find chemistry very fascinating on its own, but it would be even more fascinating if I could use a more advanced knowledge of chemistry to further my understanding of the human body.

Yeah you're right. I should go out and buy some books on chemistry. I'd love to read them and I should. However, in February I'm beginning college anyways and one of my first classes is General Chemistry. Due to the fact that I've only put down the required money to gain admission to the class, I'm saving every penny I've earned to pay off the rest of that class specifically before it starts in February. So I don't want to spend the money for books atm.

Also, the majority of my is spend working and it will remain that way until the end of December. So I wouldn't really have time anyways :/
 
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