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Is Organic Chemistry Really That Hard?

Posted by on Monday, February 15, 2021 in General Information.

I was nervous for organic chemistry since senior year of high school…before I was even accepted to Vanderbilt. I heard it from family members, teachers, TV shows, and who knows where else that orgo was THE defining premed class that was going to make it or break it for me. I didn’t even know what organic chemistry was, but I knew I wanted no part of it. I was going to start off in general chemistry, but at least I wasn’t in orgo!

So, what is organic chemistry?

Simply put, orgo is the study of organic chemical reactions, mainly involving the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. A typical reaction may look something like this:

You essentially need to know the mechanism of how the reaction works and be able to predict the product and reactant. Seems simple enough, right?

The problem is there are hundreds of reactions you have to learn. You have to know them forwards, backwards, and inside out. Test questions often require you to recall five separate reactions to come to an answer. But there’s a bright side- you don’t actually have to memorize hundreds of reactions! Instead, you can learn why the reactions occur in the first place. If you know the chemistry them, you can characterize most reactions just by your own knowledge, with little memorization at all.

Organic chemistry is not as difficult as its reputation makes it out to be. I enjoyed the course and personally found it to be significantly easier than general chemistry. I wish I was told before my freshman year that general chemistry would be as hard as orgo because I probably would have studied more for it. If you’re willing to put in the work, there’s no need to worry.

Like most things premed: you get out of it what you put into it.









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