New Release: Unit 14 Nomenclature Part B & Unit 15 Conjugation and Aromaticity are now available for purchase through the site. You can purchase the Semester 1 book for $40 at the Organic Chemistry Stores (W1-22) of the University of Alberta.

Semester 1: Put Money in the Bank With a Strong Start

Get a head start on acing your organic chemistry course with our guide. Focus on three key areas: Structure and Bonding, Functional Groups, and Nomenclature. Ideal for pre-semester prep or quick review.

It’s August and you’re thinking (and maybe worrying) about organic chemistry.  You are determined to get an A and you have a little time on your hands.  Is there anything easy you can do to get a big head start on that A?  Definitely.  Here are 3 areas that you can review and/or learn on your own. They are listed in decreasing importance so do only structure and bonding if you are time-limited.   My book is an efficient way to learn these topics but you can also use your textbook.    

1. Structure and Bonding 

Most organic chemistry professors assume you have a very clear memory and understanding of structure and bonding from general and/or high school chemistry.  They may spend only 1 or 2 classes at the beginning of the semester talking about these bedrock topics. Unless you aced these topics AND studied them recently it’s well worth spending a few hours before or right at the beginning of the semester to get yourself up to speed.  But it’s a waste of time to review all the structure and bonding you learned in gen chem;  just learn what applies to ochem.  My first unit shows you exactly what you need to know and it also teaches you how to draw organic chemistry structures perfectly from the start.


1.1 Lewis Bonding and Formal Charges 
1.2 Drawing Condensed and Bond-Line Structures 
1.3 VSEPR Theory and Drawing Molecules in 3 Dimensions 
1.4 Molecular Orbital Theory: sp3, sp2 and sp Hybridization
1.5 Constitutional Isomers and Units of Unsaturation 

2. Functional Groups and Physical Properties 

You must know functional groups by heart and be able to identify them even in complex molecules.  Functional groups are where molecules react and molecules often have more than one.  You professor may say, for instance, this molecule reacts with HBr at the alkene and amine but not at the aromatic group and you have to know what this means.  Physical properties depend entirely on which functional groups are present in a molecule so this is the best place to study them.   In lab it’s crucial to know the physical properties of a molecule so you don’t mess up by, for instance, throwing away the wrong fraction of a distillation.  Avoid lab tragedy by understanding physical properties.     


2.1 Functional Groups and Their Classification (1o, 2o Etc.) 
2.2 Intermolecular Forces, Boiling Points and Solubilities

3. Nomenclature

Most professors have 15% or more of their exams on nomenclature but often expect you to pick it up on your own.  Even if they cover it they may not cover it systematically or they may spread it out over the course of the semester.   If you learn it all at once, it’s much easier to see how it works and  therefore get all of your points on exams.  


3.1 Nomenclature of Alkanes and Cycloalkanes
3.2 Nomenclature of Alkenes and Alkynes 
3.3 Nomenclature of Alkyl Halides, Alcohols and Ethers




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