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How much of General Chemistry is covered in Organic Chem?

  1. Dec 13, 2007 #1
    Hi everyone (me again),

    I am currently in my first year Chemistry course, s its really general in the sense that we are covering broadly about every topic in Chemistry (except for the specialized ones). Now we just started organic chemistry and I noticed not a lot of math is involved, so I was wondering.

    Next year If I get into my major (hopefully) I will need to take two organic Chemistry courses, and one analytical chemistry course (this is a Biotechnology major). Now in the organic chemistry courses, will I be using a lot of the formulas from first year or none at all? Also in the analytical chemistry how many of the formulas will I be using?

    Also will I ever need to use the gas laws and equations or equations that refer to photoelectric effect, or equations describing the intermolecular forces? If someone could just answer me that! I just wanted to know how much of these equations are really important for Biotechnology and future chemistry courses.

    Thanks again!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2007 #2
    I might be wrong, I have never actually taken college level Orgo. Yet in my AP chem class we dedicated a long section at the end of the year to cover a lot of orgo because my teacher felt it would benefit those of us who actually wanted to go on to pursue chem in college and weren't just in AP to get the chem credit. (I initially wanted to minor in chem but that fell apart.)
    From what I remember orgo used little of what we learned in general chem, what was used was provided in class and not assumed we would remember formulas from earlier chem classes. Of course in any chem class there are some general concepts that carried over. But I don't remember having to use many equations from gen chem in the orgo sections.
    It was just a lot of memorization, which is an understatement
  4. Dec 14, 2007 #3
    Yeah that is true, Organic Chemistry is more of memorizing the different functional groups and their properties, and knowing how to name/ draw out organic compounds. Currently we are not using any formulas in our organic chemistry unit, but i just was interested in knowing if we will use it in a course dedicated to organic chemistry. Thanks for the information mgiddy.
  5. Dec 15, 2007 #4
    Organic chem is about 90% memorization. If you can ace biology, then organic chem should be a cake walk...... theoretically
  6. Dec 23, 2007 #5


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    I just finished Ochem1 and I'll give you my take on it.

    In my opinion, memorizing concepts is a cardinal sin of chemistry (and physics as well). It is perhaps considerably easier to get a good grade in chemistry through strictly rote strategies though you will have only fooled a test into thinking you're an A student rather then actually learn information that you can apply.

    I'm not saying that there won't be any memorization because a certain minimum amount will be required, especially in the beginning. However, this is no different from physics. What you are memorizing are letters, verbs, and nouns that you will use to communicate concepts. This is similar to a physics "essay" that communicates a logic train through the language of math, with variables represented by letters that span the entire upper and lower case alphabets of more then one language. Obviously, to attribute so many concepts to different variables and names requires some base amount of memorization. You could think of ochem as physics and math in one class, but at a slower pace.

    The beginning of ochem will likely be boring (and tedious) for you as you learn, well, the language of chemistry: how to speak in molecules. There are millions of organic molecules so a system of nomenclature is quite necessary to avoid confusion. Gradually, you will begin to learn your first "action words" and you might hear such familiar terms as: electronegativity, bond dipoles, and effective nuclear charge. These are really just electric force arguments in disguise without the math. Likewise, you can apply other physics concepts you know to increase your understanding of chemistry.

    Not much math is involved in organic chemistry; the answers desired are qualitative. Most of your gen chem formulas will not be used. Some very basic math reappears when you use certain tools. For example, you might look at a chart that contains heats of formation data to estimate thermodynamic stability of an unfamiliar reaction; only addition and subtraction are required here.

    You may be tempted to just memorize but I want to warn you against it. Memorizing rather then understanding concepts is a great way to have a horrible time in the class and when you are presented with reactions you have never seen, you'll have no idea how to predict what will happen. I found the class interesting and my professor would begin each chapter with an intro on industrial and biochemical applications of organic chemistry. You learn a lot of tools in ochem1 and just begin to use them towards the end of the semester.
  7. Dec 23, 2007 #6
    I am thinking of taking O-chem for fun, my R.A. told me: "your F******* CrazY!"

    I am still thinking about taking it. Physics and math come more naturaly to me- I never memorize anything. But to do Ochem at an above satisfactory level, there is a lot of memorizing- I here.
    How should I make myself fluent in the subject I am wondering.
  8. Dec 24, 2007 #7
    Eh, I've never had to memorize anything in physics. Anything I did memorize was because it was brought up while working example/homework problems, so it just stuck in my head. I remember in general chem. I had to memorize a slew of ions, compounds, etc, acids, which acids were stronger, exceptions, etc.

    Apparently there are formulas for that stuff later on, but we didn't know the math yet.

    Still, I'm in 3rd year physics and I haven't had to memorize almost anything.
  9. Dec 24, 2007 #8
    Organic is like learning another language. Actually when I took Ochem I found it more fun than difficult. Orgo problems are basically like solving puzzles.
  10. Dec 24, 2007 #9
    Yeah Same so far in my past two years of Physics I never used to memorize anything from Physics! I think it is imposible to memorize anything in physics seeing as it is almost pure math with a bit more science stuck into it!
  11. Dec 25, 2007 #10
    I did that as well, but I ended up not liking the teacher so I burnt out at the end. It's a really great class to take, I think all undergrads should be required to take it b/c of the higher level of thinking you gain from it.

    Bedies, there are actual practice problems to work with unlike Biology; where you seriously memorize and memorize without any problems to work on.

    But if you love Math, Orgo does tend to get a little boring. I started to miss the calculating mid-way through the semester.
  12. Dec 27, 2007 #11


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    I will show you what I mean by “base memorization.” The name is a poor descriptor but I don’t know how to do better. I was trying to distinguish between the memorization of communication words and the memorization of concepts.

    There are many rudimentary and arbitrary conventions in physics that are often taken for granted. For example, let’s start with the number system and counting. We use a base 10 system and you simply memorize the symbols and the order in which they are counted. 1...2...3... at this point it's so widely used that we would think this common sense rather than memorization. In organic chemistry, you don't start with such common sense and have to learn it from scratch. You count starting with methane…ethane…propane… and each of these names can be modified to indicate functional group attachments to these number skeletons. This would be like describing a variable as m1 or perhaps v1’.

    In physics there are also a great deal of concepts associated with different variables. You “memorize” that p is momentum and F is force. T is for tension… some of the time; at others it’s for temperature or period. You may be surprised at how much you have memorized: B, L, c, E, U, q, Q, P, I. There are likewise many nouns in ochem.

    If you had to memorize concepts in gen chem then you weren’t really taught the reasons for the phenomena and that’s when there are apparent exceptions. Perhaps this is because it's an intro class. I remember being told to know the same strong acid list and feeling very unsatisfied with the lack of reasoning given. Regardless, Nature is being studied here and it works the same be it one science or another. I can at least tell you that in ochem you are taught *how* to determine the strength of an acid and that you learn nomenclature rules so that after knowing them you can recognize millions of molecules. You also learn all manner of tools to identify, manipulate, and synthesize molecules into desired constructs. If you only memorize then you will instead have little applicable ability and observe a lot of memorized lists that are gaping with exceptions. You can get an A in the class and still fall in this category.

    In my personal and limited experience, chemistry teachers tend to encourage memorization more than physics teachers. Add to this the observation that chemistry tests may too often test for verbatim knowledge regurgitation and memorization is lucrative, especially for the average Joe that’s there for the grade first and not actually interested in learning chemistry. However, concept memorization is still a personal choice even if your circumstances promote it.
  13. Dec 27, 2007 #12


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    I would say that you would do well to start with precise definitions, things like what exactly an acid is or what stability means. Some terms terms can also be broken apart to find their meanings. For example, a cryptic term like nucleophile can be broken up into "nucleo" and "phile." Nucleo refers to a nucleus that can contain protons and neutrons, having a net positive charge. Phile refers to a lover of, as in a pedophile that is attracted to children or philosophy that describes a love of knowledge. Really, a nucleophile is just something that loves nuclei (positive charge).

    In this way you can unambiguously build up your vocab, and when you come across other related words (like hydrophilic), you'll have some clue on what they mean. The development of vocab leads to speaking and communication of concepts; practice enhances your language ability. Similarly, many seem to feel that it is difficult to truly understand physics without working through the problems.

    It is possible that your teacher may not always provide the words for you to use so you may have to be clever with your existing vocab to explain events or search for new words. Identify and describe reactions in terms of nouns, adjectives, and verbs. For example, you might begin to read reactions in your head as sentences like: "The halide nucleophile attacked the primary electrophile, resulting in a leaving group." In this way, you will eventually be able to interpret and describe what is actually happening in reactions, as opposed to memorizing which only allows you to repeat those sentences that have been memorized. You will find that in the plethora of reactions, many of the same actions take place.

    You might enjoy ochem and you might not. In my opinion, chemistry in general is a majority experimental with a minority theoretical. Physics seems like the opposite, with just enough experiment to test the theory.
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