Studying for Organic Chemistry

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Hi everyone!

I’ve had a few people ask me how I studied in order to do well in O-Chem. I figured I could write it all down here for any who might find it useful. ūüôā

First, a little background on my learning style. I learn best by watching others do whatever it is I’m learning. Once I’ve seen it, I practice a lot. Having visual cues as well as auditory ones are important for me; if I can’t see it, I don’t remember it well. Reading the book helps me a lot, but this won’t work for O-Chem! You HAVE to practice. Practice so much that you dream about O-Chem! This isn’t necessary, this is just what happened to me! It was pretty funny but also scary.

So, with that in mind, this is what I did to do well in O-Chem!

1) Go to class. The best thing you can do is to go to class! This is great because you’ll learn exactly what you’ll need for your quizzes or exams.

2) Go over your notes. I read over my notes and re-wrote my notes at least twice. Most of the time, I would re-write them three times. This helped me remember the theory part of things, which does involve some memorization.

3) Practice questions. We got lucky with this, because our professor would pick book problems that he felt were useful for us to practice. Besides that, he would post old quizzes and exams for us to do to get more practice and get used to his exam style.

4) Watch videos. This probably saved my grade. I watched a lot of youtube videos! The ones that helped me the most were khanacademy, Leah4sci, and theorganicchemistrytutor. Theorganicchemistrytutor has really long videos, but it’s worth it to watch them all the way through. Khanacademy videos are always free; Leah4sci runs a tutoring service, so not all of her things are on youtube; theorganicchemistrytutor has some videos you can pay to watch, but I’ve never watched those.

5) Tutoring. At our school we have something called supplemental instruction. A student who has done well in the class holds sessions 3x a week to go over the material and help you understand it better. I went twice a week, but if my schedule would’ve let me I would’ve gone 3x. They also have one-on-one tutoring, but that doesn’t help me as much as group studying.

6) Study group. My friend and I would meet every Saturday morning to study for our quizzes or exams. This was very useful because if one of us didn’t know something, the other could explain it in terms we could understand. Plus, if you can teach it, you will learn it better.

7) Read the book. This one was my least favorite thing to do, but sometimes it helped me a lot more than asking my professor. It helps if you read before class, but for me, I had to read it after so I understood the material better.

That’s it! I hope those will help you! If you can’t really sit for long while studying and need to be constantly moving, I heard that recording lectures and listening to them while doing another activity can help. One of my psych professors told us of a girl that would record lectures and listen to them while running. Apparently, this helped her learn and do well in her class!

Good luck with O-Chem!

Andrea.

To Gap or Not to Gap…

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Hi everyone,

I have some cool updates for you guys. I managed to get an A- and a B- on my last two O-Chem exams, so I’m well on my way to get a B in the class. If my professor drops out lowest test score, which depends on our next exam’s average, I could possibly end up with a B+! However, the lab is killing me; the lab questions aren’t very clear to me, but we’re not allowed to ask questions. This means I’m averaging a C+ on my lab reports. I’m really disappointed, but¬†I’m going to work hard to bring that up to a B by doing well in the rest of the pre-labs, labs, and lab final. The lab is considered a separate class, so I really need to do well! As for Physics, I have an A in the lab and a B in the class; I’m really happy, because this is all counted as part of the class, so my final grade should be at least a B if I continue to do well.

That’s it for classes updates.¬†Now, to talk about the title of this post… I’ve put off the MCAT yet again. I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to study for it the way the program I signed up for wanted, 30+ hours a week, while still doing well in my classes. I want to make sure I do well so I can’t afford to slack off. That being said, I will be signing up for a prep course in September and taking it in April or May. That means I’ll be applying to medical school next year and hopefully starting in 2019. It feels so far away, but I need to be able to do things well from now on.

So, to take a gap year or to not take a gap year? Right now, I’m leaning towards taking a gap year. I don’t have to take any other classes except¬†maybe two suggested ones; I haven’t decided if I’ll be back next semester to take Genetics, but that’s probably the only class I would take. However… I dunno if I’ll be here next semester. I might move out of state! Why?

I applied to post-bacc programs! It’s only a few, and I’ll be learning about one¬†that is brand new in my home state so I can apply there as well. I have submitted everything, and I’m just waiting for my professor to send in my letters of recommendation. I will be emailing my professor this weekend to ask if they’ve been sent out yet; one of the schools has a three-week deadline from the time you submit your application! That one is my top choice so I will be annoying my professor until he sends them.

I’m so excited and so nervous! I’m trying to be optimistic but honestly, I’m scared I won’t get in anywhere because I applied later than I wanted to. Just thinking about how great it will be for my medical school application makes me want it even more; I can improve my GPA significantly if I do well, which I know I¬†can do. Honestly, I like school so much, that I think a gap year will bore me. I don’t take classes during the summer, and I get bored with nothing to do and no stress. I know how that sounds… I just like school. Last summer I did MCAT prep on my own and it was heaven.¬†I felt so accomplished at the end of the day; study, work out, spend time with kids. It was perfect.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. So the plan is to take a gap year if I don’t get accepted into a post-bacc program. I really hope I do, because I don’t want to take a gap year, but I’ll make the best of whichever situation I’m in.

It’s times like this that I have to remind myself why I’m doing this.¬†It feels like I keep putting it off, but I know I have good reasons and I’m still trying to improve while enjoying the stage I’m in. The path to medical school is anything but linear, at least for me. It might take me longer, but I will get there.

Fingers crossed!

Andrea.

Updates

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Hi everyone,

I have some awesome news to share. I got an A- on my O-Chem exam! I followed the plan I outline in my last post and it helped so much! I’m really excited. My grade in class has gone up from a D+ to a C+, which is not a great grade but it’s something I can definitely improve on, especially because my professor drops our lowest exam score. Once he does at the end of the semester, my grade will be much better, since my lowest score so far was a 61.¬†I’m going to continue studying so I can make sure my grade remains high.

Now comes the interesting part. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m signed up to take the MCAT on May 19th. I signed up two days ago for a prep course through Altius Test Prep. I’ve been reviewing content on my own since August on and off,¬†but I knew I would need something more structure to prepare at some point. Finances are tricky though, so it took me longer to sign up than I was expecting.

I was excited and ready, until I looked at their introduction. I knew the course would be difficult, and I knew it would take time, but what scared me was how advanced their other students are compared to me. I’ll start a little over a month AFTER their short track students. Surprisingly, they say that they won’t accept students later than the beginning of February, but I was still allowed to join a group. I’m worried that I won’t be ready by May, and I thought about pushing back the MCAT for another month to have more time to prepare.

I kept reading what they gave me. The time commitment, the things that need to get done… and honestly, I panicked a little. I don’t think I can finish all of that in under three months. I’m seriously considering pushing the MCAT until next¬†April. I won’t be taking classes so I would be able to concentrate on studying for it. However, that means I’ll have to postpone applying to medical school yet another year.

Honestly, postponing it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I could ensure I’m more competitive by having a strong MCAT. However, I would have to contact¬†everyone¬†that wrote my letters of recommendation and asking them to change the date on them, again. It’s been difficult to do that already, since some people are more cooperative than others. I’m still waiting on one for this year, and another one that should’ve been written by now but hasn’t. It’s discouraging. Additionally, I’ll lose a lot of volunteering, shadowing, and patient exposure hours. What I mean by this is that my advisor let me know that only¬†extracurricular activities from the last four years will count. Since I’ve been pre-med for such a long time, a bulk of my hours came from 2013, which won’t count if I apply in 2017. I’ve been looking for info about this from the actual AAMC website but I couldn’t find anything about it, so it’s difficult for me to make a decision.

I’m going to wait a few days and think it over. I’ll wait until my tutor contacts me and I get a better idea of what this program will require. If I feel like it can be done, I’ll stick with it. Otherwise, I will get a refund and start the program in the Fall.

I’ll keep you guys posted. If anyone knows¬†anything about the four year extracurricular cap I mentioned, please let me know! It would help me out a lot!

I do have another update that I’m afraid is the worst of them all. The hospice patient I’ve been visiting for the past year and a half passed away on Wednesday. I’m usually sad when my patients pass away, but I cried over this loss. He had become a good friend and I learned so much from him. He was an amazing person who will be sorely missed;¬†he wrote a book about his life, which was really interesting, just so he could donate all the profits to charity.

RIP Walter. We will all miss you; from the happy¬†“Hellooooo” you gave when you answered the phone and the “wunderbar” answer you gave when asked how you were doing. I will always remember you and the lessons you taught me about life. Thank you for everything.

Andrea.

Operation Save O-Chem Grade

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Hi everyone,

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what I can do to bring up my O-Chem II grade. I’ve been feeling discouraged because of it and we have our second exam on Wednesday. So, what can I do to make sure I do well on this exam get an 85 or above? (I need an 85 to go up one letter grade)

Here is my plan. I figured I should write it down somewhere so I make sure I stick to it. I already do most of these, but I’m adding more strategies that I hope will help me.

First, I’m going to read the sections from the book that I’m still confused on. Second, I’m going to try to do some problems from the book, preferably the most difficult one so I’m exposed to different types of problems. Third, go over my Organic Chemistry as a Second Language Second Semester book again and do more problems. Fourth, study group with my friend and study group/tutoring with my Physics tutor who already took the class and is incredibly smart. Fifth, I’m going to watch all the Leah4sci and Khan Academy videos on the subjects, since learning the mechanisms helps me a lot more than memorizing. Last but not least, I’m going to go over my professors’ study guide and old practice exams to make sure I’m ready.

If you have any tips or other resources, please let me know! I cannot afford a bad grade, both figuratively and literally. If you’ve found anything that helps with this class, leave it in the comments! ūüôā

Thanks in advance!

Andrea.