Hi, I was originally planning on taking chem 130/125/126 my fall semester, but both my advisor and other current pre-med students advised me not to take gen chem and take chem 210/211 instead since I will be coming in with AP credit and also placed into chem 210 from the placement test. My main concern is with doing well in orgo, as I know it’s completely different from gen chem/AP chem material. Are there any suggestions for preparing for orgo and what I should do during the semester? Is it okay that I’m not taking chem 130/125/126 even though I’m planning on going on a pre-med path? Thanks for any help, I appreciate it!
Thank you for your question! It’s totally normal to feel this way when starting a new class, especially one that’s as talked about as orgo. But it’s great to hear that you’ve already asked your advisor and other students for their opinions.
In regards to taking Chem 130, I would agree with the advice of your advisor and peers. First, not all medical schools have course requirements, but rather ask that you demonstrate mastery in different competencies. But of those that do have requirements, it seems that most will accept AP chemistry credit; here is a document that shows how AP credit is accepted by many of the US and Canadian medical schools. Generally, schools with pre-med course requirements ask that students demonstrate mastery in 1 year (2 semesters) of inorganic chemistry. So, if you are interested in applying to a medical school that has this requirement, you would just need to complete Chem 230 at some point later on. There are many students who place out of Chem 130 from AP/IB credit and do fine in their later chemistry classes, including Chem 230. So, although I would say that it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your previous general chemistry knowledge before taking Chem 230, there is no problem with you placing out of Chem 130. I am not entirely sure about how different medical schools handle the general chemistry lab credit (Chem 125/126), so I would trust the word of your advisor. Since it seems that they’ve indicated that you do not need to take Chem 130 or Chem 125/126, I would say that you should be fine in starting Chem 210/211.
Now, as you mentioned, organic chemistry is quite different from inorganic chemistry. I’d first like to say that it is 100% possible to do well in orgo, regardless of your chemistry background. I’d also like to say that everyone’s experience in orgo is unique, because it’s an entirely new way of learning chemistry for most students. After hearing from other people about their experience in Chem 210, I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to do well in the course, but I ended up completing and actually really enjoying it. Since the types of chemistry classes that are often taught during high school and Chem 130 are likely different from the type of content and problems you will encounter in orgo, it’s a bit difficult to fully prepare yourself or plan ahead of time for the class. So, I wouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself right now!
Nonetheless, I’ll share some of the things I did during the class that helped me succeed:
I think that the key to understanding organic chemistry is simply practicing problems. As a student, you will mostly practice by completing the coursepack, which is essentially a book filled with previous exam questions. Your professor(s) will probably tell you this, but it is highly recommended that you do not wait until the last minute to get started on coursepack problems because it is important that you understand the concept. While I was taking Chem 210, at the end of each week, I would review my notes from the week, then go through the coursepack to see which problems I could now answer based on the concepts I learned that week. Organic chemistry is largely concept-based, in contrast to general chem which incorporates some more math and memorization, which is why there is no real “homework” to turn in for Chem 210. This makes it important to complete coursepack problems as a way for you to track which concepts are easier to understand and which ones aren’t. Then in preparation for an exam (after completing the coursepack problems) I would take the practice exams that were given to me from my professor, my SLC study group, and a few others that I could find online. Overall, I would say that by keeping up with lectures, reviewing your notes periodically, and doing practice problems throughout the semester, you will be right on track for success in understanding organic chemistry!
I hope this helps, and feel free to reach out with any more questions and/or follow-ups!
– Jasmine, PMH Advisor