How To Pass Organic Chemistry Taught by the “Hard Professor”?

Posted on May 11th, 2014

Hard Organic Chemistry ProfessorMany students that we have taught began the session by saying they have the “hard” organic chemistry professor.  Typically, they mention inequalities such as nitpicky grading, impossible problems and __.  But, a major epiphany the successful Orgo students must have is; there is no upper hand any professor has over their students.  The materials and principles of Orgo 1 have not changed in over 50 years!  Therefore, there is no question a professor can ask that isn’t straight out of your text book. So what makes them so hard? Here are a few categories of professor behavior and advice on how to meet or beat their course!

Problem #1: Bad presentation.

This is by far the most common problem of “hard” professors.  Some will use hand-written notes, a chalk-talk where they do more erasing than writing, or a PowerPoint with figures straight out of the text book but no notes. Most of these teaching tools are not very useful for the confused Orgo student, because it causes more confusion than it clears up.  This leads to frustration and makes the student fall further behind.

The Fix:

Stay on top of the material.  Divide your time over how many chapters of material you have and this will give yourself a deadline to complete the material.  Read the book, as painful as it sounds.  Read each chapter non-stop the first time and then go back to trouble sections for help. has developed a customized presentation of difficult concepts in organic chemistry into an easy to understand format with a step-by-step breakdown and description of common reaction mechanisms in organic chemistry.  Are you studying on the go? Check out the mobile app for the ultimate study aid!

Problem #2: Weeding out the A’s from the B’s.

You are likely in a class where Orgo Chem is a degree requirement.  Many professors will throw in “really hard” questions that terrify students and it may seem like they are just being plain evil.  There is a reason for everything!  Professors use this tactic to assign A’s to the students who have kept up and followed along the whole time and rightfully so since these questions cannot be answered without understanding everything they have covered.  You can be one of the few who aces these questions!

The Fix:

Check out the solution manual for your text book from the local library and try as many problems as you can on the material you find most difficult.  An important realization to have is that there are only so many ways a professor can ask you a question.  Therefore, if you see a ton of practice problems, the probability of them asking a question you have already seen is extremely high. This means you will master any question they ask.  At, we break down each mechanism in detail so when you practice your problem sets, you’ll be ready.

Problem #3: High expectations.

Many times, professors will expect you to apply your knowledge to a problem you haven’t seen before.  After all, this is what scientists do every single day!  Since almost all professors are scientists, they often mix their research ideals with teaching, which can make it seem very hard.  But you can do it!

The Fix:

Learning organic chemistry is like building pyramid; the top will fall without a strong base. Remember those homework questions your professor assigned? Go back to Chapter 1 and complete every one and DO NOT STOP until you can answer them all!  By the middle of the practice problems, you will start to feel like this isn’t so bad.  Then you are ready for Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and so on and in no time you’ll be ready for the final!  When confronted by these questions, think: “what is this question asking for that we covered already?”  When you come up with an answer, this can help you narrow down what concept to recall and help beat that “overwhelming” anxious feeling after reading the question.  After you relax, you’ll be ready because of all of you preparation!

Following these tips will allow you to pass any Orgo Chem class taught be even the most difficult professor. Although it might not seem like it in the moment, they want you to do well so get out there an impress them!