It’s pretty late in the game and I have failed my last two exams. Is there any hope of understanding before the final?

Posted on April 15th, 2014

Many past organic chemistry students have asked themselves this question. The statement subtly asks two questions that require two different answers, neither of which have to do with faith and everything to do with strategy. The first query “late in the game” likely refers to the reader’s expectation of successfully passing the course with the exams remaining. This is probably the true motive for concern. Failing two tests is demoralizing but does not make it impossible to receive a passing grade in the course. If this is your concern, the best advice is confront the situation directly and to clearly communicate with your course instructor. Since he or she is the person, in fact, who will issue you the grade and not this author, only they can comment on the feasibility of passing. However, you can control your strategy. If you cannot receive a passing grade, audit or withdraw from the course, but whatever you do, DO NOT stop attending lectures and keeping up with homework. It may sound like a worthless effort but remember: you may have ‘lost the battle’ this time around, but you WILL ‘win the war’ the second time with perseverance and expert help.

If you can pass or have headed advice to retake organic chemistry, we move to the second query of “understanding before the final.” The short answer is, yes you can! This is where your strategy now turns to tackling the material in a systematic approach. Learning organic chemistry, and most sciences for that matter, is like building like a 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 every one! I know, you are one week away from the exam and you don’t have time to go back, right? Absolutely wrong! You failed the last two exams right? Remember: you can’t move forward without solidifying the material you missed in the past. As a T.A. with over 8 years of experience, I estimate 70-90% of the tests are modeled after questions assigned from instructors based on homework and in-class problems. If you only mastered these problems and nothing else, you have already passed the test!!!

If you are crunched for time, set a series of achievable goals to reach. Divide your time over how many chapters of material you have and this will give yourself a deadline to complete the material. 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. Once you reach your deadline, reward yourself! Grab your favorite beverage or food and recharge yourself before the tackling the next goal. After a few successful sessions of material review, you WILL be shocked at how your understanding has dramatically improved. Only at this point will you be ready to take on the material on the final but unlike the last two tests, you won’t feel overwhelmed because you are ready.

For some students, self-instruction is a too large a leap in faith. These students need assurance they are on the right track. Fortunately such a person has many resources at their disposal, the best of which is professional help from private and website tutoring. is devoted to customizing the 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. With your determination and a successful strategy, I assure you will live through the experience of organic chemistry!