Organic Chemistry Class: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Summer Organic Chemistry

If you're reading this, that means that summer is upon us.

Which means it's time to start cramming in as many summer classes as possible to get to your white coat faster. Some of you have decided to be absolute madmen and women and take ochem over the summer.

First of all, I'd like to say that I admire your resolve.

After all, the faster you get through your classes, the faster you can get to your white coat, right?


Well, you're here so that organic chemistry basics won't foul that up for you. Can't say that I blame you because if you walk into ochem over the summer without giving it it's proper respect, you might find that your white coat dreams have been Thanos'd.

I'm here to give you the ultimate guide to surviving organic chemistry over the summer.

No Fluff

No Filler


Straight from the mouth of someone who has taught it before.

First I want to talk about why organic chemistry class is so difficult over the summer and a couple of things that you need to be aware of before you dive into the summer ochem waters.


Why Organic Chemistry Class is Harder Over the Summer

Everybody knows that organic chemistry over the summer is hard.

But why is this so? Let's look at a couple of reasons why.

1) Organic Chemistry Is Hard By Default: Listen. Ochem is already one of the toughest classes to take.

Intentionally shortening the time to learn it is playing the game on actual hard mode. Ochem is a class that is heavily focused on the basics.

When you have limited time to learn, it's easy to not get as much time as you need to practice the basics. If you miss the basics of ochem you will not be successful in the class. Periodt, not to be confused with the periodic table.

Think about the foundation of a house.

Would you build your house on shifting sands or sturdy concrete? Most of you would say sturdy concrete because you know how important it is to be stable in your home.

When you miss the basics of ochem, your house is now on shifting sands and there's no safe place to hang your white coat or make your parents proud.

Is this making sense to you?

I hope so because this is absolutely vital to your success in organic chemistry over the summer.

2) You're Learning Something New Everyday: Most summer classes require that you go to class every single day.

There simply isn't any other way to cover all of the material that you need to cover otherwise. This is why it's important to begin studying day 1 in ochem (tips on how to do that here.) 

This is also where you can miss the foundations for ochem. You have to keep up, and you do this by practicing what you've learned everyday.

During a normal semester, you get a day in between each lesson to really grasp what is going on. Not only that, you have extra time to ask questions if there is something that you don't understand.

You really have to be prepared to learn everyday. Oh and don't even think about being absent or late for that matter.

It's possible that you may end up 2 lessons behind on notes and learning. (If you absolutely have to be absent though, then go here for pre-made organic chemistry notes that will keep you up to speed.)

This actually goes nicely into point 3 which is.....

3) You Are Short On Time: Time is the most precious resource that you can have when it comes to learning organic chemistry and organic chemistry basics.

Most of you are trying to learn it in 8 weeks. Some of you in 4 (y'all are crazy btw.)

You simply cannot afford to waste any amount of time. If you're absent 2 or 3 times during the regular semester for ochem, no one is really gonna care.

You're not gonna be too far behind.

It's very easy to catch up when you are having class 2-3 times a week.

Now let's change that to 5 times a week. Also, you're learning something new every day. 

You don't have time to mess around. This also goes to you studying for ochem.

You need to be efficient with your time spent studying.

No if, ands, or buts about it. If you're short on time because you work or you're trying to get volunteer hours in, it's even more important that you are carefully ruthless with how you spend your time.

Organic chemistry will not be kind to you if you ignore this. You must make time be on your side.

As a matter of fact, you need to make all of the above be on your side if you hope to survive summer organic chemistry class.

Read ahead for how to do just that.

How To Steal An A From Summer Organic Chemistry With Your Sanity Intact

I understand that you're not taking summer organic chemistry because you want to barely get by.

You need an A, or something very close to it. That's what the following steps are for. 

Following all of these steps to the letter will give you the best chance to get passed ochem with the A that you want along with your sanity.

Let's begin.


1) Get on a first name basis with your prof

What many of you may not realize is that we are watching you. Not in a creepy way or in a Sting and the Police way, but we pay attention to who shows up during the summer.

We're basically seeing each other every day so it's very difficult to miss the fact that you decided to skip.

When you make the effort to talk to us, we are much more understanding about what you may have going on in your life.

We're also more apt to help you because we are familiar with your needs and who you are. You're not just another name on the roster. You're a living, breathing person that has aspirations of making their parent's proud.

And you're doing what you have to do to make that happen. We can respect that and thus have more respect for you as a student.

In the summer of 2018, I taught organic chemistry 2. I had a student that was either habitually late for class, would leave early, or would miss a day every week.

I thought this was kind of strange until one day, I saw her walk into class with a Foot Locker shirt on. Immediately I realized that she had a job in addition to taking my class over the summer.

I immediately empathized with her because I know what that is like. I worked as many as 3 jobs during undergrad trying to support myself through my chemistry degree.

I know exactly how it feels to have to sneak out of class early and feel like your professor wouldn't understand why. So I talked to her and we worked out an arrangement for her to still be able to complete assignments and get to work on time. Her lab partner would also pick up some of the slack in their experiments if she had to leave.

You see people, most of the time, all you have to do is talked to us. We're humans too.

We have responsibilities too. We know what it feels like to be crunched for time and just need a little break.

However, we won't know you need help until you let us know.

I know this isn't possible at some of the larger universities, but I promise that your professor is watching how you handle your adversity. Most of us will help you as long as you've shown that you're willing to help yourself first.

Also, if we know you by name, we're much more likely to call on you in class, which means you get more real-time practice that is critical to you passing.

Speaking of practice.....



Listen. You are not Allen Iverson. You do not get to complain about practice.

If you don't practice, you will die. Period.

Organic chemistry is not the kind of class that you can just chug a couple of red bulls for and hope for the best.


You practice. Starting day 1. 35 minutes at a time. 10-15 minute rest period. no more than 3 hours.

There's the blueprint. Follow it. You will win.

Some of you will be lucky enough to have professors that are hands on and want to do a lot of practice with you. If this is your professor, you are extremely lucky.

The large majority of summer professors will not have the time to practice with you a lot in class. Most of this will have to be done on your own.

Just assume early on that most of your practice will have to come from you.

Do the extra practice problems.

Find practice tests.

Practice, Practice, Practice as much as you can.

Remember how I was talking about how important the basics are in ochem? Do you also remember how I said that it was easy to miss these organic chemistry basics during the summer time?

This is where you solidify the basics. You have to practice.

Some of you will not hear me still so let me say it one more time.

You. Have. To. Practice.


3) Think in patterns 

Organic chemistry has a few base concepts that are built on across multiple categories. This is where pattern recognition begins to become important.

And you can't recognize patterns unless you've been practicing....

Anyway, there are many patterns in organic chemistry. For example, carbonyl chemistry.

Most of the carbonyl addition mechanisms are exactly the same whether you have an acyl chloride, anhydride, or an amide.

The details change, but the concepts stay the same. Master the concepts, adapt the details.


4) Form a study group 

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 3 people practicing together is better than one person practicing alone.

Someone may be strong where you are weak or vice versa. This is helpful when you have such a limited amount of time to learn these concepts. I say to cap the group to 3-4 students. Anything larger than that and your study time tends to get unfocused.

I talk a lot about how your study group should function in this post.


5) Don't stop your hobbies

This is arguably one of the most important things to do and it has nothing to do with organic chemistry. Just because you're taking a hard course doesn't mean that you stop enjoying your life.

Many of you will do this to your detriment. I'm telling you now not to. If you are efficient with your time, you don't have to kill yourself studying.

  • You can still go workout.
  • You can still have a nice dinner.
  • You can still hang out with friends.
  • You can still enjoy your weekend.
  • You can still netflix and chill. 

Whatever you were doing prior to taking this course that was a priority in your life, continue doing it. You have time, trust me. Especially if you're being efficient with your time, which brings me to my next point...


6) Get premade organic chemistry notes or something close to them 

You underestimate the time, focus, and value you get from having notes premade for you.

  • You spend less time writing when you want to be listening.
  • Your hands spend less time cramping from writing so fast to keep up.
  • You still get to have a life outside of the classroom.

You're not stuck in the library for hours and hours on end trying to shuffle through your notes.

Premade notes save you a metric ton of time, which is the real commodity when taking a summer course. But you're not just taking any summer course, you're taking one of the hardest summer courses possible as an undergrad.

Wherever you can squeeze time back from yourself, you have to do it. Otherwise, you'll join the long line of students that get smacked around by the orgo beast.

To reclaim your time for organic 1, go here:



Summer organic chemistry class doesn't have to be the boogieman everyone else says it is.

This is especially true if you follow the 6 steps from above, which are:

  1. Get On A First Name Basis With Your Prof
  3. Think In Patterns
  4. Form A Study Group
  5. Don't Stop Your Hobbies
  6. Get Premade Organic Chemistry Notes Or Something Close To Them

If you do this, your journey through organic chemistry class in the summer should be smooth sailing. If you really want to solidify your study habits and hammer down the organic chemistry basics, check out this blog post on studying for organic chemistry. Good Luck!