Any ideas on memorizing organic chemistry?

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#1 27 May, 2011 - 10:58
Joined: 6 years 1 month ago

Any ideas on memorizing organic chemistry?

anyone has any experience with studying something similar?
To those who aren’t familiar. A big part of the subject is different reactions and mechanism (which can be described in words or in a graphical way), each reaction also includes lots of other details I have to remember like: solvent, preferred conditions, which reagents can be used, by products, ways to catalyze and so on.

Most of the terms used are either abstract and hard to visuals, or very similar (in the way they look and\or sound), and there are many reactions…
I started using memory techniques a few months ago, and I’ve found it useful for studying other subjects. But I’m having trouble using the techniques to study organic chemistry .So any advice would be welcome, and sorry if I posted this in the wrong forum.

27 May, 2011 - 11:26
Joined: 2 years 3 months ago

Could you post a few specific examples of what you would like to memorize? Maybe we could come up with some ideas...

27 May, 2011 - 12:18
Joined: 6 years 1 month ago


Ok, so this is the Arrhenius Equation.

This is how I would go about it. First the equation. So I'll use a "Rhyme List" to memorize this because the list is pretty ubiquitous. If you don't know it: here ya go.

So, who's K?
Do you watch star trek? Remember the all powerful trickster god Q? K is his retarded younger brother. You see, while the other god like being are out doing whatever, K just sits home eating porcupine quills, his favorite food. His preferred way to eat them is on a big fresh sesame bun.

So his best friend is kindof a druggy sort of fellow from Canada. His name is E because he takes extacy every morning, apparently something quite normal in Canada. One day, K had absolutely zero to eat so he called over E to hang out.

Now K's neighbor is a real douche bag. He's always making trouble and letting his dog shit on other peoples lawn and what have you. He's lives in a crappy double wide trailer, and is a real trashy person so everyone just calls him T for short.

When E was walking over, T started causing him trouble. When E is feeling negative, he really starts sounding strongly Canadian. He yells, "leave me alone Aye." Kindof like those guys from the movie Canadian Bacon. As we all know, it pays to have a demi-god as a friend, so K hears all this... runs out and K beats T.

Sounds stupid right? No. Give me a second.

1. (Bun) K= (eats quills) K0e (K has zero, calls e) -Ea (when negative, E says Aye) /Kbt (K beats T)

Now heres the deal with this. Peripheral learning will allow you to put in the incomplete parts, like what is sub, and what is super text, where you put the division line etc. Also it will allow you to understand that -Ea is not the same a e. Etc. But if you wanted to further reinforce, I would take each part of the equation now, and associate it to more Loci. So:

2. K - (Don't know much about O-chem, but it's what? The constant.)
3. K0e -
4. -Ea (What? Activation energy?)
5. kBT -

Chain in the definitions for each portions, and your good. This is how I would do it.

27 May, 2011 - 14:43
Joined: 6 years 1 month ago


Here is an example of a reaction mechanism described graphically, it can also be described in words like : “In the conversion of an acyl chloride into an acid anhydride, the nucleophilic carboxylate ion attacks the carbonyl carbon of the acyl chloride. Because the resulting tetrahedral intermediate is unstable, the double bond is immediately reformed, expelling chloride ion
because it is a weaker base than the carboxylate ion. The final product is an anhydride” (it could probably be summarized).
So I need to remember the reaction in one of those ways. Some reactions are more complex, also each reaction also has a pretty long text describing things like:
the reaction works best when in a protic solvent, and the reagents are in low concentration. the reaction is reversible, it works best with halides, with primary alkyl halides, won’t work for tertiary alkyl halides. It can be catalyzed by acid or X (and sometimes the catalyzed reaction is just a completely different mechanism) etc...

28 May, 2011 - 04:47
Joined: 2 years 3 months ago

I don't know chemistry, but here are some ideas:

  • Create an image for each element.
  • Create an image modifier for each number (CH3COCl, where "3" would be an image modifier attached to the image for CH)
  • Create visual images that represent common actions and qualities (e.g., "attacks", "unstable", "reformed", "expelling", "weaker", "low concentration")
  • Create single images for chemicals you work with a lot (H2O, or an acyl chloride)

Then string it all together in a memory journey.

"In the [conversion] of an [acyl chloride] into an [acid anhydride], the [nucleophilic] [carboxylate ion] [attacks] the [carbonyl carbon] of the [acyl chloride]. Because the resulting [tetrahedral intermediate is unstable], the [double bond] is [immediately reformed], [expelling chloride ion] because it is a [weaker base] than the [carboxylate ion]. The final product is an [anhydride]."

You might be able to get that down to 10 loci, which could fit into one room.

I don't know if that is the best way--just an idea.

30 May, 2011 - 13:28
Joined: 6 years 1 month ago

Thank you Josh, that gives me some ideas...
Cassox, thanks. If only organic chemistry was more like physical chemistry. so far, It was pretty easy compared to organic chemistry...

7 July, 2011 - 18:14
Joined: 6 years 1 month ago

Organic Chemistry is a pain, but you need to learn the vocabulary and rules. That is the first thing where memorization will help.

For instance:

Acid = Proton donor
Base = Proton Acceptor.

Lewis Acid = Electron acceptor.
Lewis Base = Electron donor.

Reducing = adding Hydrogen.
Oxidizing = adding oxygen.

Benzene Ring = 6 carbon atoms with alternating double bonds.
Carbon has a valence of 4.

In organic chemistry, the carbon is a point, and single line indicates single Bond.

Alkane = hydrocarbon with single bonds only.
Alkene = hydrocarbon with double bonds.
Alkyne = hydrocarbon with triple bonds.

Ketone has C=O
Aldehyde has H-C=O ... so depnding on where the Oxygen is, it is either an aldehyde or a ketone.

Oxygen loves electron. Fluoride and Chloride even more so.

The above rules seem so simple and not even worth memorization ... but once you recognize these as rules, you can learn how to apply them. Also, Redux and acid-base always is confusing.


The other great mystery in organic chemistry is how to convert one compound to another, especially when you can order any compound you want from the neighborhood chemist, EXCEPT the one you are trying to make.

But, each question expects an answer ... so treat organic chemistry questions more like a trivial pursuit game ... look at the question, and match the "method".


Finally, in biomolecules, you will have to memorize all the pentoses, hexoses, bases, the krebs cycle etc. Just be glad that you have the power of memory techniques to apply to those.

Good luck!

20 May, 2014 - 22:45
Joined: 3 years 1 month ago

The reaction of aldehyde and ketone seems more hard to me and I can not remember them at all. Has there any techniques so that i can easily remember the reactions of aldehyde and ketone with other groups?

21 May, 2014 - 03:53
Joined: 4 years 4 months ago


I did Organic Chemistry as part of my Degree in Chemistry.

I did not use mnemonics at the time but I did work at understanding what was going on. As far as I remember ketones and aldehydes were okay.

The key for me was to visualise the reaction like a slow movie, make each reaction look very different in your mind.

Also, many reactions are actually made up of several small steps, therefore many additions and other reactions share common steps. once you know the start and end point and a key step you can fill in the gap with your knowledge of how organic chemistry works e.g what happen s a double bond when an extra hydrogen 'bonds' to the carbon etc

hope that helps,



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