How to Succeed in Organic Chemistry at CSUB

If you have any suggestions for advice/links to add, please contact Dr. Dani Solano (

Your personal learning style

Understanding your personal learning style may help you develop more effective ways to study organic chemistry. You can try to identify your learning style by taking the VARK questionnaire at: VARK also suggests study tips for different learning styles.


If you would like to meet with a tutor, the Science Tutoring Center sometimes has tutors for organic chemistry. This is a free service, and as such the quality of the tutoring varies from tutor to tutor.

Advice from Dr. Solano

Practice, practice, practice! You can’t learn organic chemistry by cramming the night before the exam. It requires practice and hard work. Organic chemistry has often been described as a language: you have to memorize the “vocabulary”, study the “grammar”, and then practice before you can communicate effectively. Given that, here are some things that have worked for me, and students I have taught. Test them out to discover which are most effective for you:

  1. Summarizing the lecture notes
  2. Reaction flash cards
  3. Reaction drill sheets
  4. Working practice problems
  5. Talking about the material with others (i.e., studying with a group)
  6. Doing practice quizzes/exams

Advice from previous organic chemistry students

“From day one, stay on top of all assignments, studying for quizzes and exams. Study and review every day. If you fall behind, it's at least 4 times harder to catch up. DON'T allow yourself to fall behind! Ask for help during office hours. Attend all lectures and help sessions - they really do help to reinforce the material and clarify any questions you may have. Treat this like learning a new language - the more you practice, the better you become. Dr. Solano is very willing to help you - take advantage of that by asking any questions you have! Don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll be fine if you just do the minimum and cram before exams - you will definitely be in for a rude awakening when you fail. Instead, set yourself up for success from the beginning by starting with good study habits.”

“Make sure to make good use of the online office hours!!! They really are helpful when trying to learn and understand Ochem 331, and also if Dr.Solano offers to do an on campus study session, GO!!! It really helps to study for midterms or Finals. One last thing, PLEASE STUDY! study study study! It will make such a huge difference, Ochem 331 can be your best friend or your enemy, it depends what you make it. Good luck.”

“Getting a good grade in O-Chem is like a stool, you need to make sure all three legs are there to support you: you need to 1) attend lectures, 2) read the chapters, and 3) do the practice problems or else you'll end up on your rear end looking foolish.”

“Read the appropriate chapter in the book before going to lecture so that lecture will strengthen your understanding of the concepts. I would also recommend going through the lecture notes and translating the major concepts onto a blank sheet of paper to use when studying for the exams. Keep these notes throughout the quarter and use them to study for the final.”

“Study every lecture after it is reviewed in class. Don't fall behind. Stay on top of the material.”

“Learning organic chemistry is like learning a new language: you get better the more you use it. Reread notes, do practice-problems, communicate with classmates, and go to office hours. If you make a mistake, make an effort understand why you were wrong. The class may be tricky, but digestible.”

“Be on your guard for what's about to come. Chem 331 is such a challenging course in which a lot of time devoted to studying and practicing practice problems daily is much required to successfully understand the presented material better. Chemistry 331 is the class will require treating your brain like a muscle. Practice daily to get desirable results.”

“This is a very difficult course, memorizing is not as important in this course as being able to apply those concepts to problems. Expose yourself to as many problems as possible.”


Helpful Links

CSU Pomona Organic Chemistry Laboratory Tutorials
A variety of Organic Chemistry Laboratory techniques are covered, including Crystallization (also called Recrystallization), Melting Point, Extraction, Distillation and Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC). Each fully narrated lesson presents an introduction to theory and videos of laboratory demonstrations. The lab demo videos include an introduction to the glassware and materials needed, the experimental set-up, a discussion of safety concerns and common mistakes, a demonstration of actually running the experiment, and an analysis of the results.

MIT Opencourse: Organic Chemistry I
Free online access to a first semester organic chemistry course at MIT. This is a great place to go if you are looking for extra practice problems!

MIT Opencourse: Organic Chemistry II
Free online access to a second semester organic chemistry course at MIT. This is a great place to go if you are looking for extra practice problems!

Organic Chemistry Practice Problems at Michigan State University
Lots of practice problems organized by topic!

This is where you get all of the information about the hazards of the chemicals you will be using in lab. Search the chemical of interest, and then select the MSDS file. (Note: If you have trouble viewing the MSDS file, try using a different browser.)

U.CAN Understand Curved Arrow Notation
Animations of organic chemistry reactions.

Virtual Textbook of Organic Chemistry
A free, online organic chemistry textbook. Includes practice problems.

Visual Organic Chemistry Laboratory
A visual aid to upper division first-semester organic chemistry laboratory as taught at San Jose State University. The site has detailed photographs of techniques and experiments, hyperlinked flow diagrams for experiments, FAQ, video and animation. )

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

California State University, Bakersfield
9001 Stockdale Highway
Bakersfield, CA  93311-1022 

Phone: (661) 654-2030
Fax: (661) 654-2040
Office: Science II 273