Using Flash Cards to Learn Reactions

As we begin to accumulate a large number of reactions, which must be learned in both directions, developing a system for keeping track of the reactions becomes crucially important. I strongly recommend the use of flash cards.

Write the starting organic compound and the reagents on one side:

and the product(s) on the other side:

Where do you get the information that goes on the cards? Should you use the specific reactions that I present in class?

Making the cards is a "learning experience".

When you have a collection of cards, stack them reactant side up next to some blank sheets of paper.

Shuffle the cards before you use them again!

The next time you study reactions, stack the cards product side up, again next to some blank paper.

If a particular card becomes so familiar that you think you know automatically what is on the other side of it, make a replacement for that card. We are NOT using the cards to memorize, although that will happen to some extent. We are using them to develop habits of thought.

Although I have illustrated flash cards using organic reactions, they can be made for other types of problems as well; for example, a molecule on one side and an isomer on the other.

Another useful study technique is making a reaction catalog.

Spending a little time categorizing reactions as answers to these questions will pay dividends.

Again, making the catalog is as important as using it. Write the reactions "backwards", just as you will in solving synthetic problems. Choose real examples, and be sure to note any special features of each reaction. Many reactions will end up in several categories.

If you construct the catalog like the flash cards, with product on one side and reactant on the other, you can use the individual pages or cards just like your flash cards.

The emphasis on WRITING answers is what makes this active studying, as opposed to highlighting things in the text, which is totally passive. Writing forces the ideas to reside for at least a moment in your brain, which improves the chance that they will stick.

This page last modified 3:09 PM on Monday August 18th, 2014.
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