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multistep synthesis guide 1 2 3 4 5> tutorials > home      


5. Check your answer.

Once you have a potential synthesis, go back and make sure all of your reagents are compatible with the functional groups on your molecule. Make sure, for example, if you are proposing a Grignard reaction, that there are no alcohols or other incompatible functionalities on your reagent. Undergraduate organic professors often seem to take delight in creating challenging (read: tricky) exam questions, giving little partial credit for incorrect answers, so double check every detail of your synthesis for correctness. Which leads us to the most important tip at becoming good at multistep synthesis questions, which is:

6. Work lots of problems

There's no way around it, no magic formula. A good textbook will have plenty of problems to practice on. Start with easy synthesis problems to get the feel of what is required, then work your way to harder problems. Get help from a tutor if you need it. If you have a solutions manual to your text, don't refer to it until after you have completed the problem. Looking at the solution manual and thinking "yeah, I could do this problem," or "yeah, that looks about right," is no substitute for actually doing it. On an exam, the question will never be "Does this look right to you, check yes or no." So you'll need experience to get the feel of how to work problems. Get lots of experience. Working in groups can help, but make sure that you do the work yourself. Don't let someone else do it for you. You're on your own when exam time comes.

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