Organic Chemistry A-level revision exams

Organic Chemistry Helpful Hints

by Caroline Bowmer, posted 18 Mar 2021

A-level Organic Chemistry can feel very different to what your child has studied at GCSE Chemistry, and there’s not much that they can transfer from their other subjects to help their understanding develop. It’s not unusual for them to find it demanding and unfamiliar, but with some focused work it can end up being one of the most enjoyable parts of the A-level course.

Organic Chemistry is a very important topic that is involved in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and the food industry. It equates to one third of the A-level Chemistry content and is also an essential tool for many other A-level subjects, such as Biology. Here are some tips that will help with your child’s revision and exam preparation.

Nomenclature (naming organic compounds)

  1. When naming organic compounds, first find the longest carbon chain then name it according to the number of carbon atoms in that chain.
  2. If it has one carbon then it is called methane, 2 carbons is ethane, 3 carbons is propane and 4 carbons is butane and so on
  3. Make and learn a mnemonic to remember the names and the number of carbons, such as Molly Eats Peas and Beans (or something more imaginative!)
  4. Learn the functional groups and the prefixes and suffixes that correspond to the different functional groups. It’s very logical but the rules have to be learned


  5. Think of mechanisms as telling a story
  6. Every curly arrow represents a pair of electrons moving from one place to another. A covalent bond is a shared pair of electrons, and so curly arrows show the breaking and making of covalent bonds
  7. As the electrons move as curly arrows, always make sure that curly arrows travel from negative (or electron-rich) to positive (or electron-deficient) areas
  8. In particular, look for polar bonds and label the ò+ and ò- atoms, as a nucleophile attacks ò+ carbon atoms
  9. Make sure that definitions for nucleophiles and electrophiles are learned
  10. When naming a mechanism, identify if a nucleophile or electrophile is present and whether there has been a substitution or addition from the reactant to the product

Some extra help from a tutor can really make a difference to your child’s understanding. As qualified teachers our tutors will identify exactly what your child needs to improve, and provide personalised tuition that enables them to progress and achieve better results.

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