Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Recitations: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Course Objectives

Individuals who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Define and employ the vocabulary of organic chemistry.
  2. Draw correct structural representations of organic molecules.
  3. Write reasonable transformations and mechanisms for alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, alkyl halides, alcohols, aromatic compounds and carbonyl compounds.
  4. Employ stereochemical considerations when analyzing mechanisms and transformations.

Molecular Models

Several units in 5.12 will emphasize 3-dimensional aspects of organic molecules. To help you visualize stereochemical concepts, we recommend that you purchase the Darling "Molecular Visions" Molecular Model Kit. You will be permitted to bring the model sets to the hour exams and the final.


Recitations will begin the second week of classes and meet twice per week. You must attend your officially assigned section and turn in your problem sets to your officially assigned TA. Only your officially assigned TA will grade your problem sets and provide feedback with respect to your final grade, which is extremely important for borderline students.


Four one-hour exams, each worth 100 points, will take place on Wednesdays throughout the term. The final exam is a three-hour, cumulative exam that is worth 200 points. Help sessions will be held by the TAs prior to each exam. Exams will be graded immediately after they are completed and returned in your Thursday recitation section or in class on Friday. If you require extra time for written exams because of a disability, please secure a note as soon as possible. No make-up exams will be given for missed hour exams, and all exams must be taken in the assigned location. For an excused absence (as evidenced by a note from the Medical Department, Counseling Services, or another acceptable source) you may be either be required to take a conflict exam, or your score on the missed exam may be assigned as the average of your scores on the other three exams. Any other extenuating circumstances will be dealt with in a manner according to MIT policy. Please notify a TA immediately if you are currently or will be experiencing such a situation.

Regrade Policy

  1. Do not make any marks on the exam.
  2. On a separate, hand-signed cover sheet stapled to the exam, list your phone number and email address, state the problems that were misgraded, and affirm that no changes to the exam were made after grading.
  3. Submit the regrade to your assigned TA by the following Tuesday.
  4. Arithmetic errors in adding up points will be corrected immediately. Any other regrade request will cause the entire exam to be regraded; therefore, your overall score may increase or decrease.

Oral or late requests for regrading will not be accepted. Exams may be photocopied to protect against alterations and fraudulent regrading requests.

Problem Sets

Eight problem sets will be required throughout the semester. No late work will be accepted. Written problem set keys will be posted on the 5.12 website immediately after the due date. The problem sets are mandatory. They will be graded by your assigned TA on a √+, √, √- basis and returned in your M/T recitation section. The assignments are intended to guide your studying toward important concepts in 5.12 and to help you prepare for exams. Thus, you will benefit the most from working independently. In fact, you should aim to work alone on the problem sets for at least four hours. If you feel that a discussion with your colleagues would be helpful at the end of that time, you should use a white board, chalkboard, or scrap paper and write up the answers independently after the discussion.

Final Grades

The hour exam with the lowest score will be dropped. The remaining three one-hour exams will count towards 65% of your final grade and the final exam will count towards 35% of your final grade. Recitation attendance and problem set performance will be used to determine the grades for the broad group of students that teeter on the A/B, B/C, or C/D border.

Hour Exams (3) 65%
Final Exam 35%

Study Tips

Because over 10 million organic compounds exist, memorizing the structure, properties, and reactivity of all of them would be almost impossible. Luckily, a few fundamental ideas underlie all organic reactions. By understanding these themes and trends (not by memorizing them!), you should be able to rationalize unfamiliar reactions and mechanisms through analogy.

Understanding organic chemistry requires a regular program of active studying. No substitution exists for using a pencil and paper to draw and redraw structures, write reactions, and explore stereochemistry. Attend all the lectures and recitation sessions. Read the suggested reading material before each lecture and write down the main points. After each lecture, summarize the major ideas and concepts in your notes within 24 hours of the class. Supplement these notes with material learned by reading the textbook. When you think you understand the material, do the suggested problems. If you cannot complete the problems without referencing your notes or the textbook, put them down and study the concepts again. Master the material from the previous lecture before going to the next one. Finally, spend a few minutes each day in review. If you fail to do this, you may find your review before an exam a major learning experience and could become overwhelmed by what seems like an unreasonable amount of material. You cannot cram for an organic exam!