Skip Ahead to Organic Chemistry!
Question: I received a 4 or 5 on my AP Chemistry exam. How do I know if I should skip General Chemistry or go straight to Organic Chemistry?
As for whether to take General Chemistry or not freshman year, it’s really up to the individual student. We don’t have any official department recommendation one way or the other, but let us give a rationale behind the various options.
First, a student could retake the whole year. It will likely be quite easy, since they have seen most of it, if not all, before. However, the concepts will all settle in much better going through the material a second time, and it’s not the worst thing in the world to have an easy course freshman year amidst all the other new things freshman year brings! The other reason a lot of students take the whole year is they get a 3-hour lab session each week which they never get in high school. We teach a lot of important things in the lab experience—that’s up to 90 hours of lab they would be missing out on if someone skips right to organic.
Second, a student could just jump into second semester General Chemistry, skipping the more basic material from first semester. This is sort of the best of both worlds—not retaking an entire year, but also getting in some practice before organic.
Last, a few students each year jump right into organic their freshmen year. And, in fact, we’ve had several of the top organic students in a year be freshmen who skipped General Chemistry. So, they were not hurt in organic by not taking General Chemistry. If they were hurt, it was missing the General Chemistry lab and all that practical lab experience.
So, it partly depends on how good a student one is and how confident they are about their General Chemistry ability. If a student feels quite confident in Chemistry and in their chemistry knowledge, they could definitely succeed at organic right away freshman year. This obviously has a big advantage in that it frees up 8 hours (two classes) worth of time, allowing a student to do other things they might want to do.