Take easy professor for Orgo?

Hey guys,

I’m a first-year student majoring in Neuroscience and on the Pre-Med track. I’m planning on taking Organic Chemistry in the spring, but I’m confused if I should choose the hard professor or the easy professor.

I talked to previous year students and they told me “If you want to get a good grade in Organic Chemistry, take the easy professor, but if you want to learn the real Organic Chemistry take the hard professor.” I know, grades matter in college, but I’m also going to take the MCAT in the future, so I don’t know what to chose. What do you all think?

What makes one professor “easy” and the other prof “hard?” What’s the difference between the two professors, their teaching style… the work they give… and …what are the study habits of the students who are sharing this info? Do you know students who had the “easy” prof? Did they struggle with orgo 2 or were they well prepared? What do the students who took the harder prof say about him/her? Did they keep up with the work, attend office hours and any extra help sessions etc? Do you know anybody who received an A with the harder prof… who can share their experience?

My D had a tough prof for orgo 1… he had a reputation for being very hard and began emailing assignments during the summer… weeks before the class began. She had well over 200 problems a night to do… every night… all semester and she never stopped complaining about him…not once. She worked her tail off for several hours each night and got the A. Once the class ended she commented that she was grateful to have him. She still talks favorably about him today.

Fast forward to that summer… she was staying on campus and decided to take orgo 2. Summer sessions are 5-6 weeks and are considered to be harder because they cram an entire semester into 5 weeks… needless to say orgo 2 during the summer is no picnic. How did it go? It went very very well… and she repeatedly told me that Prof X prepared them a lot…he actually began teaching them orgo 2… during orgo 1. She said the summer session was not easy… she still worked hard…loved the prof…but having Prof X really prepared her for this class …and she did very well.

I would speak to students who received the A with both profs and find out how their experiences were… and ask how orgo 2 went.

In addition to the excellent advice given by @twogirls, consider whether the harder professor covers the material in greater depth and detail. Ochem 1 is a foundational course that gives you the basis for understanding Ochem 2 and biochemistry.

Being a physician is a life long marathon not a 100 meter sprint. You could take an easy way out in one course but the aftermath could affect the future learning process because you do not have a good foundation to move forward.

@twogirls @WayOutWestMom @artloversplus Thank you so much for responding. You guys showed me the side I never thought about. @twogirls I’ve not talked to people who got A in the hard professors class, but I’m going to try to find people. I talked to a person who took the easy professors class for Orgo 1 and took Orgo 2 with the hard professor because of a schedule conflict and she told me that she struggled in Orgo 2 because they way she was thought in Orgo 1 didn’t prepare her for Orgo 2s hard professor class. I’ve also seen a comment on Rate my Professor for the easy professors class and one student said “I had a different professor for CHEM 211 and switched into his section of 212 due to scheduling issues. I wish that I hadn’t. I learned little to nothing from his exams that are basically exact replicas of his “worksheets”. If you want to learn Professor XXXXXXX chemistry, take his class. If you want to learn organic chemistry, stay away.” So this made me confused. I’m also going to take Organismal Biology, Human Cognition, and Introduction to Anthropology. @WayOutWestMom @artloversplus Yes, I want to prepare for my future classes, but my only concern is my GPA. What if I get into the hard professors class and not get a good grade? I don’t think medical schools are going to factor that I took a hard class into their considerations.

There is no right or wrong on your decision to take a class with any professor of your choice. But you must remember, med school will admit only the best of the best. Only 10-20% premed hopefuls will ended up applying med school. If you take easy way out with all your UG classes, you won’t be able to get a high Mcat score acceptable to med school. Even you are lucky that you got into med school, there are many more challenges ahead of you, you need a high med school gpa, good shelf test scores, high LOR and high USMLE to get into a good residency. In your residency, you will face the hardest test of your life- to meet the patients, you need to make wise decisions to treat the patients. If you fail the last step, you will face endless law suites.

As I said, becoming a physician is a marathon, you cannot avoid tough situations. You need to meet and overcome the challenges head on. Whether you want to take an easy A now or you want to work your axx off to get a difficult A or some times a B is up to you.


You’re right med schools do not care if you took the easy prof or a hard prof. There are more than 3000 colleges & universities in the US and it’s ridiculous to expect that members of a any given medical school admission committee (who are full time practicing physicians or are full time med students and are volunteering on the adcomm in their very limited free time) would even know who is hard teacher and who is any easy teacher at one particular undergrad.

You just have to enroll in the class and try your best. If the teacher proves to be too much to deal with and you’re in danger of failing the class–you can always withdraw.

But B or even a C in ochem isn’t going to be THE one thing that will keep you from getting a med school acceptance.

GPA is just one of the factors that med school adcomms look at. You also need an strong MCAT score–and scoring well on the MCAT requires mastery of ochem/biochem. (30-40% of the biology section of the MCAT are biochem questions). And beyond a strong GPA and MCAT score there are dozens of intangibles and soft factors–like having the expected ECs and good LORs, how well your write your personal statement and secondary essays and how well you interview, as well as where you live and what your professional goals are.

Adcomms are not looking for students with the highest GPAs; they’re looking for academically capable people who have the right personal qualities to become good physicians.

I’m not sure I want my Neurologist to be the one who looked for the easy prof. How about searching around for the best prof, as opposed to the easy/hard one?

@artloversplus @WayOutWestMom @bjkmom You’re all right. I better face it now than struggle later, so I’m going to take the “hard” professor and give it my best. I will also go to office hours if I need help. Thank you so much for opening my eyes! I appreciate it.


You’ll need more than just office hours. Being successful in ochem requires doing tons and tons of practice problems–more than whatever may be assigned for homework.

Having a peer study group will help so that if you get stuck on one problem there’s usually someone else who can see the solution.

If you are a hands on or visual learner, it may bedworth in vesting in a 3-D model kits for Ochem.

I’ve heard many pre-med recommend Organic Chemistry as a Second Language by David Klein as a useful supplemental text. There are first semester and second semester versions.

I’m a pragmatist. This is what I’d advise my premeds…

Take the easier prof to get the high grade…BUT, before you start the class, buy the “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language” on Amazon and read it/learn it and keep it for reference and learning/studying.

Win/Win…you’ll learn Orgo and get the best grade.

Agree with @mom2collegekids , take the easier professor to get the A but then prepare to do self study with “Organic Chemistry as a 2nd language.” Also you will need to review the material for the MCAT exam and you can do that by getting Kaplan or NextStep books for practice.

Either you prepare to do the hard work in class with a tougher teacher but you may learn more or you have to self study and make sure you understand the material to do well on the MCAT. Keep in mind usually classes are not taught with preparing for the MCAT in mind.

Be careful in that “easier” can mean either easier material/rigor or easier grading. It is possible that an instructor with easier material/rigor is less generous with grading, or attracts more competitive grade-obsessed students, which may make it harder to earn an A grade.

@bernie12 wrote an Emory specific post about instructor choice that touches on things that this thread is about.


@ucbalumnus and @Goodluck123 : To summarize because there is a lot in that post: It depends on where you are in the sequence, if you need 2 semesters and are going into the first semester, and are at least a medium sized school, I reccommend taking at least a “medium” or “medium-hard” instructor for the first semester. There may be no guarantees for how you place for ochem 2, and placing into a decently rigorous first semester can save you if you get the tough instructor 2nd semester and it can ease your life substantially if you do indeed place at a “medium” or lower. I know most schools have “turnover” in which the same instructors do not return for the 2nd semester, so this definitely applies to those schools because you may not know what the hell you are getting in such a case.

The “easier” class may actually be less desirable for reasons explained in post #12. Also, doing well in the “easier” class means doing all the class work ( there will still be work) in addition to reading the book “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language” mentioned above by mom.

@Goodluck123 are you the type of student who can self teach? Are you the type to take time each day to do the extra reading that hasn’t been assigned, and teach yourself if necessary? Or…do you do better in a class where you might not need that extra step ( beware… you still might need the reading)?

Thank you, everyone! I just ordered the book you guys recommended.
I need five semesters of chemistry and am almost done with one.

I’ve registered for a medium-hard professor. People told me that his class is rigor, but it’s doable, so I will have to do tons of practice problems during my winter break. If you guys have other suggestions please feel free to let me know.
Again, thanks @WayOutWestMom @mom2collegekids @raclut @ucbalumnus @bernie12 @twogirls for all your advice.

I forgot to mention, Do you guys recommend any specific version of the book? I just realized that there are different versions.

@twogirls : I appreciate you for reminding the OP of that fact. I see this play out over and over again. Sometimes weaker or time strapped students would go to the least rigorous instructor and clearly assumed that because they were “easier”, they had to do very little and could cram 1-2 days before the exam and be fine. The reality is that the difference is more along the lines of “1 month of consistent engagement with material and a step up 2 weeks or more before the exam” versus “start seriously 2 weeks before the exam, and at least some engagement before helps”. The idea is that consistent engagement may guarantee a good grade in the “easier” instructors’ course, whereas it merely increases the chances at a solid grade in the harder course.

Usually the easier sections yielded the exact same course GPAs as the harder sections due to these attitudes and these largely seem to come from selection effects.

@Goodluck123 : Just try to get a decent ochem instructor that actually requires you to think and solve different problems than what they have already assigned (if you have yet to take a STEM course that has challenged you in this way, you now have an opportunity to do so. I think all STEM majors should take at least one course or sequence like that, pre-health or not). The MCAT is very much about thinking on your feet and dealing with the passage based questions. Getting a solid grounding ochem (especially ochem 2) can help for some of the “chemical biology” oriented biochemistry questions on it. When you see complex scenarios with a chemical emphasis, you won’t be as afraid. And please remember that one lackluster score in a course will not jeopardize your chances as you should be applying to a range of schools anyway when the time comes. And a great foundation could help you perform better in later biology courses like biochem (which you should and have to take I believe), so you will get the upward trend you desire. Get as many “added value” effects as you can. Ochem is one of the few pre-health courses that ties into later courses in terms of content, so you can kind of take a risk there (gen. chem…eh, physics eh, math no…if you are a biology or a neuroscience major at most schools, you won’t be using those as much.)

@bernie12 Yes, you’re right. I have to make a lot of decisions by myself and don’t know what to choose because every side has its own pros and cons. I was thinking of keeping the professor I have and still talk to the “hard” professor if he can give me the worksheets or the exams they take, so I get the grade I want and still be on top of my class to help me on the MCAT. What do you think?

When you said “Ochem is one of the few pre-health courses that ties into later courses in terms of content, so you can kind of take a risk there (gen. chem…eh, physics eh, math no…if you are a biology or a neuroscience major at most schools, you won’t be using those as much.)” do you mean those courses won’t really be on the MCAT or?