Frequently Asked Questions about the ACS Standardized Exam
What is the ACS Standardized Exam?
As described in the syllabus, the final exam for this course is the American Chemical
Society (ACS) standardized exam in organic chemistry. The exam covers the entire year of
introductory organic chemistry, and allows your instructor to gauge your performance in
the course relative to students across the nation.
Are there sample questions available?
YES. A study guide is available. It should be available in the bookstore. If it is not, you
can obtain a mail-in order form (.pdf Adobe Acrobat format) for copies from the following web
When the page opens, select "Assessment Materials", and at the bottom of the new page, select
"Organic Chemistry Official Study Guide." The cost (2002) is $15 plus $6 shipping. If you mail
in an order, allow 21 days to receive the book.
What is the format of the ACS Standardized
The test consists of 70 multiple-choice questions. You will have exactly two hours to
complete the exam. Since this is a standardized exam, the conditions of the exam are quite
specific. For example:
- The serial number of your test booklet will be recorded.
- All answers must be marked with a No. 2 pencil and the marks should be very dark.
Any erasures must be complete - leaving no smudges.
- You will be provided with scratch paper, but no other reference materials are
allowed.You must turn in all scratch paper at the end of the exam along with your test
booklet and answer sheet.
- The exam proctor may not provide any additional information or clarifying statements
beyond what in stated in the test booklet.
What should my strategy be?
Your score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty
for incorrect answers. Therefore it is to your advantage to answer every question - even if you
have no idea which answer is correct.
How should I study for this exam?
Use your exams and quizzes from Chemistry 351-352-353. Study the chapter summaries
from the lecture textbook and your instructor's old sample exams - especially if they contain
multiple-choice questions. Review your notes - both PowerPoint notes and the ones you took in
class. Work as many of the end-of-chapter problems as you can. If you have taken laboratory
courses (Chemistry 354-355), reviewing the material pertaining to specific reactions you did as
part of that class may be helpful also. The topics listed below are generally covered in the
one-year organic chemistry lecture series. My recommendation is that you use the topic list in
conjunction with the textbook and your old exams and notes.
Also keep in mind that you will perform better if you do not leave all the reviewing to the
end of the quarter. I suggest that you pick one or two topics to review each week throughout the
List of Topics to Study
Structure and Bonding
Lewis structures, molecular orbitals, hybridization
Nomenclature of organic compounds (mostly IUPAC)
Conformations of organic molecules
Stereoisomerism and Chirality
Fischer projections, cis-trans isomers, E/Z isomers, enantiomers, meso compounds,
Diastereomers, absolute configuration (R/S), relative configuration (D/L)
Resonance and Electron Delocalization
Acids and Bases
Strength of acids/bases (pKa), inductive vs. size vs. resonance effects
Addition of HX, Markovnikov's rule, halogenation, hydrogenation, oxymercuration and
Hydroboration of alkenes/alkynes, Diels-Alder reaction
E1 vs. E2, Saytzeff's rule, E1cb elimination, Hofmann elimination
Sn1/Sn2, leaving group ability, nucleophilicity, solvent effects,
Conversion of alcohols to leaving groups
Infrared Spectroscopy (IR)
Modes of vibration, vibration frequency of common functional groups
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR)
Chemical shift and equivalence, spin-spin splitting
Oxidation and Reduction reactions and reagents
Alkyllithiums, Grignard reagents, cuprates
Aldehydes and Ketones (preparation, nucleophilic addition to C=O), carboxylic acids
Acid derivatives and their inter conversions, substitution next to C=O, enolates
Aromatic Substitution Reactions
Electrophilic aromatic substitution (EAS), activating/deactivating substituents
How will the standardized exam be figured into my course
Your score will be based on national percentile ranking. A score at the 50th percentile is,
by definition, average. Therefore the percentile score must be scaled to reflect grading on a
100-point scale and be consistent with the grade cutoffs listed in the course syllabus.
The class average in organic chemistry is usually 75/100. Therefore, a student scoring at the 50th
percentile on the ACS exam should receive a grade of approximately 75%. This scaling will be
accomplished by the use of the follwoing formula:
Scaled Score = ACS percentile + [ (100-ACS percentile) (ACS percentile/100) ]
Using the example given above of a student at the 50th percentile on the final,
50 + [ (100 - 50) (50/100) ] = 75
Let's consider some other examples so you can see how this works. The following ACS
percentile conversions were calculated using the formula given above:
90 percentile => 99 points, 80 percentile => 96 points, 70 percentile => 91 points,
60 percentile => 84 points, 50 percentile => 75 points, 40 percentile => 64 points,
30 percentile => 51 points, 20 percentile => 36 points, 10 percentile => 19 points.
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