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The Physical Properties of Organic Compounds

The physical properties of an organic substance, such as melting point, boiling point and solubility, are among its most important traits along with reactivity. The physical properties of an organic substance can often be predicted from its structure. In most cases, a substance's molecular weight and the functional groups are sufficient information to allow for a good estimate of the melting point, boiling point, and solubility. Comparing molecules of similar size, the greater the strength of intermolecular force, the more thermodynamically favored will be the condensed phase at a given pressure and temperature.

Understanding how functional groups affect the physical properties of organic compounds is of primary importance to laboratory organic chemistry. Furthermore, it is an important conceptual bridge from organic chemistry to biochemistry and cell biology. You definitely need this understanding to be able to grasp protein folding, for example, or the structure of biological membranes. This is a priority for the MCAT. You can expect both direct and indirect questions. Straightforward questions asking for a comparison of solubilities are common, for example, or questions involving similar reasoning in a more advanced biological context.

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