Integrated SequencePhysics Chemistry Organic Biology

Web Resources

  click if a link is broken

Special points of emphasis

Periodic Properties

The Chemical Bond

Chemical Kinetics

Nucleophiles and Electrophiles

Conjugated π Systems and Aromaticity

Reactions of Aromatic Compounds

Electrophiles react with arenes by substitution (not addition as with alkenes), substituting for one of the hydrogens in the ring. Electrophilic aromatic substitution is a key reaction type for the MCAT.

Only strong electrophiles can overcome the high activation energy barrier that corresponds to the loss of aromaticity by the ring in forming a carbocation intermediate. In other words, because of the reduced reactivity of aromatic rings compared to double bonds, the electrophilicity of the reacting species is required to be greater. The electrophilicity of chlorine or bromine, for example, must be enhanced by association with a catalyst for electrophilic aromatic substitution.

Work, Energy, and Power


Functional Groups in Organic Chemistry


Chemical Kinetics

Conjugated π Systems and Aromaticity

Reactions of Aromatic Compounds

Let us take a moment to review one the of the big discussions within the topic of electrophilic aromatic substitution, which everyone remembers from their first year course and which definitely may be on the MCAT. This is the discussion concerning the effect of the original substituent upon the regioselectivity and rate of a second addition. Both the regioselectivity and the rate of electrophilic aromatic substitution depend on the substituent(s) already present on the ring. Concerning its effect on regioselectivity, a substituent is either an ORTHO, PARA director or it is a META director. Concerning its effect on the rate of reaction, a substituent is either ACTIVATING or DEACTIVATING.

Whether an existing substituent is an ORTHO, PARA director or a META director depends on the effect it has on the stability of the cyclohexadienyl cation. With ORTHO, PARA directors, the cyclohexadienyl cation precursors to ORTHO and PARA products are more stable. When a new group is added ORTHO or PARA in relation to a substituent, the resonant cyclohexadienyl cation intermediate places positive charge on the carbon to which the original substituent is bonded. If the original substituent can donate negative charge, either by resonance or inductively, it will stabilize the carbocation, and the mechanism will be favored having the new group coming in ORTHO or PARA. However, if a group is electron withdrawing, the favored mechanism will avoid placing positive charge on the carbon to which it is bonded and META addition will be favored.

ORTHO, PARA directors tend to be ACTIVATING and META directors tend to be DEACTIVATING. The primary exceptions are the halogens, which are SLIGHTLY DEACTIVATING but are ORTHO, PARA directing. This is because they are electron withdrawing by induction but electron donating by resonance.

The WikiPremed MCAT Course is a free comprehensive course in the undergraduate level general sciences. Undergraduate level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology are presented by this course as a unified whole within a spiraling curriculum.

Please read our policies on privacy and shipping & returns.  Contact Us.
MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which does not endorse the WikiPremed Course.

Creative Commons License
The work of WikiPremed is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License. There are elements of work here, such as a subset of the images in the archive from WikiPedia, that originated as GNU General Public License works, so take care to follow the unique stipulations of that license in printed reproductions. You can use the resources here for commercial or non-commercial purposes, but please give attribution and a link to the production credits and edit history of the resource. For the works here which began as my individual work, please attribute "John Wetzel, an author at".