Spectrum biology

(Axel Boer) #1
lUse the terminology Make up sentences that employ
difficult and unfamiliar words. Using specialised terms will
help you learn them much more effectively than simply
reading them.
lTeach the material With a friend, find an empty classroom
and teach the material to each other. Speaking and writing on
the board will quickly move information to your long-term
lDevelop mnemonics Come up with catchy phrases to help
you remember sequences and terms. For example, “Must Be
Good” can help you remember stages of embryo
development: Morula, Blastula, Gastrula.



Throughout the semester, keep asking and answering questions

related to what you are learning. Memorisation is only part of the

equation. You need to understand what you study.
lTest yourself with the textbook Chances are each chapter in
your textbook concludes with practice questions. Use these to
test your understanding of the material.
lTurn your notes into questions For each lecture and
reading assignment, figure out what are the key concepts and
turn them into potential exam questions. Practice writing
answers to the questions.
lTalk Biology with classmates You’ll master biology quickly
if you become conversant in the concepts and terminology.
Try getting together with classmates on a regular basis to
discuss course content.
lMake it real Since Biology is the study of the living world
around you, don’t limit your study to a dead textbook. Get out
on campus and apply your knowledge to the flora and fauna
you encounter. Practice identifying and classifying
organisms. Explain the biological processes that make your
campus green and your classmates hungry.


Exams don’t come out of nowhere and your instructor is n’t

trying to trick you. Rather, your examiner is using the exam to

make sure you’ve mastered important class content. So what

content is important and what’s most likely to appear on the

exam? You have a lot of clues to help you figure this out
lDo you synthesise all your notes—from the lectures and
your text? You may want to make one easily accessible study
sheet. This study sheet shouldn’t be packed corner to corner,
but should have key ideas and pictures to jog your 2 memory.
In designing your study sheet, focus on the information you
have yet to fully master.
lWhile studying, can you provide a summary of the lecture
or chapter in words and pictures without looking at your
notes or the text? Redraw pictures or graphs from memory.
Try to explain out loud each part of the picture or graph and
then explain how they relate to the other parts. Explain how

one picture relates to another and so on, until you can pull
the whole lecture or chapter together.
lDo you create your own flow charts or concept maps to
organise large quantities of information? Get a set of
coloured pencils or pens and get creative! A Learning
Instructor can help you practice this technique, using your
own class notes and textbook.
lDo you study with a small group of dedicated students?
It is helpful to get different perspectives. Have each
member bring five practice questions to each study session
to quiz each other. Try to write questions in the same
format(s) that your professor uses. If you don’t feel
comfortable with an answer, take your sample problem and
answer to the professor, discussion group leader, or TA.
They will be impressed by your efforts to master the topic!
lDo you attend review sessions? Bring specific,
well-thought out questions about topics or areas you are
still trying to master. Ask a member of your study group to
join you; compare notes afterward.
lDo you review the various topics or practice questions
in random order? This is important to do when studying
so that your mind can become accustomed to jumping
from topic to topic on the test. Old exams are useful for this
lDo you analyse your previous tests? This is a powerful
study tool. Examine each question. Look at what you got
right and ask yourself why you got it right. Do the same for
the questions you got wrong. Make a thoughtful and well
considered comparison between your answers and the
answers in the key and ask yourself what you would have
needed to do differently to get the question right.
Eventually, you should be able to see patterns in the
professor’s style of questions, your way of thinking through
problems and your test preparation. Then you can use
these insights to plan how you will study in the future.


Actually, what a Biology paper requires is not a composition,
but keywords and phrases. Markers award you marks because
you state a keyword or a key phrase accurately, not because you
write well or a long piece. Of course, you still need to make your
answers understandable! If you don’t get the key points, you
will not get any marks, no matter how much you write.
However, once you write down the most important point, you
get that point regardless of the length of your answer. With that
in mind, try to figure out key words or phrases in the chapter
that you study.
If you find figuring out keywords difficult, try discussing the
problem with your teacher or classmates. Bear in mind that
simply memorising every word that appears on your textbook
brings you no benefit except a painful experience in your school

“Books are the quickest and most conotant of friends, they are the most
accessible and wisest of counselors and the most patient of teachers”
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