Here’s how to keep all the bio you learn in your brain
Many students find biology courses difficult because there is just so much content covered! Though biology isn’t easy, any student can succeed in a biology course with a little organization and a commitment to reviewing the course material for about 10-45 minutes almost every day. After years of being a student myself and years of classroom teaching and biology tutoring experience, I have found if you’re struggling in bio, whether in high school or college, the following ten tips never fail to help you bring your grades up! Good luck!
- Be an active listener during class. This is incredibly important in a biology course because so much detailed information is covered.
- Take good class notes. This will help you tremendously later on when following steps 3-7 and ultimately, especially when studying for tests. Come up with a class notes system to make note-taking easier, such as using a set of colored pens to insert useful diagrams, or underlining key terms as the teacher explains them.
- Every day after school, carefully reread your notes once or twice. It doesn’t take long, and saves you tons of time and anxiety around exam time.
- After you have read the day’s notes, transcribe key terms (like “photosynthesis”) onto index cards with the word on the front and the definition on the back. For an average high school biology course, you will typically be making 3-10 cards per night. It may seem like a lot of work, but this will help you to stay on top of the material, synthesize your class notes, and by the time the unit test rolls around, you’ll have a full set of study materials.
- While rereading your notes and making the index cards, flag any topics/notes you don’t fully understand. Then:
- Look up the topic in your textbook.
- If you’re still confused, do a 5 minute google search to learn about the topic.
- If you’re STILL confused, flag the topic and ask a classmate or the teacher to explain it the next day.
- Start studying for major tests at least 2-3 days ahead. To get a firm grip on the material, you really need to give it time to sink in and take lots of breaks in between to allow you to process the material.
- To better understand biological processes, draw and diagram them out. Then, add these drawings and diagrams to your notes.
- For difficult topics and understanding biological processes, watch online videos for clarification. Khan Academy is great, as well as the Youtube channels Biology/Medicine Animations HD and CrashCourse.
- When it gets close to test time, participate in 1-2 group study sessions with your classmates. Explaining difficult concepts to confused classmates and having them do the same for you REALLY helps.
- For tutoring, try to meet with your biology tutor once per week to review the week’s notes and once before each large quiz or test. Try to go into your tutoring sessions well-organized, with a list of topics you’re struggling with and/or questions you have about the material.
For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our private biology tutors in NYC, Boston, and online: Breaking Down the Krebs Cycle, How Do I Remember the Steps of Photosythesis?, and Explaining the Central Dogma of Biology.