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Five High School Biology Study Tips!

Bio lab student hard at work

Students usually have to take a biology course in high school. Many students have a rough time with the course because it's often one of the first classes students take after middle school which demand higher level study skills. Higher order skills are needed because the science of biology is dense and complex, requiring multiple kinds of knowledge and skills to study and understand. Here are some tips to help tackle the topic and achieve your grade goals!

1) Be a teacher's pet!...Not seriously, but kind of.

What's meant by this advice is make sure to show up to all the scheduled classes on time and be prepared to take notes. As well, complete any assigned readings before hand. Reading biology textbooks is an art in itself and can pay off big time if one reads carefully and looks through all the relevant diagrams and study aids they usually have for students. Take notes as you read and jot down any tough questions for the teacher. Have a notebook and/or digital document solely dedicated to your biology lecture notes! Your note taking serves at least three purposes: it helps (forces) you to organize a tidal wave of information into manageable sections; it can create a study guide for unit exams and quizzes; it will help your brain memorize stuff as you think about the information your hand is writing down.

2) Figure out the big picture first!

Biology courses tend to slam students with tsunamis of information in the form of many new vocabulary words, complex relationships between living things and non-living things, and complex processes within living things themselves. This information is presented in labs, lectures and readings. To help digest all that information students need to be able see the bigger picture involved in biological processes as well as know some of the details, depending on the depth of the course. Learning the big picture first can help a student prevent getting "lost in the weeds". For example, memorizing all the many details of the stages of mitosis (cell division) without knowing the "why's" and the "what for's" of the process short-circuits the student's chances of answering tough

questions on any test that assumes this larger understanding. So think of big processes and systems before you dive into the details. Work from "general to specific" is another way of putting it. Another example: it's advantageous to understand the basic functions and major parts of the skeletal system (big picture) in humans before memorizing all the individual bones.

3) Make drawings and tables.

Drawings and tables can help organize complex information in ways that our brains can manage. Making your own tables and drawings can further aid your understanding because you have to look up and analyze information in order to place facts into proper categories and positions in diagrams and charts. For example, see how the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells are nicely laid out in the table below.

Making your own version of this chart above and others as you proceed through your units can help you absorb and sort all the info coming your way.

4) Find the best ways (for you) to memorize information.

Whether it's with flashcards, Quizlets, memory devices, or other means get used to memorizing lots of information. Of course, memorization is not enough to do well in most bio classes, but absorbing lots of facts efficiently is a boon to orchestrating a fuller understanding.

5) Start (test prep) early!

Biology exams are particularly cruel to students who wait until the last minute to study. No surprise why: It's just too much information to process in a short time. People are like computers: it does take more time to download lots of data. Begin prepping by outlining a plan for your study times. Make an ordered list of what sources to study and the time needed to complete each item. A typical list might look like this:

1) Review Lecture Notes from Chapters 1 and 2 (20 minutes)

2) Gather and review onion cell lab worksheets. (20 minutes)

3) Memorize flashcards for cell parts and functions (45 minutes)

4) Complete official Review Guide from teacher (25 minutes)

5) Take the practice quiz (15 minutes)

6) Go back and review any weak areas; reread parts of the text if needed. (? minutes)

7) If needed re-watch YouTube video on cell parts. (7 minutes)

Try to start prepping at least a week ahead of the exam. If your teacher does not provide a list of main ideas to master, try to anticipate what questions your teacher will ask and study those questions first.

Other study tips include seeking out help from your teacher, peers, tutors and and your parents.

Hope this was a helpful set of tips for your bio course work!

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