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How to Succeed in BIO 171

First, read the suggestions in the syllabus. Also, check out these ideas:

Knowledge and Comprehension
  1. Assume you need to learn everything on the lecture slides (unless told otherwise). In science, the wording is important. Until you comprehend the intricacies of scientific language, assume that the terms really are important – the lecturer probably picked his/her words carefully. Try this: Read a slide carefully. Turn the paper over and rewrite the slide in your own words. Turn back over the paper and check your work. Repeat until you can consistently rewrite the slide in your own words.
  2. How and when do you study? Try this: 1) For lecture material, go over it (read/write/speak) twice in a day (before you sleep). For example, if you have lecture at noon, read the book at 11AM. OR go to lecture at noon and rewrite your notes at 8pm. THEN at a later date (ideally within 48 hours), you need to help that information solidify in your long term memory. To do this, you need some sort of elaborative practice – do something that required you to do more than “spit back” the information.
  3. Reorganize the information. The brain makes connections when you organize information; this increases recall. There are a variety of ways to organize –use a diagram, table, concept map, etc. Organize the information into a system that makes sense. Ideally, do this without looking at notes, but use your notes if you need them. It is not a good idea to repeat incorrect information (your brain memorizes the wrong thing!).
  4. Test your COMPREHENSION (different from rote memorization). The best way to do this is to quiz yourself or have a friend quiz you. Friends help to keep you honest. Use the practice exam, the questions in your textbook, old exams if you have them available, etc. Don’t look at the answers until you (and your study partner) are fairly sure you can defend the answer you chose. Don’t worry if some of the questions are not exactly on topic with the lectures. The very action of sorting questions into “on topic” and “off topic” forces you to organize information (see #2 above). Ideally, you should be able to explain each concept using course vocabulary and explain what other concepts relate to that concept.
  5. What are you doing in lecture? When time permits, you need to be relating the ideas from today’s lecture to the ideas from last lecture, last week’s lecture, etc. Do this as annotations on your lecture notes. This helps your brain store the information in a way that is easily retrievable. Also, you should be trying to predict what the lecturer is going to say next based on what he/she said last. This forces you to use the information in the lecture, thus increasing your ability to store the information.
  6. Who are you studying with? Not all study time should be in a team. However, at least once a week, sit down with a serious student and talk about the information. Explain it to each other and explain what information relates to what other information.
Application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation

Once you can recall the information, relate it to other information, and comprehend the information, you need to be able to do more sophisticated mental tasks with this information.

You cannot do this if you do not know the information. See above.

Check out these great study suggestions. If you prefer to print your own copy of this paper, it is available at the UM library, online:

Crowe, A. et al. 2008. Biology in Bloom: Implementing Bloom’s taxonomy to enhance        student learning in biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education. 7: 368-381. Table 3

Caveat: This advice is tailored toward a course wherein a lot of the grade is based on exams from lecture notes. The advice is a bit different for a project-based course (e.g., a lab) or for a course focusing on problem solving (e.g., a math course).

Key #1 Rule: Studying takes time. Plan on 2 hours outside of class for every hour in class PER WEEK. Think about it – if you are taking 15 hours, that is at least 30 hours of study time. Your full time job is class and studying. Be careful not to over-commit your time.