Success in Biology
College biology classes are among the most popular science classes at the college level. They’re required for many majors, and many college students find biology to be a more interesting field than other science classes. Hhere are some tips for success in your college biology class.
- Look it up. Keep a search engine handy or bookmark the glossary of your textbook. Even if you took high school biology, you will encounter terminology that is new. If you can’t catch the meaning from context, take a moment to look up the term in your glossary or with a search engine. It is also helpful to write down definitions because the act of putting words on paper reinforces what you have read.
- Keep up. Don’t fall behind on your reading assignments. If nothing else, skim the reading and take note of topic headings, so you can take some of the concepts to your class meeting. Getting behind on assignments is a sure path to a lower grade.
- “Read” the pictures. Remember that the graphics in your textbook are important too. These graphics are very important for reinforcing the concepts you learn through reading. Give them the attention they deserve, and you will find your course work easier.
- Get help. Ask for help if you need it. You’re certainly not alone if you have trouble with one or more concepts. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in online or traditional class sessions. Chances are there are several other students with the same questions. If this isn’t enough, contact your instructor during office hours or visit the Math & Science Center. Getting help before you get behind is the best way to ensure you overcome your difficulties.
- Give it time. In general, count on spending two hours reading and studying for every one hour of classroom time. If you devote sufficient time to your biology assignments, you will almost certainly earn a higher grade, and you will avoid having to “cram” the night before tests.
Success in Chemistry
Chemistry may be challenging, but there are many things you can do to help yourself succeed. Here are some tips to help you pass chemistry.
Traps to avoid. Let's start out with a list of common mistakes students make which can sabotage their success with chemistry. Engaging in one or two of these may not break you, but these are dangerous practices. Avoid them if you want to pass chemistry!
- Thinking you can learn the math prerequisites at the same time as chemistry.
- Procrastinating! Putting off studying for a test until the night before, writing up labs the night before they are due, working problems the same day they are due.
- Skipping class.
- Only attending class on quiz days or leaving early.
- Relying on someone else to take notes.
- Expecting the instructor to offer extra credit or to drop a low grade.
- Copying the answers to the problems from someone else or from the text (for books that give the answers).
- Thinking a good grade early on means the class will remain the same level of dofficulty or that you won't need to study later.
Be prepared. Chemistry is a lot harder than it needs to be if you're learning essential math skills at the same time. You should be familiar with the following concepts before setting foot in the chemistry classroom.
- writing and solving algebraic equations
- scientific notation
- negative numbers
Get your head on straight. Some people psych themselves out of doing well in chemistry. It's not impossible—you can do this! However, you need to set reasonable expectations for yourself. This involves keeping up with class and building bit by bit on what you learned the previous day. Chemistry is not a class you cram for on the last day. Be prepared to study.
- Take responsibility for your learning. If you are confused, let your instructor know this. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Get help from the Math & Science center or from your prof during office hours.
- View chemistry class as an opportunity rather than a chore. Find something you like about chemistry and focus on that. Having a positive attitude can be a key to your success.
Attend class. Attendance is related to success. It's partly a matter of more exposure to the subject and it's partly about getting on your instructor's good side. Being there is a start, but there is more to attendance than simply showing up.
- Arrive on time. Many instructors review concepts at the beginning of class, often indicating likely test questions and going over problems that were difficult for most of the class.
- Take notes. If it's written on the board, copy it down. If your instructor says it, write it down. Examples given on the board often show a method of solving a chemistry problem that is different from what you have in your textbook.
- Sit near the front. It's a matter of attitude. Sitting near the front engages you with the lecture, which can enhance your learning. It's easier to slack if you sit in the back.
Work the problems. Working problems is the surest route to passing chemistry.
- Don't copy someone else's work. Do the problems yourself.
- Don't look at the answers to problems (if available) until you've gotten an answer yourself.
- You may understand how a problem is worked, but don't make the mistake of assuming that is a substitute for working through the problem on your own. Consult the worked problem if you get stuck.
- Write down what you are trying to answer in a problem. Write down all the facts that you are given. Sometimes seeing what you know written down this way will help you recall the method for obtaining the solution.
- If you get the opportunity, help someone else work problems. If you can explain the problem to someone else, there's a good chance you truly understand it.
Read the text. The easiest way to master chemistry concepts and problems is to see examples of those problems. You'll use the text for example and most likely will have problem assignments in the book. The text will contain a periodic table, glossary, and helpful information regarding lab techniques and units. Have a text, read it, and bring it with you to class.
Be smart on tests. You need to know the information covered by tests, but it's also important to study for tests and take them the right way.
- Don't cram for a test. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to stay up all night studying. Keep up in class and study a little every day.
- Get sleep before a test. Eat breakfast. You'll perform better if you are energized.
- Read through the test before answering any questions. This will help you know what to expect and will allow you to identify the questions worth the most points.
- Be sure to answer the high-point questions. You may end up working the test backwards, but that's okay. This is especially important if you are afraid you might run out of time taking the test.
- Review returned tests. Make sure you understand what you did wrong and how to do it right. Expect to see these questions on the final exam! Even if you never see the questions again, understanding how to get the right answer will help you master the next section of the class.
Success in Math
- ATTEND CLASS! Students who miss class generally receive lower grades.
- Take detailed class notes. Review the notes after class (before the next class period) to be sure you are ready for any new material. If there are questions on the material covered in class, get help from your prof during office hours, the Math & Science Center, or someone else.
- A solution manual (or other help source) can be a crutch. A person cannot learn to play the piano by watching! If you find you needed help to solve a problem, mark the problem and return to it in a day or two. See if you can now work the problem on your own. If you find you need help again, get the help. However, mark the problem and return to it again. Continue this until you have mastered the concept.
- For every hour spent in class, three hours outside class should be spent working problems and studying. This is key.
- Practice positive self-talk about math. A positive attitude about the subject helps studying, which helps grades.
- Outside help is available through the Math & Science Center, help sessions, weekly reviews and office hours. Use these resources!
- Don't get behind! Classes often move at a fast pace, and today's lecture will likely build on the previous lecture. Even if you miss class you should try to look at the material that was covered during the class you missed.
- Students often take homework and quiz points less seriously than exam points. However, they are all added up at the end of the semester and can make quite a difference in your final grade.
- Test taking is a skill. You should look through your entire exam and work the questions you think are the easiest first. Then go back and work the more difficult ones and skip those that you can't do. You don’t want to run out of time when you have not had a chance to look at all the problems.
- Wishing that a bad test will go away doesn't work. If you do badly on an exam you should not throw it away (tempting as that may be). You should rework the exam and then go to your instructor's office and discuss the test and what went wrong. Simply hoping that the next test will be better is rarely effective.
- Miracles rarely happen on the final. Be sure your grade going into the final is strong enough to withstand a lower than usual performance. But do study! A student who studies hard enough for the final can still raise the grade.