Tips on Studying for College Biology Tests

College biology is a rigorous course that requires both rote memory and application knowledge to excel.  It requires students to be able to recall a formidable amount of material in a very short period of time. 

In order to succeed in this course, a student must be able to hone his or her study skills and have strategies to review large stretches of material and link ideas together.  Here are some study skill strategies to help you make the most of your time studying.

Tip #1

Create a concept map before you start studying.  A concept map will help you link the main ideas together so it is more difficult to miss a major point.  A good concept map will create an image of the material without too many details.  As you scan the created map, it should give you an idea of what you need to spend more time reviewing and what you can skip.

Tip #2

Review content that is unfamiliar and skip material that you know well.  It is an awful habit to keep reviewing notes time and time again.  It is easier to keep looking through a book or notebook than to pick out what is important.  Use the concept map to focus on what is not clear in your head.  Once you have a concept reviewed well, cross it off the concept map.

Tip #3

Draw diagrams.  Biology has a lot of diagrammatic work that requires rote memory.  If you are studying sequential material, draw arrows connecting each idea.  Use pictures to remember the Krebs cycle, and retrace each step.  By redrawing these concepts you will further ingrain them in your mind.  This will make it much easier to recall them in complex fashion on a test.  You have to be able to see it in your mind to answer conceptual questions, and diagramming will always help.

Tip #4

Photocopy diagrams that need to be memorized without labels.  It is important to make several blank copies to practice on.  This is especially helpful in the anatomy portion of the course.  The blank diagrams can be labeled until they are memorized.

Tip #5

Create catchy phrases to help you remember long lists.  The most commonly used acronym is ROYGBIV to remember the rainbow (red, orange…etc).  If there are long lists of things to remember, shorten them down to an easy-to-remember acronym.

Tip #6

Anticipate the questions the professor will ask.  A wise student can anticipate the material their professor stressed in the course.  Take an overview of the material and pick out what was reviewed deeply and highlighted by the professor.  Be sure to make special notes in class whenever the topic is covered and indicated as important.

Finally, it must be said that most college students tend to cram for their tests.  In biology, students will quickly find this to be nearly impossible as there are so many levels of knowledge required.  Study in advance of tests.  Give yourself time to allow concepts to get solidified.  Try really hard not to stay up all night before the exam studying.  A well-rested student is the most efficient and can think the most clearly.