Biology Study Skills

Cynthia Arem, Ph.D.
Pima Community College

Flower You, too, can succeed in biology.  The following strategies
will help you get an A in biology.  They are the result of years of 
interviewing students who were able to achieve success in
their biology courses.  


1. Successful biology students have told us they study a minimum of 2 to 3 hours per day, seven days a week, throughout the semester.

2. Biology is hard work, so be aggressive. Take it as a challenge and give it your time and your energy. Do not take it with lots of other hard courses or a busy work load.

3. Know and understand all your terminology. This is one of the keys to success in any field. In biology it is extremely helpful to begin by studying your Latin and Greek roots. This is the basis for many seemingly difficult terms. Study these roots. Make 3" x 5" flash cards to help you memorize them and later do the same with your terminology.

4. Biology teachers have reported that if something is brought into the lab, it is guaranteed that you will be tested on it. So pay attention to whatever is brought into the lab, even its name.

5. Chemistry is not a pre­requisite for taking biology at Pima College, but taking a chemistry course before taking biology would be exceedingly beneficial.

6. Make it a practice to read over the topic or chapter before going to your biology class.

7. Attend all classes and be an active listener. It is important to be alert and concentrate on what is said in lecture. Successful students take full and comprehensive notes, writing down about 66% of what is said in lecture, while failing students write half as much. It is most important to stay current. Do not allow yourself to miss classes and fall behind or the entire course will become an effort and a struggle for you.

8. After class go over the material as soon as possible and again eight hours later. Studies have shown that you are more likely to remember the information later. Fill in all the missing words or incomplete explanations. Recite important concepts in your own words.

9. Always remember you have the right to ask questions before, during and after class. See your instructors during their office hours for help. Notice when you are first do not understand the material and seek help immediately.

10. Read and study all your textbook explanations. You may wish to use at least two or more books. These books are often available in the library. Each book has a different discussion and examples on your topic, and one of these is likely to be helpful to you.

11. Whenever possible explain aloud to another person what you are learning. Work with a classmate and explain terminology and concepts to each other.

12. Describe in your own words the similarities and differences between the different concepts you are learning. Do this aloud with someone else.

13. If biology is your most difficult subject, then always study it before all other subjects. You must study biology when you are most alert and fresh. Make sure to take 5 or 10 minute breaks every 20 to 40 minutes in order to clear your mind.

14. Write up summary sheets of biology terminology and concepts and review often. The more you review the more you' will remember. Also, visually picture the terms in your mind's eye. Visualizing is a powerful technique for remembering terms. Break words into small chunks and picture each chunk until you can recall it. Then put the chunks together. Remember, the knowledge of roots can be extremely helpful.

15. Making up mnemonics memory techniques may be fun as well as beneficial. For example, if you need to remember the 12 cranial nerves you can take the first letter of each nerve and make up a sentence where each word begins with the first letter of each nerves.

16. Create sample tests for yourself and test yourself often.

17. Give yourself timed tests similar to those you expect in class. Time yourself with a kitchen timer or an alarm. Practice, practice, practice.

18. Review the types of errors you make and types of questions that cause you difficulty. Give yourself more practice in these areas of difficulty.

19. If possible, have a friend or family member quiz you on your notes and text information. Done regularly this commits more information to long-term memory.


For great tips on how to read a biology book go to Biology Reading Skills
To return to Frequently Asked Questions go to my Web site: Effective Math and Sciences Study Skills

Pima Community College

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