If you’re a science major and you’ve been in school for any length of time, you’ll know how difficult it can be to plan and prepare for those difficult science class exams. If you’re looking for ideas to pass your next biology exam or need some chemistry homework help, we’ve gathered some ideas for both the long and short term for you to consider.
Take good notes that work specifically for you. The correlation between taking good notes and developing good study habits is undeniable. While many students develop note-taking skills in junior high and high school, not everyone finds that taking good notes comes naturally, especially in lecture-based classes. Remember that the key to good note-taking is to focus on the significant points of the lecture without writing down too much extraneous information that distracts you from the lecture itself. The goal is to be listening to what the professor is saying and writing down things you will need to remember. Don’t try to capture every word the instructor is saying or the important ideas will get lost in the mire of words and the activity of writing. If you find you’re struggling, ask if you can record the lectures so that you can listen to them a second time. The purpose of taking notes is to write down things that will help YOU remember, so focus on keywords, phrases, or stories that are told in class that will jog your memory of the content later.
Don’t cram for the exam. One of the biggest mistakes students make is giving in to the temptation to put off studying until the last minute. For some, this might mean the night before; for others, it might mean a two-hour cram session right before you walk into the classroom. Given the way our minds work, we know that students are much less likely to retain crucial information this way, not only for the test but also for the long term. The best way to prepare for future exams to pace yourself. Specifically, read over your notes regularly- as often as once or twice a week. That way, you can be sure that the note-taking strategies you are using in the lecture are working and you can pace yourself in learning the material. Some students find it easier to study a little bit every day or join a study group so that you can ward off exhaustion and avoid the panic that comes from worrying about whether you will remember what you learned.
Unplug. Literally. While most students use their computers for practically all their homework, this may be more difficult than you think. The internet, however, is the worst distraction there is, and if you’re using your computer to study, you may be tempted to veer from your purpose and check your Facebook during class or study time. If you take notes on your computer during lecture, print them out and shut the computer down to avoid the temptation to open a second browser. If you have an online textbook, take handwritten notes in a notebook so that the computer is turned off when you review them. Set boundaries for yourself and don’t allow yourself to use the computer for anything but academics during specified periods of time.
Keep yourself organized. Most students get pretty excited when they go to purchase those colorful file folders and binders, but getting organized is more than just color-coding your materials for classes. Staying organized means keeping a detailed calendar with all of your commitments. These include class assignments, test dates, social events, and extracurricular obligations and activities. Finding time to study means knowing when and where your commitments lie so that you can block out a little time each day to attend to coursework. Staying organized also means using sticky notes to remember important textbook pages, finding a place to keep returned assignments with instructor feedback, making flashcards for key terms, and developing to-do lists with deadlines. Over the course of a hectic semester, you’ll be glad you did!
Look at the big picture first. When studying scientific concepts, it is easy to get caught up in details like specific compounds or steps in a complex system and fail to see the overall picture. Start with the main idea, and work your way down to those minute details. Understanding the system will be easier this way, and you’ll be less likely to get tripped up by more general exam questions. Talking to a buddy is an easy way to know whether or not you’ve “got it” when it comes to the big picture. Get a classmate and attempt to explain the overall process, system, or whatever you’re looking at. It’s a lot easier to stay on track when you’re saying everything out loud to someone who is looking to understand the same things you are. Making flowcharts, diagrams, and other visuals in your notebook may also help you develop your understanding of the big picture.
What are some strategies you have used to study science concepts? Feel free to share here.