Struggling to get ahead in Biology? Former Matrix Scholarship holder and Alumni Chloe Bedouin shares the study hacks that helped her score 99.95.
The Preliminary and HSC Biology courses demand of students a meticulous understanding of biological processes in often great amounts of detail. Much of the learning process of Biology is rooted in dedicating those details to memory and applying them to unfamiliar stimulus material which may appear in exams. Having some key Biology study hacks up your sleeve will help you immensely.
Below are three study hacks that will help make that task much less daunting:
Let’s dig and see what these involve.
It comes as no surprise that given the abundance of course content in the Preliminary and HSC Biology syllabi, you are likely to feel there is an endless amount of information you must both understand and commit to memory.
This process can be tackled by first referring to all of the sources of information available to you and then considering how you will synthesise this information for your own learning.
Summary notes are crucial for your study of Biology as there is simply too much content to comb through when exams come around if you are solely relying on textbook explanations.
You should aim to summarise the Biology worksheets and notes your school provides every two to three days. This is because content tends to overlap, and an understanding of one biological concept will be necessary to understand the concept you cover in the following lesson. This regular note writing will also mean that you are not scrambling at the last moment before exams to tackle endless textbook chapters of information.
The process of summarising your school notes should involve consulting at least one Biology textbook. The amount of detail you explain each concept in can vary greatly, but it is a good idea to try and cover all bases by consulting multiple sources and making a judgement about what is relevant for your learning and perhaps what has been included in the material for the purpose of completeness. Wherever there is an overlap of information between different sources, this is a great indication that the information is relevant for the dot point and so should be included in your notes.
The approach to summary notes varies depending on your learning style. Due to the sheer depth of content, you are dealing with, typed notes are likely to be the more efficient approach over handwritten ones. However, you can strike a good balance with some hand-drawn
diagrams or flowcharts if you are a more visual learner and want to consider the big-picture ideas you are dealing with. Be sure to identify the key terms or steps that are required for each biological concept.
In general, a less is more approach to summarising content is most effective.
Summary notes provide a great tool for revision throughout the school term and allow you to return back to specific concepts you may want to refer to much more efficiently.
However, this note-making method is a technique for committing your Biology knowledge to short-term memory. You will realise that you will be able to relatively accurately recall your notes within the first week of making them, but after this, you will need to continuously refer to your notes to remember the concept.
To commit concepts to long-term memory and better prepare for your assessment tasks and examinations in the near future, flashcard study is much more effective.
Applications like Anki can be used to generate personalised study decks of flashcards according to topic, module or syllabus dot point.
Once you have generated your summary notes, you can copy these over into flashcard applications and turn them into study cards which make use of fill in the blanks or questions. While generating flashcards demands its own time investment in your study routine, once you have these personalised study cards, you can easily revise the decks at your own pace.
Alternatively, you may be able to source flashcards made by others doing the Prelim or HSC Biology course online (but do be sure to check that the content is correct).
Flashcards can be used to interrupt the forgetting curve, which refers to the way in which our ability to recall information decreases as more and more time passes after first learning the material.
Flashcard study is a form of active recall; rather than passively reading your notes and mentally checking off that you understood the concept, with flashcards, you are being asked to recall information in a random sequence and at a faster pace, stimulating quite closely what you can expect in an exam scenario.
The best part about flashcards is you can install applications like Anki on your mobile phone, which will allow you to make even better use of your train rides and other downtime you may have throughout the week.
While the first and second study hacks focus on the study technique methods you may adopt to improve your retention of complex biological concepts during individual study, collaborative study of Biology is as crucial to your success in the subject.
Biology describes the world around us, and it goes without saying that it is relevant in our day-to-day experiences. A really great way to improve your performance in the subject is to apply what you learn to familiar circumstances in your life.
Teach your friends and family members about the concepts you are learning as this will help you commit it to memory as well as identify any gaps in your knowledge.
Practise responding to exam questions and have a peer review your response and give feedback. Returning the favour and reading others’ responses will be just as beneficial as it will give you insight into the nuances of others’ understanding which you can then add to your own toolbox.
At Matrix, we give you the in-depth resources and expert biology teachers you need, to help boost your marks and confidence!