How to Cram for a Biology Exam


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First of all, I want to remind you that it needs time and effort to be able to understand biological concepts. So, if you are aiming to get good marks, do NOT cram. But if you really have a hectic schedule (which is a thing common to biology majors) and cramming is the only choice you have, then the following tips might be able to help you.

  • Stay away from distractions. I think this is self-explanatory. Turn off the television. Put away your favorite objects of recreation. Log out from Facebook and other social networking sites. Focus your attention to your studying and nothing else.
  • Keep everything you need in your study area. This will save you time and energy from getting up often to find a particular book or to sharpen a broken pencil. Also, keep a water bottle and some food near you in case you get thirsty or hungry.
  • Read the lecture notes first before touching the book. A class lecture is usually a mere summary of what is discussed in the book so it will be best to study your notes first as these will give you an overview of the lessons. Having prior knowledge of the topics will give you a better chance of understanding what the book says.
  • Do not try to read everything. Remember you have little time to spare so reading and understanding everything will almost be impossible. Instead, get the main idea of every section and make sure you understand all the important concepts, especially the basic ones.
  • Take note of the emphasized words. Those words in boldface are boldfaced for a reason. List them down and look up their meanings. These words will be mentioned repeatedly throughout the chapter and sometimes, throughout the book so know them by heart.
  • Pay attention to tables, graphs, and pictures. A single figure is a good summary of what may have been discussed in two to three pages. They will save you time and may be easier to recall than the text.
  • Answer online self-help quizzes. This will help you give an idea of the type of questions that teachers may formulate. You will also be able to evaluate your knowledge and go back to those sections that you have not yet completely understood. Be careful though for you may be tempted to click on other sites that may divert your attention.
  • Get some sleep. Pulling an all-nighter will only make you tired and sleepy on the day of the exam. You will find difficulty in focusing on the questions and you might fall asleep. You do not want to ruin your chances of passing, do you?Image
  • Ditch the coffee. If you really have to stay up late, at least do away with the coffee. Coffee is addictive and you will develop a tolerance for it if you drink it too often. Have a chocolate instead. Chocolate has lesser amounts of caffeine but that will be enough to keep you alert. Besides, who does not want chocolate?                                     Image
  • Listen to your classmates’ discussions before the start of the exam. This is my favorite technique. It will give you a wrap-up and remind you of the things you might have missed. You may also ask your classmates about things you are not sure of. Just hope that they will be willing to help you.                                                    Image

These tips will not guarantee you with a high score. Remember you are just cramming. From the start accept whatever mark you will get. After the exam, start studying for the next. You will need to catch up. And, try your best not to cram again.

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Self-Portrait


Today, I shall make
A portrait
Of this girl—
A lovely, lovely rose—
Smiling sweetly
Back at me.

I stared,
I examined,
This rose
They will soon glorify
For her beauty
That captivates even me.

I see a face,
Perfect as the moon when it’s full.
I see a face,
Like a pearl
Set on coarse black velvet.

I see eyes
Framed by dark lashes,
Veiling two black holes
That can entice any poor soul
Into a never-ending fall
In those deep tunnels
Within dark chocolate irises―
Bittersweet
And sinful.

I see lips
That seem to taste
Like milk and honey.
I see lips
Like blood spilt
On cold snow.

Soon the colors I put on canvas
Will show the beauty of the rose.

My hands gripped the brush tightly,
Clenched by the horror
Of the fact that only I can see
The deadly thorns
Of this rose
Smiling sweetly
Back at me.

Unconventional, Not Weird


“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” (Haruki Murakami, Norweigan Wood)

A lot of people say I am weird because I have different tastes, especially in books. I usually do not like those overrated books, the songs with lyrics that do not make sense to me, and the reality TV shows that seem scripted. On the other hand, they say that I read books whose authors are either never-heard-of or have been dead for a good deal of years already and that I do not like anything that is fun. That I am weird has been said to me so many times already that even I eventually went on to describe myself weird because I am different. Then, one day while I was reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, I came upon this quote.

I read books that most people of my age do not read and this made me think and act differently. From the books I read, I have visited hundreds of places, met so many people from all walks of life, and time-traveled into the past and the future. I learned not to permit myself to be caged in my comfortable setting. I learned from history and foreign cultures. Hence, I came to adopt different values and ideas that formed opinions that sometimes do not mirror everybody else’s. This has made me different, the odd one out.

Before, I was really bothered by this. I thought there was something wrong with me. Why can’t I be just like everybody else? Now I know the answer: I cannot be like everybody else because I was able to become my own person. I do not conform to the standards that my generation has established and instead, I created my own. I dared to find my own identity. Yes, it is different. But it does not make me weird. It makes me unconventional.

Time vs. Learning


Many people would claim that the workload given to college students in school is way too much for their bodies and brains to handle. To this, I disagree. As young adults, we are actually capable of doing heavy school tasks as we are stronger and healthier. Our strongest opponent is actually the clock. We can do so much but we have too little time.

I am a person who hates running after time so I panic when given just a week to master three chapters of a biology book. Biology, unlike chemistry and physics, is a heavily conceptual discipline so therefore, in order to fully understand it, one must take time to read and reread not only the lecture notes but also the books — the more textbooks you read, the better you grasp the concepts. So, needless to say, studying biology requires much time as it requires much effort. Sadly, time is a limited resource for us biology majors for we have only eight semesters to tackle the vast scope of the science of life and nature.

Most of times, when I read my book in preparation for an upcoming exam (likely, three to four days later), I get too engrossed with the things I am learning so I take time to digest the material properly, chewing slowly and savoring every bite. By the time I finish with one chapter, the exam will be in a few hours and I still have two to three chapters left. I often end up just swallowing those chapters, trying to get as much as I can without really having to focus and give much time. When exam results come, disappointment swallows me in return. I always get marks much lower than what I know I can get.

People will say that grades are just numbers and they do not define who you are. Sure, that is true. But for me, grades are important for they are indicators of how much one has learned. Every time I get low final mark, I become disappointed because I know I was not able to maximize learning. I think it is even better to have failed the subject. At least then, I can get a second chance to study it again.

For other biology students, good grades are important because these are one of the factors that may be able to secure them with admission to the best medical schools. I see my friends pulling all-nighters just to get at least an encircled 1.50 in their class cards. They need it for medical school, they say. So they go without sleep for days many times so that they can go to med school where they will be, again, chasing time. So, the vicious cycle repeats.

We are always reminded that the time pressure is necessary for us to achieve academic excellence. I see it oppositely. Time pressure implies cramming on the part of the students and, as we all know, it produces half-cooked work and limits us to little of the great knowledge that is available for us to explore. For me, time pressure jeopardizes our education. How can that achieve academic excellence?

The Centenarian


Warning: I am a terrible poet. Read at your own risk.

The Centenarian

I did not want to live a hundred—
it is too much bear!
To look back on yesterday’s sorrows
and live today in scare.

I did not want to live a hundred
and watch my children die.
For then, in their pain,
I could only cry.

I do not want to live a hundred—
a long life does not really matter.
If life has too little kindness,
then a short life is better.

Writing Again


At the start of 2014, I made a promise that I will quit planning and start doing. This blog is a part of fulfilling this promise.

Being a bibliophile since birth, I have always wanted to write. I wanted to create worlds the same as those which has fascinated me and share them with other people who breathe books like I do. But mediocrity became my tragedy. You see, I am not really a gifted writer. So, I gave up writing and decided to major in Biology. Unlike being a writer, being a biologist seemed to have a solid image to me and thus, was a safer choice. I realized lately that I made the wrong choice.

I do not regret choosing to major in Biology. I may have difficulty in my subjects but I truly enjoy learning about science. What I regretted was quitting writing. I realized that writing is not just for those who have a talent for it. Writing is for everyone who has something to express and there is so many things that I want to say. Writing is the only way that I could make them known. It does not really matter that my ideas are not interesting or that my poems are terrible because they are me and I can never be ashamed of who I am. This is the only person I can be.

So, here I am, writing again.