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Overcoming the Struggle of Biology

In this blog post, I would like to share some tips as to how to overcome the struggles of biology. Like many students, I initially struggled with biology due to the daunting list of terminology, the broad subject area, and a lack of focus. All this made biology tough to process and understand that I almost gave up. However, entering Loyola University, I had the opportunity to take a general biology course which I loved. It was empowering to do really well in the class and enjoy the class, that I decided to major in biology. I have never looked back ever since!

A huge part of biology is memorization, which I understand can be troublesome. It requires patience and a drive to truly remember all the terms learned in the course. Some tips that have worked for me:

This is probably the most cliched method to memorize terms, but its effective. Many biology vocabulary is already formatted in flashcard method to help ease the workload of creating new flashcards. This helps those students who are on a time constraint and can just go online to study off these flashcards. You can also create your own flashcards which is more beneficial in my opinion. As a visual learner, I tend to remember things when I write them down a few times. So if you are like me, you can try that way as well.

Biology is a dynamic subject. It's sometimes hard to follow every area that biology encompasses from ecology, to human anatomy, to genetics. For this reason I love drawing flow charts to connect similar terms in specific subject areas. For example, I have drawn the steps of signal transduction as insulin binds to a receptor, and how a cell undergoes several steps in order to initiate a response. As I have mentioned before, being a visual learner, drawing out the steps helps me understand the concept better, and it is retained in my memory longer. As an example, I had a cell biology professor who used a PowerPoint full of images to explain the concepts to us. His method was useful for a student like me who had to write notes off the explanation he provided through the image on the PowerPoint. As I studied for an exam, I would go back to these images and speak out loud as to what the image is telling about a specific biological process. This truly helped me pass all my exams with excellent grades.

Broad Subject and Lack of Focus
Biology encompasses so many small subjects lumped together that it can be a bit overwhelming. Mix that with a lack of focus and you are bound to have loads of struggles. Best way to deal with that:

Share the workload
What I mean by share the workload is to meet up with one or two classmates to study together. What you do in the times together is crucial as it should not be the time to spend the time reading your notes alone. Instead, the time should be well spent on teaching each other concepts that you understand well. As my professor once said, "You will know how much you know about the subject, if you are able to teach it to someone else." Its great advise as it allow to keep each other accountable and remain focus on the task at hand. Also, it allows students to split up topics so they can master one topic, and then get taught other topics from their classmates. This is the best utilization to truly gauge how well you understand the material and if you are ready for an exam.

Arslan S
Math and Science Tutor
Loyola University Chicago
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