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bio or chem first

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Jacq, Mar 11, 2007.

  1. Jacq

    Jacq New Member
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    I'm finally finishing up my gen eds and plan to begin my science course work
    this summer. However, since I work full time graveyard and have a family my time is limited. Since I can't take both this summer, if you had a choice, would you begin with Bio I or Chem I first? or does it not really matter?

    Thanks in advance:)
     
  2. spicedmanna

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    I don't think it really matters; you'll have to do them both, sooner or later. Both tend to suck and are cool in their own ways. There is more memorization in general biology than in general chemistry, and general chemistry involves significantly more mathematics, while general biology practically has none. Take your pick of what you'd like your introduction to the sciences to be. If you are a little rusty in mathematical calculations, you might want to take general biology first while brushing up on your general math skills and calculating speed, so it won't be such a shock when you begin chemistry. If you take general chemistry first, you'll be able to take organic chemistry sooner, but that's hardly a consolation for most people.
     
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  3. wrong_answer

    wrong_answer 大夫
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    whatever you do, take organic right after taking inorganic... easier that way.
     
  4. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    If I had to do my pre-reqs over again with the intention of getting absolutely the most out of the LEARNING experience, I would have:

    Taken Calculus first...
    Then Physics...
    Then Chemistry...
    Then Organic Chemistry...
    and then biology.

    This way, I think I would have enjoyed a more logical progression and development of my scientific foundation.

    If you really sharpen your math skills as a first priority, and make it a point to really learn physics, and then chemistry well, I think the whole process, right up through preparing for the MCAT, would make a lot more sense, and possibly be more enjoyable.
     
  5. MomTo2Boys

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    MSTP Bound, that is a wonderful list.

    Do other people feel that this would be the best progression for BEST LEARNING?

    And may I ask: why Biology last? I totally understand Calc first, but why Biology last? And what ~ Physics second so that it doesn't interrupt the Chemistries?
     
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  6. droyd78

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    Being part way through these courses (in Gen Chem II and Bio I right now) I would definitely advise you to take Chem first. There's a lot of material you'll touch on in Biology that will be much more intuitive if you've already had some Chemistry (polarity of water, pH, bonding, why certain atoms behave certain ways, etc). Your Biology professor will teach this stuff, but it will be a quick overview. Some things you'll just have to accept because they say it works a certain way. Knowing some of the chemistry behind the biology makes everything easier to memorize because you have a context to learn it in.
     
  7. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    Biology last for two reasons. One is that several topics in biology will become far more meaningful having already studied the other subjects, e.g. metabolism, structure of biological molecules, photosynthesis, and molecular biology/genetics.

    The second reason is that since biology requires the most rote memorization, it is probably the best course to keep closest to MCAT prep.

    Quite the contrary... physics first to enhance chemistry.

    Learning thermochemistry and thermodynamics, kinetic molecular theory, gas laws, phase equilibria, orbital theory, reaction kinetics and electrochemistry would probably make a lot more sense after having laid a foundation with physics. Then much of this will be a review in Chemistry, and it would more easily be contextualized.

    All that we understand about organismal biology has a chemical basis.
    Chemistry is the central science.
    Physics is the fundamental science - therefore the foundation for chemistry.
    Mathematics is the language of physics.
     
  8. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    Jacq, can you take more than one class during the regular school year? Are you done with math?

    I agree that math should come first, and that physics is helpful for everything else. I also agree that physics should come before gen-chem.

    I vote gen-chem before bio, barely. Most of bio is fine without any gen-chem or o-chem, but there is a lot of stuff like osmolarity and concentration gradients and phosphate groups that are completely obtuse if you haven't had any chem. Nothing in bio will help you in gen-chem, except for a vague sense of context (oh, that's why iron works in hemoglobin!).

    Taking o-chem and bio at the same time is reasonable. O-chem before bio is marginally better. If you've seen a carboxyl group in o-chem before you see DNA structure and replication in bio, that's a bit of an advantage. I was completely lost in bio the first time I saw nucleotide structure, about 3 weeks before I saw it in context in o-chem.

    Bio and beyond, for me, was where it got fun. Biochem, microbio, physiology, immunology: that's the stuff that feels like I'm in the game instead of doing drills. O-chem handed my heinie to me.

    Best of luck to you.
     
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  9. Critical Mass

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    Just don't spread everything out so much that you can't remember your initial science classes by the time you take the MCAT.
     
  10. OP
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    Jacq

    Jacq New Member
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  11. OP
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    Jacq

    Jacq New Member
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    Thanks all for your suggestions! I'm glad I asked!

    DrMidlife- Yes, I can take more than one class a semester. This semester I took 3. But my financial aid doesn't cover summer so I have to pay out of pocket which really limits me (to maybe 2)
    I haven't finished my math yet. I'm up to pre-calc. However the only pre-calc class that fits my schedule this summer is online. Believe me, i checked EVERY local college/university in my area. So I was thinking of taking the pre-calc online plus a science 2 nights/wk before work... any thoughts on this or which one to take? Could I take physics not having done calc. yet?

    Thanks so much in advance!
     
  12. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    Most colleges offer a calculus-based section, and an algebra-based section of physics. The algebra-based section is all you really need for the MCAT, so you should go for this one if you prefer to take physics before calculus.

    If you have the "luxury" of drawing out your process a little and prefer, for your personal edification, a more comprehensive introduction to physics, I would take calculus first, and then follow with a calculus-based physics sequence.
     
  13. Kateb4

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    You should really take an overview of what you have left, see what the prereqs are for the upper level classes that you may have to take, and arrange the classes in an order that will be most efficient for you.

    For me, as a Bio major, I needed the Bio first since they were pre-reqs for the genetics, cell bio, physiology, etc. And, I really didn't want to spend any more years in undergrad than I had to. So, to say take this class first over this one is really not something that we can do without knowing what your overall requirements or prereqs will be at your school. Also, Chem is harder for me than Bio, so a condensed summer course may be more difficult for you, so consider which class you would do better with in a shorter time frame.
     
  14. Nasem

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    I have done the physics route a few years back in my undergrad.

    Right now, I am taking only Gen Chem, all the consepts are new to me but FUN as heck, I never knew chemistry can be so fun... anyways...

    Along with taking general chem I, I am also preperaing my self for the up coming semester (going to take Orgo I, Gen Chem II, and Biology I), so I started self teaching myself Orgo I and Biology I.

    Umm, there is alot of things you learn in Gen Chem and Orgo I that just makes learning Biology more fun (not necessarily easier, but defenetly more interesting)....

    I think you should take your math then physics then Gen Chem (at least the first one), Orgo I, then you'll be ready for Biology I (you can even take Biology with orgo, but be ready to study 3-4 hrs a day lol).

    Can you do it any other way, I am sure you can but this is the most interesting I found.
     
  15. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    I really think this is great advice. I proposed what I would have done ideally, but my reality didn't look anything like it. My goal was to knock out the prereqs within a year; I came one course short of doing so (taking Physics II now), but I had to just pile on whatever was possible within the course offering constraints for each semester. Since I started in a spring term (last year), my progression actually looked like this:

    Spring: Bio I, Gen Chem I and Calc I
    Summer: Organic Chemistry I and II
    Fall: Bio II, Gen Chem II, Calc II, and Calc-based Physics I

    Nearly opposite what I would have preferred. I have to admit, though, that finishing a year of calculus before taking the second semester of calc-based physics was really helpful.

    Good Luck!
     
  16. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    Take GenChem first. You may find yourself in circumstances where you want to knock out your prereqs as quickly as possible (in one year). Having GenChem under your belt will let you do that. Otherwise, you'll have to drag out your schedule.
     
  17. MomTo2Boys

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    MSTPbound~

    I know that a zillion threads have attacked the calc-based vs. non-calc-based Physics class, but do you (in your opinion) see that there is a benefit to taking the calc-based beyond just "personal edification"? Does it help with the MCAT, do you think?
     
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  18. spicedmanna

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    I'm certainly not MSTPbound in both person and in fact; however, I want to give my opinion on this issue. :D

    I took the calculus-based version of Physics, and while it was awesome in the sense of true understanding (Calculus was in essence designed for Physics, and they are like Jack and Jill, or Lennon and McCartney, in my opinion), I don't think it really helped me at all for the MCAT. I did understand a lot about harmonics, 2nd order differential equations, the theory behind wave functions, some basics of relativity, and a while lot about electrodynamics (a la Maxwell, Gauss, Lorentz, etc.), after taking the classes, but it seemed that the MCAT required much more basic information and formulae. My ability to determine Gaussian surfaces, or perform double integrals, did nothing for me. I needed to know the basic plug and chug formulas and concepts, and how to use them, which unfortunately, I didn't practice as much because my class focused on derivation. I think it is much more practical to focus on the basics and really master them.

    My two copper coins.
     
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  19. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    To be perfectly honest, I do not find calc-based physics ESPECIALLY helpful for MCAT preparation... but I do find it helpful for one simple fact.

    I believe in minimizing material that you have to memorize by learning to really UNDERSTAND formulas. When you learn the formula for the flux of an electric field through a Gaussian surface, or for electric potential difference, you may or may not remember it.

    When you DERIVE the formula from the fundamental physical challenge that the formula is intended to solve (or at LEAST follow your professor's and/or textbook's derivation), and then use integration to apply that formula for more spatially/geometrically challenging problems, the formula becomes pretty difficult to forget becomes it becomes a part of you.

    Physics has taught/is teaching me the real world value of calculus - it's pretty phenomenal how useful it is, as well it should be since Newton invented it JUST so he would have the right mathematics to deal with physics (although personally, I find Liebniz's notation more useful).

    Anyway, to sum it up... I find that calculus helps me develop a story for understanding physics - and therefore frees me up from having to memorize so much (you'll see that for the MCAT, it's a WHOLE LOT of formulas).

    Case in point: I just took an open-book physics exam at my college. I didn't know it was open book - but somehow managed the highest score in my class without the book.

    No, it's not necessary. But I personally believe I enjoy a distinct advantage from taking this route.

    Cheers,

    -MSTPbound
     
  20. Wackie

    Wackie Inappropriate, always
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    I would take chem first in case you end up with a molecular biologist as your bio prof who enjoys breaking (and testing on it) things down to the molecular levels.
     
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  21. OP
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    Jacq

    Jacq New Member
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    Well it turns out that Chem I is highly recommended as a pre-req for Bio I at my school as it is Molecular & Cellular Bio...who knew!

    Thank you all so much. I truly appreciate all of the suggestions.
    I'm probably going to go with the pre-calc & Chem I.
     
  22. Faze2

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    What about Bio and OCHEM at the same time? Good idea or really bad?
     
  23. MSTPbound

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    Just plan for a 1-to-6 ratio of study time alotted, i.e. 6 hours of orgo for every hour of bio - and make sure that for every 6-hour study period of orgo, at least 4 hours is spent solving problems and checking solutions.

    At this rate, you should be studying an average of 3-4 hours per week for bio... (you can do the math for the orgo equivalent).

    If you can manage this, then it shouldn't be a problem. This is assuming you want an A in both courses.

    The orgo study habit will come in handy 'round MCAT time. ;)
     
  24. Byronsgoat

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    Take GenChem first - makes Bio easier and then sets you up well for Orgo without having to wait an extra year/semester to get that started.

    You can most certainly take Orgo and Bio at the same time. Don't worry about a "hard course" in the summertime (Gen Chem) - it will prepare you well for the rigors of med school.

    Definitely - you don't need any calculus for the MCAT; if you are not math inclined and don't feel the need to know how to derive the formulas, don't waste your time. It's probably OK to take online math classes - classroom grades are important, but no AdCom is going to say, "yeah, this is a good candidate but...an online math course?" - A's in your Orgo class trump all of that nonsense. Good luck.
     
  25. rox1co

    rox1co ro.co
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    as a tutor and a student who struggled to grasp the basic concepts of biology, i agree 100%
     
  26. ds3489

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    I did it weird and regret it, but had no way to know.

    Started with Bio and Chem. Had to drop Chem b/c I got a 13/100 on my first exam (the teacher was awful!). I switched it to Audit and went on with Bio and physics over the summer. I dreaded going back to chem at that school so I switched to Harvard Extension and LOVED chemistry...got a 94/100 on the first exam. Professor Tucci is AMAZING! Unfortunately, b/c I waited on Chem, I spend an entire year doing only chem b/c I'd already taken bio and physics and couldn't jump to O-chem. So, that puts me in an annoying position now for MCAT and application. I'm taking summer Orgo and the MCAT when it's almost done (july 24th) so it will be fresh. I'm putting the application in with the summer course as a current course--so it will be submitted in the coming days...

    If you can have a good chem experience, I'd go that route first. Unfortunately, I don't remember much physics so I'm teaching myself now...beware of summer courses for that situation!
     

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