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Not Particularly Good at Biology

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deleted887473


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Hi there! I'm almost done with my pre-reques, and I wanted some feedback on how to improve my brute force memorization skills.

I've discovered that I'm more of a logic reasoner than a memorizer -- I love chemistry and did very well in orgo and gen chem, even calc and physics. However, I'm not good at just plain memorization...
I did fine in the intro Bio sequence, but this semester I took an upper level bio class where we have to know a bunch of molecular pathways and names and stuff that I couldn't really reason through. There was a ton of material taught in a short amount of time as well. Ended up with my first B in college, and while I'm not concerned about this particular grade, I'm a bit nervous about my future upper level bio classes.

What kinds of things would you recommend for bio? Have not been a big fan of flash cards and things like that, but now I feel I should get used to them.
 
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this semester I took an upper level bio class where we have to know a bunch of molecular pathways and names and stuff that I couldn't really reason through. There was a ton of material taught in a short amount of time as well. Ended up with my first B in college, and while I'm not concerned about this particular grade, I'm a bit nervous about my future upper level bio classes.

What kinds of things would you recommend for bio?
Draw out the molecular pathways. Over, and over again. Until you can do it without referring to the original materials.
 
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TakotsuboOkazaki

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You are in luck. Upper level biology classes, at least at my UG, tended to focus on higher level thought processes. However, a lot of the critical thinking that you will have to do, in classes and in medicine, are reliant on a strong base of knowledge.

I have always found repeated, varied exposure to material makes for the most efficient memorization and later recall.

Find a way to make things interesting, even in a small way. Draw out pathways on whiteboards, try and make connections between proteins you learn about and disease states, etc.

Immerse yourself and you will find success.

If you find it hard to immerse yourself, then perhaps the subject matter is not your cup of tea after all.
 
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The Knife & Gun Club

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Second the drawing. When I had to memorize complex pathways, I got a big roll of paper (the kind architects use to draw drafts if buildings and stuff), and would just draw the pathways over and over.

Id try to do it from memory, and each time I made any mistake (even a wrong spelling or arrow) I would start the whole diagram over from scratch. Bonus points if you use a few different colored markers.

When the drawings were done, I'd pin them up on my wall and look at them for reference while reviewing practice problems I got wrong.

I still use this process in med school, it works great!
 
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deleted887473

Draw out the molecular pathways. Over, and over again. Until you can do it without referring to the original materials.
Yeah that's partly how I've been studying. I'm a strong visual learner so drawing certainly helps a ton. I guess it could be just the amount of time I spend on it. Seems like it takes longer for me to "get it."

You are in luck. Upper level biology classes, at least at my UG, tended to focus on higher level thought processes. However, a lot of the critical thinking that you will have to do, in classes and in medicine, are reliant on a strong base of knowledge.

I have always found repeated, varied exposure to material makes for the most efficient memorization and later recall.

Find a way to make things interesting, even in a small way. Draw out pathways on whiteboards, try and make connections between proteins you learn about and disease states, etc.

Immerse yourself and you will find success.

If you find it hard to immerse yourself, then perhaps the subject matter is not your cup of tea after all.

Honestly trying to make it interesting is the tough part haha. It takes time and good understanding to do that. I'll try though, thanks.
 
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TakotsuboOkazaki

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Yeah that's partly how I've been studying. I'm a strong visual learner so drawing certainly helps a ton. I guess it could be just the amount of time I spend on it. Seems like it takes longer for me to "get it."



Honestly trying to make it interesting is the tough part haha. It takes time and good understanding to do that. I'll try though, thanks.

It sounds "cheesy", but I would always teach an imaginary "class" of students using my whiteboard in my room. I think that it really helps. Of course, sometimes the motivation isn't there so I'll "call out" for the day.
 
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freedoctor17

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Yeah that's partly how I've been studying. I'm a strong visual learner so drawing certainly helps a ton. I guess it could be just the amount of time I spend on it. Seems like it takes longer for me to "get it."



Honestly trying to make it interesting is the tough part haha. It takes time and good understanding to do that. I'll try though, thanks.

Have you taken biochem yet because oh man you will set a lot of pathways there lol. The nice thing is there is some logic to it if you learn the root meanings with enzymes and stuff but not always and with the speed of the class a lot of it still needs to be brute Force memorized. I liked this channel called moof university on YouTube that I'd watch for the pathways and then I'd draw them similar to how he does and add in all his extra logic/tips to remember them. White boards were a huge blessing during this class lol.
 
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jazzmetal

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I've discovered that I'm more of a logic reasoner than a memorizer -- I love chemistry and did very well in orgo and gen chem, even calc and physics. However, I'm not good at just plain memorization...
Me!!! This is so me. Here I was thinking I was alone in the premed universe. :)
One way you can use flashcards: review them with a friend. I never used them until a study budy brought hers to our study session. We just went back and forth quizzing each other, talking through any missed details as we went. I did something similar with my MCAT study buddy and the AAMC MCAT flashcards. Waaaaaay better than trying to motivate to do them on my own.
I'm sure speaking the terminology out loud is part of it. Biology is like a foreign language that you have to immerse yourself in until you no longer have to consciously translate each word.
 
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jazzmetal

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I guess it could be just the amount of time I spend on it. Seems like it takes longer for me to "get it."
Me again! Seems like it takes so long to make the details stick, vs. understanding and remembering concepts that you can re-reason your way to.

One biopsych classmate of mine said she would write and re-write her notes three or four times before each exam. She scored 100% each time. She admitted that had trouble applying those details in new contexts (which is the opposite for me), but it served her well in tests of straight recall. Also my same MCAT study buddy would write up whatever list of things he wanted to memorize, then just re-write it ten times a day until it stuck.
 

The Knife & Gun Club

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It sounds "cheesy", but I would always teach an imaginary "class" of students using my whiteboard in my room. I think that it really helps. Of course, sometimes the motivation isn't there so I'll "call out" for the day.

I still do give in-Depth lectures on mundane topics to my cats. If all goes as planned they should be able to Pass step 1 by the end of med school
 
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infectiousdisease101

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What you are doing is called maintenance rehearsal. It produces weak memory. Elaborative rehearsal means you understand the materials' meaning, purpose, and relation to other concepts. Doing this will produce long lasting memory and may even make some of the material implicit (requiring no conscious effort to recall) instead of explicit (requiring conscious effort to recall).

Physiology is a nightmare for a lot of students but was a cakewalk for me because I connected the concepts to biochem, anatomy, and even cell biology. This is a struggle at the lower divisions, but as you get to upper divisions, the connections are more clear. All science is related and obey the same rules. Hope this helps!

Here's an example. In biochem, you learn oxygen has a high reduction potential, meaning reducing it (giving it electrons) to water releases energy. Connecting back to photosynthesis, which oxidizes water to oxygen, is not thermodynamically favored. So that requires a large energy source to fuel that unfavored reaction, which is where light comes into play.
 
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jazzmetal

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What you are doing is called maintenance rehearsal. It produces weak memory. Elaborative rehearsal means you understand the materials' meaning, purpose, and relation to other concepts. Doing this will produce long lasting memory and may even make some of the material implicit (requiring no conscious effort to recall) instead of explicit (requiring conscious effort to recall).
Yes, and I aspire to achieve that! I just haven't mastered enough of the lower-level vocabulary and concepts yet. I also think that rote memory gets a worse rap than it should as a learning tool - I remember memorizing multiplication tables as a kid before the lightbulb turned on about what multiplication really was, conceptually. Once that happened, the floodgates opened and I internalized a ton of knowledge all at once. Sometimes the pattern doesn't emerge until after you've pored through a lot of data; other times, the pattern/algorithm comes first and you can extrapolate. For me, biology is generally scenario #1 and math/physics is scenario #2, and #2 comes a lot more easily to me.
 
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de Ribas

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I've discovered that I'm more of a logic reasoner than a memorizer
since you are a reasoned, try to understand the concepts. I know it' hard when you start taking bio courses, but try to understand the idea behind it. I was in exact same position as you. Try to understand the bigger picture.
 

jazzmetal

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since you are a reasoned, try to understand the concepts. I know it' hard when you start taking bio courses, but try to understand the idea behind it. I was in exact same position as you. Try to understand the bigger picture.
I remember studying for an exam where I could tell you all about how the left field of vision is processed in the right side of the brain and where the crossover was, but it turned out I just needed to label all the parts on a diagram. So what about when understanding the concepts doesn't help? Not intending to be argumentative with this question; I really need help with techniques for learning and remembering terminology (and hopefully OP is interested too). Take anatomy as an example, where it seems conceptual learning would play a minimal role - how would you approach?
 

de Ribas

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I remember studying for an exam where I could tell you all about how the left field of vision is processed in the right side of the brain and where the crossover was, but it turned out I just needed to label all the parts on a diagram. So what about when understanding the concepts doesn't help? Not intending to be argumentative with this question; I really need help with techniques for learning and remembering terminology (and hopefully OP is interested too). Take anatomy as an example, where it seems conceptual learning would play a minimal role - how would you approach?
I took anatomy, I agree, there is more memorization and matching then conceptual learning. But then come physiolgy where you start seeing it's applications.
 
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jazzmetal

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I took anatomy, I agree, there is more memorization and matching then conceptual learning. But then come physiolgy where you start seeing it's applications.
Haha, that's probably why I skipped straight to physio. :)
 

jazzmetal

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For most schools anatamoy is prereq for physiology. Some schools have it as A & P sequence.
Makes sense. Seems to be going ok so far, since it focuses on the concepts, my favorite thing. :)
 
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de Ribas

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Makes sense. Seems to be going ok so far, since it focuses on the concepts, my favorite thing. :)
mine too. Did you take pathophysiology pathology?

I just took it last semester and it was absolutely one of my best science courses so far. It has so many direct applications. Interesting to learn and eaier to remember.
 
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jazzmetal

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mine too. Did you take pathophysiology pathology?

I just took it last semester and it was absolutely one of my best science courses so far. It has so many direct applications. Interesting to learn and eaier to remember.
I did not, but I will look into it now, thanks!
 
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deleted887473

Thanks everyone!
Pretending to lecture the material sounds like a fun and fabulous idea -- I have never done that. I'll try start doing it. Much more fun than just reading text and trying to make sense of it through mental gymnastics.
Also, it turns out that my grade in that Bio class was higher than I expected -- B+ instead of a B. cGPA is now 3.92, sGPA 3.89. Not gonna beat myself up over it.
 
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Matthew9Thirtyfive

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As someone who is also an extremely visual learner and more of a reasoner (math degree, lol), I have had a lot of success in memorizing pathways by combining a picture of the pathway with a song about the pathway. The song is catchy and gets all the terms in my brain, and that helps solidify their places in the picture. No need to draw them out hundreds of times.
 
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