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Jun 16, 2017
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Hi! Welcome to your UCBX pep talk! If you're like me, you're midway through your biochem course thinking "HM, I wonder what I should expect for the final..." So you turn to google or SDN, and what you find might hit your stomach like a sack of bricks. For me, this was real, mind consuming fear that stuck with me for 3 long months until I finished the courses- and so that's why I'm here. Because it sucked to feel that way and you CAN do this.

Disclaimer: I'm not sharing what was on any final, quiz, etc. I'm sharing study tips and advice on what I think would be helpful for those who are freaking out like I was.

Some background: I'm 27 and I work a full time job (that's 40 hours a week, plus) so fulfilling some courses online was the best option for me, like many others. I took Genetics, Biochem and Cell Biology through UC Berkeley Extension and in the midst of completing modules I attended interviews and was eventually accepted to Veterinary school at Michigan State University. My admittance into the fall semester at MSU was contingent on my successful completion of these classes.

Obviously online courses aren't for everyone, and taking a course in person is always better (in my opinion) but if you don't have that option or if you're already in it- this post is for you.

If I knew then what I know now:

READ THE ASSIGNED CHAPTERS! Sounds obvious, right? Don't even take notes, just read it. That's where I'd always get caught up, I felt like if I was reading, I needed to write down EVERYTHING or I wouldn't understand it later and it just wasn't in my best interest as far as time management- so I stopped reading the chapters completely and found myself in some pot holes when it came to assignments. Reading the chapters is good for two reason: 1.) You'll absorb lecture material way easier and 2.) Although at first it'll be choppy and it'll be hard to read material as dense as biochem without re-reading every other paragraph; you're going to get better at it. You're going to master it and by the end of the course you'll be able to devour chapters of dense material with ease and understanding. This is great practice for being able to read and understand research papers also- this skill is going to stick with you beyond undergrad, hell, even beyond grad school.

Reach out. I know that virtual communication with your instructor is different than it might be inside a classroom but that doesn't change their desire to help you succeed. Your instructors want you to do well in their class, it's your responsibility to reach out to them when you're struggling. I reached out to all my instructors when I was in a panic about the final, and each one responded to me right away- offered great study advice and encouraged me to contact them again if there was a particular topic that I had trouble understanding.

Keep in mind that those who write reviews are often times frustrated or upset, so what you see online might be a little sided.

Study as you go. Once you finish a module, it might be a good idea to take all the questions from that module and create a flash card set to review before bed or maybe on a lunch break at work. Add to it as you go, this will help in feeling a little less overwhelmed once you finish the course and have to study for the cumulative exam. But be careful here, try to stay away from memorizing the answer without understanding it. A good way to check yourself is by asking "why?", if you know an answer but don't know the "why?" you have memorized it! and subsequently sabotaged yourself, so open up the book and figure it out. This is also a good time to look at the "learning outcomes" of the module you completed, start a word document or quizlet or something and answer those questions; study them as you go. By doing these things you're solidifying your understanding of the course content and you're kind of setting up your own study guide for the final as you make your way through the course.

Don't race through the course but also don't crawl. Pace yourself. Get an idea of when you'd like to complete all the modules and try to stick to a time frame. This wasn't really a problem for me, but it's a good thing to keep in mind. Try and leave yourself with a time cushion to study for the final, I left myself 3-4 weeks to study for my 3 classes.

Pay attention to your instructors feedback and the questions you got wrong. You might misunderstand a topic in one module and that misunderstanding will carry through consecutive modules and mess you up there too.

So that's it. That is what I did throughout the courses and that's what helped me prep for the finals. I managed to wrangle myself an A and a couple B's. And so can you. So take a deep breath and get back at it, have fun with it. Remember that this stuff is what fuels your passion for medicine and understanding the complex mechanisms that are presented in these courses is actually pretty badass. The courses are challenging but they can also be very rewarding. So for the sake of pep talks and this thread title, I'll say it one more time,

You can do this.

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