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How to Study for Biology Classes

by Van Thompson, Demand Media

    Whether you're a biology major or just taking your required science classes, biology can be challenging, particularly if you're having trouble grasping the material on the first read. To properly study for biology, you'll need to budget enough time to read the material at least twice, attend class regularly and review charts, diagrams and lab reports.

    Step 1

    Attend each class. Many professors expand on textbook material in class, and your professor's method for explaining the material may be more understandable to you than the textbook. Take careful notes during class, and ask any questions you have about the previous night's reading. If your class requires laboratories, attend each lab session and take notes. Labs can make material more comprehensible because they give you real-world illustrations of the material you discuss in class.

    Step 2

    Read each chapter once as an introduction and then go back and read it again, this time taking notes. Consult any diagrams as you read. Biology textbooks are often chart- and diagram-intense, and these drawings aren't just bonus material. They can help to explain biological concepts in a more effective way, enabling you to visualize the topics about which you are reading. Trace drawings in your textbook and then label each part from memory. This is a much more effective way to memorize the parts of a cell, human anatomy, taxonomic structure and many other biological concepts.

    Step 3

    Draw a diagram or map of the concepts you've just read when you reach the end of the chapter. Start with the highest-level concepts. For example, if you're studying the circulatory system, you might start with the heart or blood vessels. Then work your way down to lower-level concepts. This helps you understand how all of the parts fit together and enables you to compile information in a way that is comprehensible to you.

    Step 4

    Register your textbook, and create an account to gain access to supplemental materials. Many textbook companies offer online tutorials, videos and quizzes. Particularly for complex biological concepts, seeing material illustrated rather than just reading it can help you understand it. Take the practice tests and quizzes to get an idea about material that might be particularly challenging to you.

    Step 5

    Find ways to make the material relevant to your life. For example, if you're studying anatomy, think about the ways your muscles are moving as you walk. If you're studying zoology, note the scientific names, taxonomic classification and behavior of the animals you see in your daily life as well as on television. This can help the pieces of biology begin to fit together.

    Step 6

    Review your notes, diagrams and lab reports daily for at least a week before a major test. Type up a review sheet outlining the information you're struggling with. This provides another opportunity to review and comprehend it. If you're still struggling, meet with your professor for additional help. A classroom study group can also help you compare notes with other students and keep you motivated to keep studying.

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    About the Author

    Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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