Biology is a science, and therefore will have specific and precise language. Learning this language will make success in your biology course much more likely. For example, knowing the difference between transcription and translation is important when studying genetics, and being able to differentiate a community, population, and ecosystem is necessary in the study of ecology. Learning just the vocabulary of biology can be difficult, but it makes learning the rest of biology much easier.
Biology Success Tip #2 – Learn the Big Concepts of Biology
Biology is somewhat different than other sciences because there are specific facts that cannot be figured out just using logic and math. So to some extent, biology consists of rote memorization. However, there are overarching concepts that are applicable to a variety of organisms and systems. For example, knowing the structure and function of biological macromolecules can help when trying to remember processes during an exam. Often, biology teachers will put conceptual questions as bonus questions on tests, instead of questions requiring specific knowledge. If you understand the concepts and reasoning behind an event or process, you likely understand a topic as a whole. If you have only what you’ve memorized, you really don’t know what you’re doing.
Biology Success Tip #3 – Learn the Anatomy of the Cell
Ultimately, most biological processes are the result of cellular events. For this reason, you should really understand the structure of the cell and the function of each organelle. This will help you understand more complex physiology later on.
Biology Success Tip #4 – Know Chemistry as it Relates to Biology
It is also useful to know some basic chemistry as it relates to biology. The most important concepts you should know are that carbon chains can be assembled, polarity, basic organic molecules, exothermicity and endothermicity, entropy, free energy, and activation energy. Though this might seem like a lot, much of biology is based on these concepts, and their perceived difficulty and complexity is due to the fact that the terms may be unfamiliar.
Biology Success Tip #5 – Be Able to Do Basic Math
Even if math is not your cup of tea, you should be able to manipulate fractions during genetics, calculate population size as it relates to growth rates and time during ecology, and calculate the energy released during steps of cell respiration. If you are having trouble doing any of this, talk to your biology or math teachers.
Biology Success Tip #6 – Communicate with Your Biology Teacher
If you are having trouble in your biology course, discuss your problems with your teacher. He or she will be more likely to grade generously if you make them aware of your difficulties, and may even teach in a manner that is more suited to your individual learning style. You may also ask your biology teacher about what topics he or she plans to emphasize on upcoming tests. Make sure that you leave ample time before the test to ask this question, so that you can use the response to gear your studying towards certain concepts and away from others. Likewise, your teacher will assume that you were studying, rather than cramming the night before the test. Don’t wait until you are in trouble to ask your teacher for help. As soon as a concept is introduced that you don’t understand, notify your teacher. Even if you have to run to your next class, he or she will know to review the concept for the next day and may be able to find resources to help you.
Biology Success Tip #7 – Learn from the Past
If you’ve done poorly on a test, don’t just throw the test away. Figure out what went wrong and don’t give up. Biology builds on itself, so if you don’t understand previous concepts, it is likely that you will have difficulty understanding future concepts.
You don’t have to be a “nerd” or a pre-med student to enjoy high school biology. There are basic principles and concepts that can help make high school biology easier and more enjoyable, and communication with your teacher can help ensure a good grade and a possible recommendation in the future. If you have any suggestions of your own for success in a high school biology course, or any other thoughts, please leave your thoughts in the form of a comment. Thank you for reading!