Life science is a complex field, which means that students who have chosen it as their area of study have a lot of work before them. If you are a life science major in college or university, how are you supposed to go about absorbing a vast amount of information in the short periods between exams? Every day you are learning new terminology, processes, concepts, and phenomena. It’s a lot to pack into your brain—but life science students like Cody Moxam know that you can ace your classes with proper diligence. Here are a few tips for studying:
Figure out what kind of learner you are
Before you begin learning anything, it’s critical to understand how you learn. There are several different categories of learners—sometimes four, seven, or eight, depending on who you ask—and these categories can help you determine how you process information best. Learning Styles Online lists seven: visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary.
Visual learners prefer using images and spatial understanding. If this applies to you, you will probably do well with drawing diagrams and looking, looking at pictures, and watching videos (which, thankfully, are common in scientific fields). Aural learners benefit from listening to lectures and music; verbal people enjoy using written and spoken words; physical learners grasp concepts better when they can explore them with their sense of touch; logical learners get a kick out of systems and reasoning; social folks absorb material when they can talk about it in groups (and maybe even attempt to teach things); and solitary learners prefer studying alone.
Some sources also cite an eighth category: naturalists. Naturalists learn by experiencing nature and observing the world around them. Sounds like a scientist, right?
If you are unsure what kind of learner you are, experiment with different study methods to find out what makes you retain information (like any good scientist). Maybe you can make up a song or story for the material you are reviewing, read your notes aloud, ask a friend to do the same, or act out how a biological process works.
Start big and go small
Life science is full of intricate details, so don’t forget to look at the big picture before you get lost in studying individual compounds and cellular functions. Begin with the main idea and break it down into smaller details—this way, you’ll comprehend the overall system better, and you’re less likely to get caught up trying to understand how one concept is related to another. For example, if you are studying zoology, wrap your mind around identifying mammals before diving into factors that distinguish primates.
Study at a reasonable pace
There are two kinds of memory in your brain: long-term and short-term. If you have ever listened to your professor explain a concept and convinced yourself that you would remember it, only to completely forget it when you were reviewing your notes or taking an exam, it’s because you did not commit the concept to your long-term memory.
The pace at which you study plays a role in remembering ideas for longer than you are sitting in the classroom. Dummies.com recommends studying in shorter sessions every day as opposed to marathon sprints. If you cram all of your studying into a few hours before an exam, you might overwhelm your mind and lose information you are attempting to retain. Studying for a few minutes at a time whenever you get a chance, though, or reviewing your notes the same day you first wrote them, increases your chances of moving information into your long-term memory.
Improve your focus
Take the necessary steps to improve your focus. People often underestimate how essential sleep and nutrition are to the brain, so be proactive about getting plenty of rest and eating healthy meals (you’re also a life science major, so you probably know about the adverse effects of skipping out on these better than your peers—but it’s still imperative you put it into practice).
While on the subject of sleep, though, it’s helpful to note that your brain strengthens new memories during this time. Never sacrifice sleep for studying (and do your work away from your actual bed so that your mind does not associate it with bedtime; otherwise you’ll have difficulty dozing off), but reviewing material before you hit your bed improves your likelihood of remembering something important the next morning.
Life science is not a simple subject, but students who chose to study it can master it if they are conscious about their learning techniques. If you are a life science major, how do you study best?