Finals week for science majors can be especially insane. Our professors love cumulative finals, trick questions, and scheduling our hardest exams on the same day. So, from one science major to another, here are a few tips to help you study efficiently and make it through this semester with your GPA and sanity intact.
1. Look at the big picture first
When studying scientific concepts, it's easy to get caught up in specific compounds or steps in a complex system and forget to see the overall picture. So, start with the main idea and work your way down to those minute details. You'll understand the system much better this way, and you'll be less likely to get tripped up by more general exam questions.
2. Make friends with note cards
In biology and chemistry classes, specifically, you have to know tons of different enzymes, molecules, and reagents. Treat them like vocabulary words, and put them on note cards, the term on one side and its action on the other. It's a super simple way to help you remember tons of information. And, it keeps you accountable for how much you actually know, as you're constantly quizzing yourself.
3. Talk it out with a classmate
Sometimes, you just get sick of reading through notes and going through processes in your own head. The thoughts get jumbled, and your mind wanders. To combat this, explain the process out loud to someone else. Get a classmate, and just talk about the material. If you can't find a classmate, teach the material to whoever is near you. It's a lot easier to stay on track when you're saying everything out loud.
4. Make flow charts
Almost everything in science involves step-by-step processes: chemical reactions, organ systems of the body, geological occurrences, etc. When studying these processes, you have to know what happens during every step. What better way to study steps that a flow chart? Take the processes, break it down, and make a chart. This will be much easier to study than a huge bulk of text. You may also want to leave blanks in the steps and create a key so that you can test yourself.
5. Know your study style
This is important for any college student, but it is especially critical for science majors, as there are so many different ways to approach the material. I, for one, don't learn much by looking at models or diagrams. Reading the information and rewriting it does the trick for me. For the next person, however, that approach may not work at all. Find your learning style early on, and don't try to go against what you know works for you.
6. Try word-association
The sciences involve a lot of crazy words. Most of them sound like a foreign language, and a lot of them sound very similar to each other. To remember what each crazy term means, break it apart, and try to connect it with a part of it's meaning. What does it sound like? Does it start with the same letter as something associated with it? Use these things to your advantage, and you'll remember the word long after the exam is over.
7. Make diagrams with blank labels
This is especially useful in anatomy classes, or anytime you need to know the different parts of something. Print out pictures or copy them from your textbook. Then, label them with blanks and make a key. Make tons of copies so you can practice filling in the blanks.
8. Keep your awesome future career in mind
As a pharmacy major, I keep my white lab coat in mind when I get stressed over finals. I think about the people I will help and the amazing opportunities I will get in my career field. Whatever your field of study is, keep your end goal in mind, and don't lose sight of your passion. You'll make it through these tests, and soon, you'll have that hard-won and wildly impressive science degree.