General Biology is one of the first real science courses many college students take. This 100 level course is an amazing introduction that touches the surface and covers the basics of what you will be studying throughout your degree. General Biology has its positives and negatives just like anything else, however. Throughout this post I will be sharing things I did to succeed, the experience I had within the class, and things I wish I did better.
General Biology is often looked past for being a hard course, after all, it is a 100 level course and has the word general in it. This notion often catches people off guard when they are hit with rigor and fast pace. The good thing about General Biology is that each chapter is its own topic. This means that if you struggle in photosynthesis you have the opportunity to succeed with something closer to your skillsets such as mitosis and meiosis.
When I took General Biology, I was placed in one of my largest in-person classes. It was around 40 people which is extremely big for my school. I was in my first lecture hall ever and extremely nervous throughout the entire semester for my course, and many science courses. My entire grade was made of 4 tests, 1 final, and my lab grade. There was no curving, no homework, and no extra credit. For one of my first classes in college ever, I was extremely nervous to fail. Every single day, we would go through one full chapter of material in about an hour and be tested on 5 chapters every 3 weeks. For me, this was extremely fast and was the first real taste of college academics I had.
The teaching style my professor had was to lecture and hit the main points of the chapter. He would explain the topics and subjects that were discussed but if you wanted a further explanation or a different application that was not discussed he would happily answer any questions. At first, I used to show up to the lecture and try and learn while in the classroom. I found myself falling behind at the speed my professor was going and I couldn’t take notes fast enough. After a few lectures, I decided that I was going to read and do a comprehensive outline of the chapter before he lectured it. This tactic took a lot more work and I was often up late cramming the last pages of information. But, when I was sitting in class I was no longer falling behind. Instead, I was asking questions that broadened my understanding of general biology and improved my exam grades! This strategy is what I began using for all my classes and I have been extremely successful since.
One of the hardest things about a rigorous course such as General Biology is that you are very prone to be worn out at the end of the semester. Often a month before the final exam you begin to start slacking on organization and getting work, such as outlining the chapter before lectures, done on time. This is exactly what happened to me during this class. The last test before the final I didn’t study as hard as I usually did. This turned out to get me a grade that was almost a whole letter grade lower than what I normally got. This was no one else’s fault but mine. I got comfortable and complacent with where I was at and decided to slack off. During the final, I ramped up my work ethic again and managed to get an A- in the course. I was upset with my grade because I was less than a point away from receiving an A in the class. But, I was extremely happy with getting an A- in one of my first serious college courses ever.
The way I studied for this class has also had a major impact on my studying for all my future classes. I found that the best way to study was to first write all of my notes and outlines in a notebook from the chapter. I would include all vocabulary words, bolded text, italicized text, or emphasized definitions or examples. Then I would go and transfer the notebook notes onto index cards. Definitions I would just put the word on one side and the definition on the back. In all other texts, I would create questions that were general enough that I had to explain my answer. For example, I would ask, explain photosynthesis. the response would include all of the details from the product that is made, how much product, how much energy it takes, the actual process it goes through, and anything else that is linked to that explanation. I would also include questions on more specific areas of photosynthesis or repeats of what I answered to make sure I knew everything.