College hallways abound with rumors on the blood, sweat, and tears that accompany biochemistry. Mechanisms, pathways, enzymes… Anxiety crept upon me after I signed up for the class and anticipated syllabus day… until I stood up, determined, that I will succeed biochemistry! I understand the heavy workload, tediousness, and specificity of the material, so I would like to share a handful tips on how I aced the class!
Start with an Open, Interested Mind
When we hear judgments, we could feasibly become influenced by their opinions and prejudge our experiences before we even set foot. I eventually decided to block out people’s opinions on the class, and focus on making the course my own experience. It is crucial to realize other people’s experiences do not determine yours. Further, avoid assuming the nature of the class. “It may be boring, and on top of that, nearly impossible! I just hate memorizing pathways!” Your attitude affects your performance. Perhaps, approach with a more open viewpoint of the class: “It might be challenging, but I’m open to learning about the underlying machinery of the human body.” If you already find biochemistry intriguing, you are ahead of step one!
Quiz Yourself on Lecture Notes
Some professors provide students with lecture notes online to print, as others do not. If your professor does not, recording the lecture could help tremendously to go back and listen to what you may have missed or to gain a more solid understanding. If the professor does provide online lecture notes, make sure to print them or download them onto your computer. I read over the lecture notes the same day of the class and quizzed myself over simple questions on the material on the notes. (Keep in mind: biochemistry includes application, critical thinking, and memorization, so your exam most likely may ask questions on a deeper level, but understanding the basics of the lecture is the point of quizzing yourself over the lecture notes). I divided the notes into sections and turned the stated lecture notes into questions to ask and quiz myself over. With this step, you will be familiar with what was covered in class.
Read the Textbook On Murky Areas, or Simply, Just Read the Textbook
A helpful way to perform on exams is to ask the professor if the lecture notes or textbook serve more as a basis for the exams. I studied lecture notes and read the textbook, regardless of when my professor stated the lecture notes were sufficient for the tests (reading the textbook chapters helped tremendously with the exams!) Not everybody prefers to read textbooks, or even needs the textbook for high performance, so this step depends on personal preference. As the material can be overwhelming, I divided my reading into paragraphs. I would read one paragraph once, read it again and highlight, then write my notes in my own words. Be sure to take breaks too!
Get to Know Your Professor
You cannot go wrong with getting to know your professor! They could introduce you to resources that can help you, take time to elaborate concepts, and overall, help you along your academic journey. If you do not understand material, be sure to make time to visit your professor’s office hours with a list of things to ask. Emailing is a great option as well (if your professor checks it!); however, face-to-face interaction facilitates the ability to ask questions.
I am such a visual learner! It can be hard for me to visualize the chymotrypsin mechanism or the way translation works. Looking up these mechanisms on YouTube eased understanding of these concepts because I obtained a visual grasp on how they work.
Practice, Practice, Practice
My professor provided us with practice exams for the class; however, if your professor does not, worry not! I sometimes chose not to go with the exams the professor offered and googled biochemistry practice exams for a particular set of topics. It obviously will most likely not resemble your exam’s difficulty, application style, etc., but it will help train you to apply your knowledge, rather than soak up everything you have learned without using it. Be sure to practice those math problems too!
Lastly, Be Nice to Yourself
I have disappointed myself a few times throughout the class, and overall, my college experience. It happens! We are human. Breathe. What matters is your attitude, which drives the recovery. If you did not get the grade you expected, contact the professor, let him/her aware of your concern and what you can do to perform better next time, go over the exam, go over practice problems, etc. At the end of the day, you are taking a challenging class and are willing to succeed! Give yourself credit for the amazing effort you are putting in! Believe in yourself!