I intend on telling you what I did differently that took me from a horrible grade to a mediocre grade but first, a little backstory. I am a freshman environmental biology major in my second semester of college. Since it is the first year, it is mostly medical students in all my classes A.K.A all my classes are made to be hard and weed out who actually wants to be a doctor. I am sure that is great but it means I have to work super hard to get good grades. The hard course for all us science majors is General Biology.
That’s right, simple biology. For the first test of the semester, I filled out the study guide and made flash cards and did all the things the internet told me top students do. I got 41 out of 150 points on that test, I believe that’s somewhere around 28%. Let’s just say I didn’t do much homework when I got that grade back. So, when the time for the next test came along, I worked all week and my grade was almost triple what it was on the first test. I got 107 out of 150 on the second test, that is around 71% and probably my highest grade the history of my biology career. I know it isn’t great but it is progress, and this is what I did differently that helped me.
How I (nearly) tripled my grade in one test:
Rewriting my notes.
I know, it is boring, tedious, and no one really likes doing it. The thing is, rewriting your notes can help you remember concepts your professor rushed through in class, offers a clean place to look back on instead of the jumbled mess that your in-class notes can so easily become, and will help come finals season because you have a clean, easy to read refresher to help with those all-night study sessions.
Going to power hours or study sessions.
If you’re like me, you don’t like getting help because you don’t want to look dumb. That mentality is ruining your grades. I am not saying pester your smarter friends night and day for tutoring sessions. That is a great way to not have any friends. Power hours are made for you to look dumb! I went to a power hour for the second test and the tutor asked questions from the last test and that really helped on test day.
Looking at copies of the same test from last year.
I’m lucky enough that my biology professor, while he doesn’t give out copies of old tests, is fine with us having old copies of tests. Old tests are great because while they might have the same questions as the new test but it can prepare you for how your professor writes their questions as well as helping you to know what you need to study. If it is okay with your school, I would get your hands on the same test from last year.
Starting before the day before.
This one is a given. Start reading your book, going over your notes, drawing any diagrams, and doing whatever else you need to do at least three days before your test. If you start early your brain can hold that information better and you might even get some sleep (sleep is important).
Making and labeling diagrams whenever I could.
This test was a lot of lifecycles, that is something that is easy to make diagrams of. In the days leading up to the test, I drew those lifecycles with details about each different stage over and over again. When I got my test, I start filling in my answers and almost all of the questions were about lifecycles.
Making my own study guide.
After filling out the study guide for the first test with horrible results, I was a little anti study guide, that is until I made my own. I grabbed a notebook and started writing things I thought would be important, by the end of the day I had thirteen pages of facts, diagrams, and definitions to go over in prepping for my test. It is not much and by no means is it perfect but it got the job done.
In the days leading up to my test I did something a little drastic, I deleted every social media off of my phone. Whenever I wanted to be on my phone, I just read a PDF copy of my textbook. I also didn’t listen to music at all while I was studying and I honestly think that helped so much because I wasn’t constantly thinking about the best song to be playing or whether or not I needed to refresh my music style.
Some of my friends stay up all night before each test to study and go over notes. I can’t do that for every test, I’m usually in bed by 12 at the latest. Instead of staying up late to study, I got up early the day of the test, bought a large tea and read and rewrote my notes and important diagrams.
To be clear, I made a C on my test which is not that great but I wouldn’t have done it without employing these things into my routine. Who knows, maybe in a few weeks I’ll have a post all about how to bring a C to an A.