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Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 9 November 2013

How I Study... Biology and Business.

Hi there everyone!

I’m currently writing the draft of this post in my “blog book” while waiting to get my hair done, in the hope that when i get home I can type it up, then squeeze in some study before my appointment at the optician’s.
Sound familiar? Life always seems to go that way. With everything happening all at once, at full intensity, relentless...

I say relentless. I’m actually sitting on a lovely comfy sofa watching someone have highlights done and wondering if my coffee will come with a biscuit.
But you see my point. There never seems to be quite enough time to do the 5 million hours of study you had planned at the beginning of the year. The only solution is to set aside enough time and use it wisely. I spoke a little in a previous post about preparation and motivation. Now I plan to explain how I study specific subjects.

These posts will be based around preparation for the Irish Leaving Certificate, but they may be of interest to other students. They’re not necessarily “tips” –we all learn and revise in different ways, but this is how I study and you might like to try some of my methods.

The subjects I’m taking are English, Irish, Maths (all compulsory over here), Biology, Business, French and History, all at higher level, with a view to carrying on English and History at university. As I’ve mentioned before, my parents both used to be teachers, so if you’ve got a specific question for myself or for them, just email

Now, to business... and biology. I’ve chosen to lump these two together as there are a lot of similarities. They both consist of a set course to be learned (and, though I hate this side of the education system, learned by heart...), lots of solid fact, relatively short exam questions... and both are extremely vocabulary-heavy.
Perhaps you’re doing another subject that falls into this category, like the written part of the Home Economics course.

First of all, the vocabulary. You’ll notice you have a lot of subject-specific terms which you need to know. These may be highlighted in your textbook, or else a list can be found online from the syllabus. I have separate notebooks for my vocabulary and definitions, which I write out, make sure I understand, and revise. We had to do this for Business Studies class, but I found it useful for Biology too. I’m all about transferring the skills...

Learning the vocab is a great place to start—it will be easier to follow the class if you actually know what the teacher is talking about, lots of information follows on from these definitions, and indeed there are many short exam questions which will ask you to define a term.

Another thing you’ll find with these subjects is that most of the information can be remembered in lists, for example the elements of a valid contract or the features of prokaryotes. My Business teacher is a huge fan of mnemonics, which for me only work sometimes. If you have words like Capacity to contract, Intent, Consideration... etc, you can learn a list of letters and maybe do a rhyme or something to suit. But for many other things, I prefer to use a logical list, with one thing following on from the other. I have all my biology and business chapters summarised into list and definition form... and that’s pretty much all the information I’ll need. I also like to write down a number, e.g. “4 points on this”, so I can see in the test if I’m missing anything.

This can be helpful in biology diagrams, which are pretty much the bane of my existence. My drawing is horrible and I’m by no stretch of the imagination a visual learner, but what I have found useful is to draw out my diagrams in a separate copy, label them, and write the number of things I’ve labelled. For example, if a plant cell comes up, I know I need  to label six parts, which can be listed as: the nucleus, cell membrane, cell wall, cytoplasm, chloroplasts and vacuole. Even if you hate diagrams like I do, it’s best to practise them again and again... sorry about that.

Try to relate things back to your day-to-day life, too. Don’t be afraid to apply a little logic here and there. For example, we are currently witnessing a recession. If you are asked about the effects of unemployment and can’t remember what your textbook said, then just think for yourself. What’s happened to people you know if they have lost their jobs? What are the effects of this?

In Biology, also, we study the world around us. I studied the respiratory system a few weeks ago, and found it helped me revise if I took a big breath in, and asked myself, what is happening in my body right now? Then I’d breathe out (obviously) and think of the same. This helped me to really understand what was going on, and once you understand something it will be much easier to remember.

I could go on forever, but it’s time to leave this blog post here and go and get pampered for a while. If you have any questions or advice of your own, don’t hesitate to comment or send in an email. I’m sure my teachers will be giving us lots of advice in the near future, so I’ll definitely share it on here when they do. 

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