Study Tips

Contains:

Freshman Advice

 
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Emily

Human Physiology

UI 2023

Written by:

So you’ve enrolled in your first college science class. Congratulations! Whether you’re taking science courses for your major or career path, or maybe even because you’re simply interested in a subject, you’ll find that success in your classes largely depends on your study habits. Described below are a few simple tips that I hope you may find helpful as you begin to navigate college academics.

  1. Read ahead the content that is going to be presented in lecture. You’re sitting in class, listening to the professor or taking notes, and all of a sudden class is over and you realize that you’re not really sure you grasped any of the information presented. We’ve all been there. Here’s the problem: many professors have studied and taught their lecture content for a good period of time, so they may teach under the assumption that you already know what they are lecturing about. As frustrating as it may be, here’s what you can do: check the syllabus or your course content schedule to find which chapters you’ll learn and when you’ll learn them, and read your textbook a day or two ahead of learning in lecture-- this is a perfect time for taking notes too. This way, you’ll be able to connect what you’ve read to your lecture and follow along to your professor’s teachings more easily.

  2. Ask for help, and you shall receive. If there is a concept that you just can’t quite understand, reach out to your professor or TA to discuss it. This can be through office hours/zoom or email.  In this case, the sooner you can get help, the longer you’ll have the right information to utilize in your work and the more confident you’ll be in your exam. Also, understand that some people are stronger at explaining certain concepts than others, so if you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a discussion with a professor, don’t lose hope. Find which TAs/professors are involved in class and send a few of them a quick email, you’re likely to find at least one person who can assist you!

  3. Make abstract information memorable by creating relevant examples. Each time you come across an idea that’s difficult to conceptualize, think of a way it might apply to your life. Example: In the cell-signaling chapter of a biology course, many students were confused by the activation/deactivation of different mechanisms and struggled to remember the different outcomes of these processes. Two methods gave us an enhanced understanding of this concept :

    1. We created a real-world analogy to remember the process--in this case, traffic light changes as “stop” and “go” cell signals.

    2. We applied this to a real-world issue-- many people know someone who has experienced cancer, a biological phenomenon that is a result of such processes.

    • If you can make connections to your own experiences each time new information is presented, you’ll also save yourself time down the road; the little bit of extra work you put in each time you learn a new topic will have accumulated. So when it comes time to prepare for the exam, you won’t have to attempt “relearning” information at the last minute; your connections will allow you to both remember AND understand the topics covered on the exam. As an added benefit, you’re likely to be more engaged and interested in your professor’s lecture.

  4. Do a few of those extra practice problems at the back of the textbook. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I just read a 40 page chapter with an accompanying quiz, and now I’m supposed to add on to my already extensive studying?” You might be hard-pressed to find many people who enjoy those additional calculation and comprehension questions. But let me tell you why it’s worth it. First, you’ll have a chance to apply what you’ve just read in your book or learned in lecture to real-world examples, as discussed in the previous point. For calculations (here’s looking at you, Chi-square and ICE tables) repetition is key, and the end-of-chapter questions will often have additional ways to practice. And here’s a secret: there’s a 99% chance you’ll find at least a few--if not more-- questions on your exam that are nearly identical to the book’s problems. Win-win!

  5. Take breaks between studying. As a good rule of thumb, try taking a 10 minute break for each hour of studying. And really take a break! It may be tempting to start scrolling on Reddit/Twitter/Instagram, but it’s important to take those few minutes to relax and take your mind off of processing information. Get yourself a cup of water, stretch out, practice mindfulness, or find a simple method to feel refreshed before you get back to work. You’ll be amazed at how efficiently you can study by incorporating breaks!

  6. Find what works for you. This is your first year. You’ve got plenty of work to do, but this also means you have plenty of opportunities to try out different studying methods and figure out what feels best for you. People will tell you all sorts of “correct” ways to study. They may say that writing notes is much better than typing them, or that the best study space is silently at a desk... the list goes on. But truthfully, there is no single, right way to study. There’s no one size fits all. Learning is a process that will serve you for a lifetime, so it’s perfectly normal to continue changing and adapting your habits from your own and other’s experiences. I have a friend who’s about to graduate medical school, and he admits he’s still working on his note-taking skills to this day.

You’ve got this! :)

Online Classes

 
  • YouTube

via Med School Insiders

  • Be organized. There's a lot to keep track of normally in college classes, but it's even more important when you don't have in-person classes to keep you on schedule and accountable. There are many ways to do this, so find something that works for you. Some examples include: using a planner, keeping to-do lists updated and handy, regularly checking syllabus schedules, etc.

  • Keep a regular schedule, whatever that means for you. It's easy when you don't have to physically go to class to procrastinate and pull all-nighters, but taking care of yourself by keeping a healthy schedule will help you have more energy for the day and keep on track for all of your courses. Still wake up and go to sleep when you normally would for in-person classes and schedule time in your day to work on each class, as much as you would if it was in-person.

  • Actively participate and keep yourself involved on campus. Attend Medicus events and events for other organizations you're involved in. Go to office hours and SI sessions like you would normally. Just because we have to socially distance, doesn't mean we have to feel isolated.

  • If you find yourself easily distracted, make sure to set up a dedicated workspace for yourself in your dorm or apartment. That way you can remove yourself from distractions to focus on your schoolwork during your regularly scheduled time. Make sure you let roommates and friends know not to disturb you during this time.

Foundations of Biology

 
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Everyone hears about how hard Foundations of Biology is – labeling it a ‘weed out class.’ While this class does serve as just that, it is completely manageable. At first, I was overwhelmed with the amount of work and material covered in short lectures in addition to my first ever biology lab. Each chapter there is a short quiz, in lecture there are graded questions (just answering gets you half the points!), and lab has four large assignments due throughout the semester. I say this not to scare anyone getting ready to take the class, but as a reminder to not fall behind on any work. My first advice is very generic – go to class, read the chapters BEFORE lecture, work on your lab reports ahead of time, and attend office hours! I did all of these and found myself to be well off in the class. Where I was able to find my most success was studying and utilizing my resources in different ways. There are only two exams before the final, so extra emphasis should be spent studying for these exams. My approach was to review my book notes but focused mostly on the lectured material. About a week out, I began to write brief outlines of all lectured material continuously reviewing until I felt confident in the material. Another resource that many don’t utilize is the lab TA. They are very knowledgeable about the class and are a great person to go to if the professor feels daunting. Stay ahead and work hard are recipes for success!

Noah

Human Physiology

UI, 2022

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Figuring out what study skills work best for you in Foundations of Biology can be super helpful in continuing on to Diversity of Form and Function. Another general piece of advice for biology classes is to not fall behind. There is a lot of information to learn and a lot of it builds off previous concepts, falling behind makes it really hard to keep up. In addition to this as soon as a concept doesn’t make sense it is important to gain clarification. This can be accomplished in office hours, supplemental instruction, or the textbook. 

     Biology is a very concept-based course, so quizzing yourself often can be helpful in determining if you’re grasping the material. For example, I found turning lecture note concepts into questions to be ones of the best study skills for me. For more simple questions I would turn these into Quizlet flashcards and practice those while walking to class or eating lunch. Watching You-Tube videos on bigger concepts like photosynthesis and renal physiology can also be super helpful, specifically Khan Academy and Ninja Nerd. Drawing things out while they are explaining more involved biological processes really helps engage more parts of your brain to better grasp the material.  

     Another great study skill is supplemental instruction! The SI leaders previously excelled in the course and can be less intimidating than TAs and professors. Additionally, you can meet peers to form outside study groups with. Taking turns in study groups to explain concepts to each other can help in solidifying concepts. 

     Another great resource for these courses is office hours for your lab TA. These are often under-utilized, and you can get a lot of questions answered. Professor office hours are another great option as they are writing your exams! Office hours tend to get busy near the exam, so going earlier on is usually more efficient. 

Maiti

Global Health Studies

UI 2019

 

Diversity of Form and Function

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Figuring out what study skills work best for you in Foundations of Biology can be super helpful in continuing on to Diversity of Form and Function. Another general piece of advice for biology classes is to not fall behind. There is a lot of information to learn and a lot of it builds off previous concepts, falling behind makes it really hard to keep up. In addition to this as soon as a concept doesn’t make sense it is important to gain clarification. This can be accomplished in office hours, supplemental instruction, or the textbook. 

     Biology is a very concept-based course, so quizzing yourself often can be helpful in determining if you’re grasping the material. For example, I found turning lecture note concepts into questions to be ones of the best study skills for me. For more simple questions I would turn these into Quizlet flashcards and practice those while walking to class or eating lunch. Watching You-Tube videos on bigger concepts like photosynthesis and renal physiology can also be super helpful, specifically Khan Academy and Ninja Nerd. Drawing things out while they are explaining more involved biological processes really helps engage more parts of your brain to better grasp the material.  

     Another great study skill is supplemental instruction! The SI leaders previously excelled in the course and can be less intimidating than TAs and professors. Additionally, you can meet peers to form outside study groups with. Taking turns in study groups to explain concepts to each other can help in solidifying concepts. 

     Another great resource for these courses is office hours for your lab TA. These are often under-utilized, and you can get a lot of questions answered. Professor office hours are another great option as they are writing your exams! Office hours tend to get busy near the exam, so going earlier on is usually more efficient. 

Maiti

Global Health Studies

UI 2019

 

General Chemistry

Sydney

Biology

UI 2021

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Welcome to the first chemistry class of your college career. If you took a chemistry class in high school, a lot of what you learn in general chemistry will feel familiar. However, it’s important not to get too comfortable or lax in your studying. Stay on top of lectures, textbook readings, and homework assignments. Much of this class is algebra-based, so it’s important to become familiar with the formulas that you’re provided. Office hours is a great place to get help and walk through additional practice problems. It’s also not a bad idea to start building relationships with professors early! Supplemental Instruction, or SI, is another awesome study resource. In SI, you can work through practice examples and study materials with your peers. It’s a great place to get your questions answered and to build your understanding of course material. Lastly, the textbook is like a hidden gem. Each chapter has lots of practice problems to help you learn the material and test your understanding. The key to success in any chemistry class is practice, so find your practice resources early on, and use them regularly throughout the semester. 

 

Principles of Chemistry

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Welcome to your first real college chemistry course! There will be struggles, but there is a reason for the professor’s madness! This class follows the textbook very closely both in the style of questions and through the lecture material. So, it is imperative that you read the textbook before coming to class. The professor then chooses points of emphasis from the textbook that are very useful in clearing up questions or hesitations you may have had. Weekly it can be expected that you have done four things – read the textbook, completed the online assignment, completed the small discussions assignment, and finished the pre-lab assignment. I dedicated myself a substantial block of time for this class but found that doing this weekly helped me feel ready come test time. My saving grace for this class were the online assignments. While the assignment can feel quite long, the questions seen are often very similar (if not sometimes identical) to questions on the exams. The professors also provide a practice exam that is excellent in telling if you are ready of the exam enough (do NOT use it as a study guide!). Find study buddies too – they help! And lastly, go to class… the professors have in class questions that are extra credit!!

Noah

Human Physiology

UI, 2022

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The periodic table of elements will be your best friend in this class. You’ll learn all about the trends and reactivity of the elements. Get comfortable using the periodic table early on, as this will help set you up for success. Like general chemistry, this class uses a lot of algebra. It’ll be crucial that you practice using the equations and get comfortable with rearranging them, because your professors will be testing your understanding of how the equations relate to the chemistry concepts. The homework does a good job of challenging you, so treat it as a study tool and not just something to check off your to-do list. You’ll also have a lab component to complement what you learn in lecture. Make sure you do the pre-lab assignments and arrive to lab prepared to perform the experiments so that you can get the most out of your lab time. This class, like any other, is not designed for you to tackle by yourself. Form a study group with other students in the class or go to Supplemental Instruction for hands-on practice with your peers. Build your team early, and help guide each other through the class. Many of the people that you’ll meet in this class will follow you through the rest of your pre-med chemistry classes, so it’s super helpful to have a crew that you know you can rely on. 

Sydney

Biology

UI 2021

 

Organic Chemistry

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Printer paper is your friend! Get ready for a completely new way of thinking. Instead of formulas, numbers, and equations, you are now faced with pathways and arrows that lead you to the right answer. In a sense, each question is a puzzle that has to be solved with a number of different scenarios that you have learned throughout the course of the semester. I found trouble at the beginning of this class because I was used to the idea of ‘plug and chug.’ In Organic Chemistry, the emphasis is on understanding what is happening, not memorizing. So, a different approach to studying has to happen. But I must preface studying with the fact that there is no homework, only tests! This alone seems scary, but there are often easier questions that allow you to make up points quickly on the tests. When it comes to test time studying, I found that the studying had to begin long ago. Before each lecture, read the appropriate material and answer the practice questions (there are similar questions on the exams!). When it comes closer to exam time, there are review problems at the end of each chapter that are very useful (answer all parts to them). Professors usually post even more questions on ICON to help with studying. Possibly most important, DO THE PRACTICE EXAM. Professors love just slightly tweaking a question from the practice exam to the real deal. And your discussion TA is usually a PhD student – use them!

Noah

Human Physiology

UI, 2022

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Practice is your best friend in any chemistry class, but you’ll find it especially helpful in organic chemistry. The process of moving electrons around molecules using arrows is probably going to feel foreign and unfamiliar at first. If your professor provides you with practice problems, make sure you do them! Not only is it a great way to master the material, but it’s likely that similar problems will show up on the exams. If your professor doesn’t give you extra practice to do, you’ll have to find some on your own. Khan academy, YouTube, and miscellaneous worksheets on Google are all excellent practice resources. You’ll learn a lot of reaction mechanisms that you’ll have to keep organized. I found it helpful to create reaction sheets with the reagents and the electron-pushing mechanisms. You can reference these reaction sheets as you’re practicing and learning the material. Supplemental Instruction is also a great way to get extra practice in. Your SI leader will provide lots of examples that you can work through. This will help you determine what concepts you truly understand, and which ones you need to study further. Your peers in SI may also be able to provide you with a different perspective on the material, which may be the key to helping you finally master that one concept that you’ve been struggling with. Your discussion TA is also a fantastic resource. They can answer any and all questions that you have, and will give you practice problems similar to what you might see on the exam. 

Sydney

Biology

UI 2021

 

Calculus

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Classes in college will move much faster than in high school and the best way to stay on top of your material is to be organized and complete all homework on time. Take advantage of resources like practice problems with solutions available to be sure you’re practicing correctly, the math lab, TAs, and tutors. Even if you just need to solidify a single concept, it will make a huge difference since math classes continue to build on previous topics. Review your homework problems (and those in the same section as them in the textbook), as quiz and test questions are often similar to homework. Since exams are cumulative, review old chapters and notes throughout the semester instead of just before exams to avoid having to completely relearn topics. 

Amy

Biostatistics

Ph.D. 2020

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You don’t need to be smart to understand the elementary trigonometry, calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations that will be exposed to you during a pre-med track, you just need to have good habits. I urge all students that are taking their first university-level physics or math class to actually put in effort. The mathematics may be the most difficult part of your schedule, you may feel like you will never use it again, it may stress you, overwhelm you, and you might even lose sleep; but mathematics is an extremely important part of your education. It is trivial that the effort you put in during the introductory courses will determine how easy it will be for you to excel in higher level courses, but the point should be stressed; learning basic physics and calculus opens the possibility to learn more advanced biology/biochemistry/biophysics. Most advanced technologies in medicine would not be possible without rigorous mathematics and physics. If you don’t like mathematics, it is important for you to understand the basics so that you can communicate with someone (ex. Mathematician, Physicist) or computer software (ex. Mathematica) what needs to be done for you to do medicine.

 

FIVE TIPS TO GET AN A (In order of increasing importance):

  1. Go to office hours if you don’t understand what the questions are asking you to do or if the solutions to the problems make no sense to you. 

  2. Attempt the problems before looking up the solutions or going to office hours, and make sure to look over the solutions after receiving them.

  3. Its implied that you will read the book if you take the course. Read the sections in the book BEFORE THE LECTURE, so that way you can use the lecture to fill your gaps in knowledge by participating and asking questions.

  4. Understanding and intuition are more important than memorization. When there are over 100 useful equations in a chapter, you can’t memorize them all. It's more useful to understand where they come from and what they imply

  5. Never be afraid of what you don’t understand.

Bonus tip: Understanding the basics of computer science will help you if you get involved with research.

Joshua

Physics & Mathematics

UI 2022

 

Statistics

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Think of statistics as a new language you’re learning – it will take time to learn appropriate terms and understand questions, but the methods learned in these classes are crucial to becoming an informed medical researcher and communicate with other clinicians and statisticians. 

You’ll be presented with many methods and equations over the course of the semester; I recommend creating a study guide or cheat sheet as you do your homework to keep track of important equations so you’re prepared when it comes time to study for midterms or finals. Decision trees for statistical tests based on data type, sample size, and study design are also a good way to organize your thoughts so when you’re presented with a problem, you’ll know which test is appropriate and how to start. In statistics classes, I’ve found reviewing problems from lectures and homework or finding additional problems online are the best way to study and practice recognizing important information. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to professors, TAs, tutors, or other students. Hearing something explained in different terms can help “translate” statistics for you to better understand.

Amy

Biostatistics

Ph.D. 2020

 

Biochemistry

Samiksha

Carver COM

M.D. 2022

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Biochemistry is definitely one of the most intimidating classes that you can take as a health sciences major, but by staying proactive and working hard you will surely master this class in no time! This class gives you the opportunity to create a foundation of the basics of cellular life which will surely be built upon throughout the course of your graduate education if you are planning on going into medical school or other health science grad program. For medical school, you will need to know this information for the MCAT! You will also relearn the majority of the biochemistry that you learn in this class in courses during medical school and the material will come up on board exams as well.

My advice for studying for the exams is summed in the bullet points below. My approach to studying for the exams for this course and for exams in general was to have a basic understanding of all of the material (granted not including material covered the week of exams) at least one week prior to the exam so that during that last week leading up to the exam all you have to do is review your notes rather than spend time learning new information. The exams come fast so it is important to manage your time wisely and stay on top of the material!

1. MEMORIZE THE AMINO ACIDS. For this first exam there is some emphasis on this, you can easily get a few questions right on the exam just by memorizing the amino acid names, structures, single letter designations and knowing their functional groups and properties. Most people find flashcards to be most useful for learning these or just writing them out over and over again, but really repetition in any way you can will help you engrain these into your mind regardless of the method you choose.

2. USE OUTSIDE RESOURCES AND TRY TO WATCH VIDEOS. This material is pretty dense in terms of both concepts and rote memorization so it can be helpful to try and better understand the material from resources outside of what you are given in class just to hear and see things explained in a different way. Depending on your lecturer sometimes things may seem hard to conceptualize in your head or just a lot to comprehend during your first exposure to the material in lecture, especially with some of the lectures about kinetics.  It helps to look other videos on Youtube or Khan Academy; there are plenty of videos out there that are less than 10 minutes long that can help you further understand the material. I personally did not use the textbook much, it was very dense and contains a lot of information that was not entirely essential for me to know for the exams. But for those of you who do learn well from textbooks, using it as a supplemental resource on top of your lecture materials and other videos wouldn’t be a bad thing either.  Try and ask any older students that you know have already taken the course if they have any practice questions that you would be able to use. Practice questions are definitely the best way to learn but sometimes they can be hard to come by! The practice questions in the book were hit or miss, some of them were very good and relevant but if you come across some questions that go beyond the scope of what was covered in lecture, then don’t waste your time on those.

3. TRY AND SKIM MATERIAL AHEAD OF LECTURE. I know that you all have busy lives outside of school BUT if you do have the time to skim through the lecture materials prior to attending lecture, I really do think it can make an impact. This way you can at least familiarize yourself with the material just a little bit, even if during lecture you simply just recognize a couple terms or basic concepts from skimming through the material but don’t necessarily fully know what they mean or the details, you are already on your way to helping your brain retain that information a little bit better by creating a very basic foundation to build your knowledge prior to attending your lectures.

4. DON’T GET BEHIND. Biochemistry builds on itself and gets very dense, very quickly so it is important to try your best not to get behind and to watch each lecture and study the material as it comes! Especially since you have more exams in this course compared to some of your other courses, there is a pretty quick turnaround between exams and it can be easy to let time get away from you. My suggestion is to make time each night on the days that you have lectures to briefly review the material that was covered in lecture that day and take more notes/clarify any material you were confused about. Then later you will have all of your study materials ready for when it is time for you to hit the books hard for exams!

Caity

Biomedical Sciences

UI 2021

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Do not let the word “biochemistry” scare you! You do not need to do well in chemistry to do well in biochemistry. In fact, this was the first time that some concepts from previous biology and chemistry courses made sense to me. So if you do not need to do well in previous classes, how do you do well in Biochemistry?

 

1. WRITE IT OUT. A lot of the material is purely memorization. Some famous topics include the twenty aminos acids, glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation. Practice drawing out the biochemical pathways because they make up a large portion of the material. Each week, I would review the lectures and rewrite the concepts that I did not know on a separate sheet of paper. I would then study it during the 10 minute breaks between classes, while making dinner, or even brushing my teeth. A little bit will go a long way!

 

2. UTILIZE OUTSIDE RESOURCES. There are a lot of great resources out there and you should absolutely utilize them! One of my personal favorites is Sporcle quizzes that require you to type in the answer to the question. Most biochemistry exam questions, if not all, are multiple choice. Therefore, if you can recall the information while studying, rather than simply recognizing it, you will be very prepared for the exam. The questions at the end of the chapter in the textbook are also a great resource! If you are having troubles understanding a concept, try watching a video on YouTube or Khan Academy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. FOCUS ON THE LEARNING OBJECTIVES. The learning objectives provided at the beginning of each lecture serve as an excellent study guide! When preparing for the exam, focus your studying around these topics. Then rephrase the learning objective as a question to check your understanding.

 

College Physics

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Welcome to College Physics! Don’t worry you’ve got this. Physics gets a bad rap a lot of times for being a challenging course, but I’m going to tell you the secret to doing well in this subject right now. Practice Problems. Physics problems can be written in all sorts of different ways, and one of the best ways to not be caught off guard is to try different kinds of problems testing the same concept in different ways. Often when you find yourself stuck on a problem there is a unique part to it that you need to find out how to approach in order to solve it and the experience you gain from other problems will help a ton to get unstuck. Also, don’t ignore the conceptual part of physics either, physics is all about relationships between variables. Working on the noncomputational concept problems will end up helping you a lot with calculations because you will have a better grasp of how the phenomena will behave. Also, don’t be afraid to go to the physics help center, SI, or office hours, the people there know what they are doing and they are happy to work through things with you and make sure you understand. I know that I only did as well in physics because I was willing to ask for help when I needed it.

Jacob

Carver COM

M.D. 2024

Welcome to physics--if you haven’t heard, this class is awful. Just kidding, that’s organic chemistry. Physics is challenging, sure, but allow me to convince you it’s the most important pre-med course you will take. Case-and-point we are on a planet governed by specific parameters and laws that govern fluid mechanics in our blood vessels, ventilation in our lungs, and the action of muscles. When you master physics, you master why biceps brachii accomplishes flexion, but not extension of the elbow. When you understand fluids, you realize why patients have strokes from carotid artery stenosis at a bifurcation in the vessels rather than anywhere else in the cerebral vasculature. You may hate physics, but as future physicians you will undeniably use its principles (and those examples I gave will come back to you in the world's greatest Aha moment). Right now, your job is to learn the big picture topic of physics, and the best way to do that learning is by crunching the numbers.

     I didn’t always love physics. In fact, I hated it when I was a student. I only learned to love it when I tutored it for multiple semesters. Eventually, it started to click. Physics became my strongest subject on the MCAT despite me not being a big math guy. My last encouragement here is to understand that even if you don’t like physics now or understand why you even need this “stupid” class, give yourself some permission to enjoy the ride. You gotta take 2 semesters of it anyways.

     Ok so first things first: there will be math. Some professors value math more than others, but on the MCAT you will need to crunch numbers. On the MCAT, you don’t even get a calculator, so I love physics because it is the best time to practice your mental math. That’s right, time to head back to middle school and do long division, logs by hand, and simple addition. While in physics, I highly recommend doing practice problems without a calculator and then following up your answer by confirming with a calculator. Build these skills now and you will thank me later. There are plenty of YouTube videos to help you review simple math-by-hand. I also find that relearning the basics of math is helpful in understanding physics since at its core, it’s applied mathematics.

     Ok, are you ready for the secret to physics? It’s going to be rather underwhelming. The key: do lots of practice problems. Physics is a discipline of repetition. Few things replace practicing manipulating equations and finding different variables. The nice thing about practice questions is it helps you identify weak points. Those weak points manifest as things you cannot do or have difficulty understanding why you’re doing something. The tricky thing is finding questions in the first place. Sometimes, professors provide questions which should be considered mandatory to prepare for exams. Many professors borrow questions from each other and from other universities, so the other option is for you to hunt down your own practice questions. Enter Google- the best friend of, well everyone, worldwide. Usually searching a phrase such as “physics *insert concept here* practice” will do the trick. I then look for links from various universities containing practice problems. What also helps is when those documents have the correct answers and show the underlying work for a practice problem. By putting in this effort for searching, you can find more than enough problems to prepare you for the exam.

     By focusing on your math and problem solving skills through practice questions, you are also completing the third objective of physics- concept building. Many concepts we learn are built on an underlying mathematical principle. Let’s take this example:

The potential difference across the ends of a wire is doubled in

magnitude. If Ohm's law is obeyed, which ones of the

following statements concerning resistance of the wire is true?

First things first- what is Ohm’s law? Most things in physics have an associated equation, so its a good idea to write it down as soon as you identify pertinent equations. In this case, Ohm’s law is I=V/R where I is current, V is voltage, and R is resistance. Next, they ask what happens to R if we double voltage AKA the potential difference across a wire. Well, considering our equation, if we double V, we either have to double I or divide R by 2 to compensate. To get this question right, its now a 50/50 coin flip because you identified the equation. Here is where concepts come in and supplement the math. Did the wire change in this problem? No, its the same wire. With that knowledge, we know from learning what resistance is that resistance is an inherent property of a material. We didn’t change the material, so R should not change. It means that we can explain the change in V by doubling I, and this leads us to the correct answer that R does not change in this problem. This is a classic example of blending concepts learned in class with mathematical support to help make tricky concept questions a little easier. Like in many classes, sometimes we just have to memorize things. I think this happens in about 10% of the questions for physics, but that means the other 90% can be solved with good habits like having a strong understanding of math, practicing moving variables, and applying the right equation for the right job.

     There we have it: math, problem solving practice, and concepts. Mastering these components of physics will improve MCAT performance and set you up to appreciate the physics of medicine and life. Physics is hard, so if you are going to seek help, do it early! Tutors, TAs, and study groups work better if you start them at the beginning of the semester where the basics can be mastered. Eventually, it becomes hard to catch up. So please, do yourself a favor, and get ahead on this class before the semester gets crazy. While the specific details of the class will escape you over time, your appreciation for the laws of the universe will profoundly affect your interactions with the world. How pretentious is that?

Mason

Carver COM

M.D. 2022

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also offers tutoring in physics, the MCAT and most other pre-med courses for an hourly rate

You don’t need to be smart to understand the elementary trigonometry, calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations that will be exposed to you during a pre-med track, you just need to have good habits. I urge all students that are taking their first university-level physics or math class to actually put in effort. The mathematics may be the most difficult part of your schedule, you may feel like you will never use it again, it may stress you, overwhelm you, and you might even lose sleep; but mathematics is an extremely important part of your education. It is trivial that the effort you put in during the introductory courses will determine how easy it will be for you to excel in higher level courses, but the point should be stressed; learning basic physics and calculus opens the possibility to learn more advanced biology/biochemistry/biophysics. Most advanced technologies in medicine would not be possible without rigorous mathematics and physics. If you don’t like mathematics, it is important for you to understand the basics so that you can communicate with someone (ex. Mathematician, Physicist) or computer software (ex. Mathematica) what needs to be done for you to do medicine.

 

FIVE TIPS TO GET AN A (In order of increasing importance):

  1. Go to office hours if you don’t understand what the questions are asking you to do or if the solutions to the problems make no sense to you. 

  2. Attempt the problems before looking up the solutions or going to office hours, and make sure to look over the solutions after receiving them.

  3. Its implied that you will read the book if you take the course. Read the sections in the book BEFORE THE LECTURE, so that way you can use the lecture to fill your gaps in knowledge by participating and asking questions.

  4. Understanding and intuition are more important than memorization. When there are over 100 useful equations in a chapter, you can’t memorize them all. It's more useful to understand where they come from and what they imply

  5. Never be afraid of what you don’t understand.

Bonus tip: Understanding the basics of computer science will help you if you get involved with research.

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Joshua

Physics & Mathematics

UI 2022