Some Thoughts on the First Bio Midterm
Just wanted to give you a heads-up for this Saturday’s exam. Not sure if you’ve heard much about bio exams but in the past, many students have found this first midterm to be quite challenging. This is probably due to the way that many high schools teach bio (mostly memorizing facts and regurgitating it). However, Haffie’s style is a bit different as you may have noticed. Though there will be some of those “definition” and easy recall type questions, his main style of testing is through “thinking” and “application” type questions which usually involve getting the answer by drawing on information from 2 or 3 concepts together.
I hope that by letting you know, you have plenty of time to get yourself ready for it.
Here are some quick tips that I have to tackling Haffie’s portion of the exam.
1. Solid understanding of main concepts. Know about the key concepts he talked about in lecture inside out. Especially the ones that he says “know this” for. This may seem really obvious but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who trip up on those crucial things that he specifically emphasizes in lecture. Really make an effort to understand (i.e. when you read something, find out why it works). Be able to distinguish between similar-sounding words or concepts (i.e. chromatin, chromosome, chromatid). And that thing about drosophila notation, definitely going to be on the exam.
2. Organize the material. In his words “make lists”. Make lists to compare similarities and differences (though it might not be immediately obvious when you read the answer choices, this is a very common type of conceptual testing that he uses). (i.e. mitosis v. meiosis, eukaryote v. prokaryote).
3. Practice Genetics Problems. You have sample questions from lecture, an file of practice questions on webCT and some textbook questions. I don’t think these questions on the exam are really difficult, as long as you’ve done the work beforehand. There’ll probably be a question with a list of data showing the results of crosses and you’ll have to apply your Punnett square skills, Pedigree chart question, and of course, one on map units & frequency of recombinants because he spent over 15 minutes talking about that one question.
4. Go through clicker questions you missed. Make sure you understand what you got wrong since you are likely to see some of these with slight modifications on your exam.
5. Pay attention to anything in your notes that say ALWAYS, NEVER, and ONLY. Take special note of exceptions and special cases of certain concepts or systems as these don’t happen often in biology. You can be sure that some of them will come up.
6. Make up questions for yourself. Create your own scenarios. You won’t be able to predict everything on the exam but these are more of a mental exercise for yourself. If you’ve done tossed a couple scenarios around in your mind beforehand, you may be a little less thrown off by certain application questions. Some possible application questions to ask yourself include: “What happens if something is add/remove something from the system?”
7. Form a study group. You are all strong students and you have the opportunity to learn a lot from each other. Participating in such a group is also a good way of testing yourself is to see if you can explain it to someone. You could go through a set of questions together, take turns to explaining particular concepts and correct each other. You can also learn how to approach things from others’ perspectives. Sometimes the group can lose focus though, so it might be good to set some goals about the material you want to cover.
8. Past papers. This will give you a good idea of the type of questions you will see. Some of the questions on your exam might even be in the same format, but avoid memorizing questions and answers. This usually does more harm than good since on the exam, you may mix up a question with one you practiced. Always read carefully and pay attention to the wording of questions. You can access Past papers under the "Resource Bank" link.
With that being said, if you’ve kept up with the material, you have plenty of time to do some of the things above. You don’t need to do all of them. Some things will be more effective for you personally or are things that you may need to devote a lot more or little time on since you already have a really good understanding of the concepts.
Hope this helps and all the best on Saturday!