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2015 Study Skills Workshop

Biochemistry - Jazz and Mike

Theres no way to sugarcoat it--Biochemistry is difficult. Whether youre learning enzyme
kinetics, glycolysis, or the heme biosynthesis pathway (Dr. Offners favorite), you will likely
encounter concepts or processes that youve never seen before. Without the right mindset or
study tools this can be intimidating, so we are here to provide you with some tips and
suggestions that we hope will make your experience in Biochemistry (and MAMS in general)
more enjoyable!
P.S. The new MCAT2015 now tests Biochemistry! Mastering the material now makes for a less
stressful study schedule next June!
Preview the syllabus notes and powerpoint slides.
o Do this in the morning prior to lecture. Spend more time going through
powerpoint lecture since most lectures follow the slides. The amount of time you
spend pre-reading varies, but remember that you are trying to become familiar,
not memorize or study anything.
Highlight the areas that you feel may require further clarification.
o If these were not clarified in lecture, go to TAs, Professors, Classmates, or Piazza
for help. Everyone is here to help you succeed!
Go to class! It is easy to procrastinate if you do not go to class.
o Re-watch the lectures if necessary.
Taking notes:
o Find what works best for you--if you use your computer, be careful of distractions
(internet, facebook, email, texting, etc). The easiest way to avoid this is to just
turn off your wireless during class.
o I (Jazz) used to take notes on my computer on the slides themselves.
o If you prefer writing things, you can also print the slides and take notes on them
o I (Mike) took written notes. I drew a lot of pathways, flowcharts, diagrams, etc. to
connect concepts, so it was just easier to write out.
o Listen! Actively listening and engaging in the lectures will help you remember
information better and make the lectures much more enjoyable.
Go through the lecture material. Try to do it the same day as lecture.
Organize by making master notes that combine the syllabus and lecture slides. Do not
copy things down--your master notes should be written in your own words and should
represent your understanding/interpretation of the material.
o Studying from complete set of master notes is easier than going between slides,
syllabus, Piazza, and other resources.
Use Dr. Offners Friday emails as a checkpoint--if you havent finished what she listed,
then use the weekend to get caught up with lectures that you havent covered yet.
Do the practice questions as you go along. Waiting until the day before the test is useless
and does not give you the chance to ask questions or clarify confusing points.

Dont just answer the practice questions--ask why an answer is correct, expand
upon the question to further clarify the concept, or even ask yourself/classmates
additional questions for practice. (Tip: do them as you go along, but we
recommend saving them until you have a decent understanding of the sections
A whiteboard is really helpful for the metabolism section. Repetition is key!
Understand the big picture--memorizing glycolysis or DNA replication is the easy part,
so try to take a step back and understand why its important, what are the implications of
defective enzymes, how do they connect, etc. Critical thinking!!
Find the learning environment that works best for you. The library is a good place since
its quiet and other people are studying too. Some people can study with their friends
well, but be careful of getting distracted.
Use Piazza!
James mentioned this at orientation, but just to reiterate: know absolutely everything in
the syllabus. It is there for a reason, so everything is fair game.
Make a study schedule!!!! Having a schedule will help you stay on track.
o Do not spend an entire day on one subject. Switch subjects every 1-2 hours. It
keeps you focused.
o Make sure to devote time equally to each of the three courses. It is easy to get
caught up with COT, which can then make you fall behind in Biochem and
Physio. Also, keep in mind that biochem is a 6 credit course, while the others are
4 credits. Plus you have biochem lecture 4 days a week, so it requires you to keep
on top of things more.
o Be flexible with your schedule. If you dont finish something in the time you
allotted to it, then change it up. At the beginning, you will need to be more
flexible to assess your weak and strong points.
o Be sure to build in some time for yourself every week. It might be a couple of
hours or even a full day, depending on the week, but it is super essential to do it.
You do not want to burn out.

Test Day Advice:

On the night before the test, do something for YOU. Cook dinner for yourself, play
soccer, practice yoga or meditate, play an instrument, pet a dog, or whatever hobby you
may have. It helps you relax, plus cramming is no good. If you dont know it by 8 pm the
night before, you wont learn it at that point. It is better to relax and give your brain a
Keep your composure! Whether its while studying, during an exam, or following receipt
of a less-than-stellar test grade: always keep a level head!! The material is difficult.
Accept the fact that you may have difficulty learning/understanding some topics, but do
not let it affect your will or motivation to study.
Eat breakfast/lunch and have your coffee (that is, if you drink coffee).
RELAX!!!! TAKE A DEEP BREATH! You studied hard, and now it is time to shine!
You can do it! A little nervousness is normal, but dont let it impact your ability to think.
Test anxiety is your mortal enemy.
Last but not least: SLEEP. All-nighters = bad. Sleep = good. It may seem tempting to
stay up all night to memorize pathways, but lack of sleep essentially negates anything
you think you might have learned.

Human Physiology Jun

Welcome B.U. MAMS class of 2017! This document is designed to offer you several study
tips/advice to be successful in the physiology course this year. Please note that this is not the
master guide on how to study; everyone has unique study habits that may not necessarily be
suitable for others. Your primary goal is to discover what works best for you through trial and
error, and perfect your study techniques via integrating different approaches. The following are a
few tips that worked for me while studying for this course:

Course Material: Everything you need to know in the physiology course are covered in
the syllabus and the discussion worksheets! Whats covered in the lecture is always
aligned with the syllabus, and additional texts are unnecessary unless you really want
alternative explanations.
Pre-reading: Reading the relevant course material beforehand will make your time in
lecture more productive and engaging. By pre-reading, you may also come up with
questions to ask the professor at an appropriate time during or after the lecture.
Post-reading: After the lecture, you should always aim to read the covered material at
your earliest convenience. Doing so will help you consolidate your learning and highlight
what you may have trouble with. Identifying your questions and actively seeking answers
early on is critical to mastering the material.
Key Concepts: Make sure you can explain key concepts in your own words. Being able
to accurately answer self-formulated questions and/or questions from your peers is a good
indicator of your understanding. Note: don't blow by any graphs or figures.
Learning Objectives: The course managers and professorsthe people who actually
write the examinationsspecifically prepared these to cover the key concepts and
summarize important information in that chapter. Test yourself and make sure you can
answer these with thorough explanations.
Discussions: Go to discussions prepared; attempting to complete the worksheets
beforehand will definitely make your time in discussions more effective. Substantial
portion of the test questions will be based on the material covered in discussions.
Practices Quizzes and Exams: Do not leave these until the day before the actual
quiz/exam. Go through them several days in advance, and as you go through them, dont
just choose the correct answer and move on! You should strive to explain why the other
answer choices are incorrect, as doing so will strengthen your understanding.
Memorization: Simply memorizing facts will definitely NOT help you. The
examinations test your understanding of the material conceptually, and only a handful of
questions will test discrete information (even then, it most often integrates key concepts).
Memorizing the material understanding the material.
Comprehensive Studying: Is this testable information? is not a question you should be
asking throughout the course. All the information in the syllabus is important and fair
game unless otherwise noted, and you are expected to demonstrate mastery of the
material during examinations. Dont leave any questions unanswered! You have ample
resources: weekly Q&A sessions, office hours, and your peers.
Attitude: Physiology is challenging, but remember that it serves as one of the core
foundations of medicine. With dedication, positivity, and active studying, this challenge
will become your reward. All the best!

Cellular Organization of Tissues (COT) - Sean and James

Your view of COT, as with Biochemistry and Physiology, depends largely upon your
level of interest. The few, the proud, the Histo-warriors eat, sleep, and breathe COT; they get a
rush from zooming in on a delectable simple squamous epithelium and would willingly
substitute watching a few hours of Netflix on Saturday evenings with some Biolucida quality
time. The middle ground peeps neither love nor hate it; they will learn the material with no
particular emotional attachment, either positive or negative. And the rest of the crew will have
nightmares with Dr. Toths voice echoing in their heads, Label the epithelium! However, this
is where we tell you that your personal views and emotions regarding this one-of-a-kind class do
not dictate what grade you will receive. Even the most enthusiastic students for COT will fall
short if they fail to study properly. The great news is that any type of student can establish good
study habits and conquer this class.
COT is a difficult course for many because it condenses a daunting amount of material
into four credit hours. Indeed, the amount of material and the time you must put into reviewing it
is much like that of Biochemistry. Thankfully, however, a systematic and dynamic approach to
studying combined with due diligence can help you succeed!
Where to begin:

It is very important to pre-read before going to lecture. The large amount of material
covered each week makes lectures very fast-paced, and if you come to lecture without
knowing what they are talking about it becomes time wasted.
Make sure you read actively when looking over the syllabus. Whether you are prereading or reviewing it again, at some point you should read the syllabus very carefully,
noting things that may be important or tricky. Ask yourself questions about the material
as you read. Oftentimes your questions are answered later in the text!
Dont gloss over difficult concepts! You may find that the most complex and detailed
concepts are the ones they test you on most frequently. Avoid skipping over these parts of
the material and instead give them more attention.
There are many differing opinions on the use of master notes. I (James) found it most
helpful to use OneNote (included with Microsoft Office) to create my own notes, putting
lecture and lab material into a condensed format in my words.

Time management:

If you have no schedule or prioritized list guiding your studies, chances are you are losing
valuable time throughout the day. Set a schedule for yourself to ensure you have
adequate time for your heavy course load.
Plan out when you do your lab assignments and when you review your lecture material in
a way that will most benefit you learning the material. Drawing assignments and material
reviews are less helpful if you rush through them because it is the night before lab and/or
a quiz.


Take drawing assignments seriously! It cannot be overstated how helpful drawings can
be when studying histology. Take the time to do them thoughtfully.

During lab, make sure you communicate with your group members rather than sitting in
silence while you follow the syllabus. Your lab grade depends on how well your group
communicates with each other. If you ask the TF a question and they answer it, tell your
group what they said right away!
A more specific approach: Take screenshots of things when you find them on the slides
and include them in your notes. Sometimes you find something easily during lab but
cant find it later when you review the material. Many find it helpful to make labelled
screenshots to use later as a reference.

Learn everything! Instead of wasting your time thinking about what they will test you
on, keep your head down and learn all the material so there are no surprises on
A sure way to have trouble on a quiz is to wait until the night before to start reviewing.
Give yourself at least one day in between reviewing and taking the quiz so you have
time to reflect on the material.
It is imperative that you keep up with the material. Falling behind at any point can be
difficult to recover from. The weekly quizzes are there to keep you accountable for
staying on pace, do not waste that opportunity.
Dont second-guess yourself! Everyone knows that when you change your answer on a
multiple-choice question you usually change it to a wrong choice (and oftentimes your
first answer was right!). Be confident in your judgment and try not to overthink the
question. If the question is suspiciously easy, its likely that its actually just an easy
Although the recommended text is Junqueiras, the sixth edition of Ross & Pawlinas Histology contains
a more thorough atlas and is, in my (James) opinion, more useful, especially for those who have never
taken histology. Please note that this text should serve only as an extra reference and should not be used
to replace Junqueiras. The information for Histology is included below.
Ross, M., & Pawlina, W. (2011). Histology: A text and atlas: With correlated cell and molecular biology
(6 Ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
ISBN: 978-0-7817-7200-6

Closing Tips & Tricks

For those that are not the fondest of COT, and even for those who enjoy it a lot, it is very
helpful to think of the course as a game. Some of the core objectives of the course are to
be able to identify important tissues and cells and be able to describe their function. What
better way to attack this objective than to treat it like a guessing game or a Wheres
Waldo book. This will help give you a more positive outlook on the material. Also, you
can play games with your lab partners and other classmates. Before lab and lecture or on
your way home on the bus, challenge your classmates to remember the stages of
hematopoiesis or the stages of embryogenesis. It may seem like a goofy and childish
activity, but think about if you asked one question each day on your way home, that adds
up! And several times last year, a question popped up on a quiz or exam that was exactly
the question talked about on the bus!

If you gleaned nothing but one thing from this lil COT write-up you MUST remember
this: COT demands SPECIFICITY. You have now heard it from us and you will
continue to hear it over and over again all semester. But even with all of this reminding
you will still inevitably make a mistake in being too vague with a labeling answer.
Ingrain this need for specificity early and you will be better off for it. For example, you
analyze a slide and the cell in question is most clearly a macrophage on a wondrous slide
of a lung, boom, answer: macrophage, next please! WRONG!!! The answer is: alveolar
macrophage to properly account for it being in the lung. These are stupid mistakes and
will leaving you feeling horrible because you most definitely knew that the slide was a
lung and that the cell was a macrophage, BE SPECIFIC! Let your mistakes in the first
couple weeks be that you were TOO specific. We challenge you to do this.
o Incorporate this into your guessing games! Keep your classmates accountable for
answering properly when you pose questions. In demanding the specific answer,
you will understand where Dr. Toth is coming from in creating the questions for
the quizzes, exams and practicals. This will, in turn, give you greater confidence
and skill in answering his questions: the questions that really matter!

Good luck and be confident!

The MAMS Subcommittee