Student life

How to Study Biochem

When it comes to Biochemistry, my method of study is repetition and flow charts.

Biochemistry lectures tend to be very lengthy but generally it is one large concept studied in great detail. For example a lecture on the citric acid cycle could be 60 slides long but there are multiple slides that detail one particular step.

What I do for biochemistry is review the lecture slides within 24 hours after class. This is a must, because the more time goes by, the more difficult it is to recollect the information.  While reviewing, I would use scratch paper to categorize the topics that were covered, regrouping them into a flow that makes sense to me.



Because every metabolic pathway is related, your instructor can break up the material into whatever way works for them to lecture on it. You, however, have the option of taking that information from a different angle. This task can be very easy, or very difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. That’s ok, better conceptual understanding will come with time. It helped me to look at the textbook chapter and paragraph headers to help me understand the relationship between concepts.

Once I have my categories, I go through the slides again and map out the material in a way that makes sense to me. My goal is to get the entire lecture onto one blank sheet of printer paper.

The citric acid cycle lecture was easily summarized by creating my own version of the cycle that was more pleasing to me visually. I like to looking at the steps of the process as a list rather than a circular structure. I created my list and I added all the details that I wanted to have from the slides. Then any other outlying topics that were covered in the lecture were added to my summary sheet separately.

Once I have created that summary sheet I use that to review as frequently as possible. Ideally, I would look at it every day at least just a quick review. But we all know that’s not realistic. The best way to review these notes is to copy them using a dry erase board. Read teach your self the entire lecture by using your summary sheet as a reference. Talking out loud helps!

You can also read your notes out loud onto your voice recorder app. I would read my one page summary sheet out loud and it would make about a 10 minute recording. I could listen to my recordings while getting ready and driving to school, and that counts as studying! No time goes to waste. Getting that repetition of material helps implant it in your memory. Added bonus: verbalizing your notes helps bring to light some concepts you don’t understand well. If you can’t talk through them, that means you don’t understand the concept and need to study it more.

To study for the exam, I would review my summary sheet and then try to recreate flow charts on my own. I would draw the flow charts over and over again, until I felt like I knew it. Then I’d get a blank sheet of paper and draw it without help. If I forgot a part, I’d keep going and write down everything I could remember, then check it after I was done. Once I could draw the flow chart without help, I knew I had it down! Often times, I’d draw the flow chart on the exam immediately, and refer back to it frequently throughout. This was especially helpful toward the end of the exam when your brain becomes tired, you’ve seen so many words they’re starting to blend together, and you lose confidence in yourself. I learned that I’m most confident right at the beginning of the exam, so that’s the ideal time to regurgitate info on paper that might help me out later.

If you get to a point where you can explain the material to a six-year-old, you know it well enough to ace the exam!


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