IMPORTANT: Have you taken the reading assessment test? Can you read
at a level that is adequate for this text? In general, all the college biology
texts are at least 12.6 grade level and some are considerably higher. If
you read at the adequate level, then the following suggestions may be helpful.
What follows is a summary of strategies that are being used by students who
are successful in biology. AND YOU CAN SUCCEED TOO!!
Slow down !! The flow of a biology book is not like the flow of a novel.
A novel can be read effortlessly, smoothly and rapidly, but biology books
cannot be. If you are reading a novel and are somewhat distracted, you can
still get the idea of what it is about. When you are not concentrating on
biology you will get very little out of it, and it will seem more difficult
than it really is.
Every word counts. Biology books are usually not repetitive, so there is
little chance of picking something up from reading on. Writers of biology
texts believe that extra words and repeats get in the way of clarity.
It is best to tackle each chapter at least 3 times. The first time you should
skim the chapter, noting topic sentences, words in bold print, all tables,
diagrams and summary charts. This is best read before the lecture. The second
reading should be in more detail, studying each area and not proceeding until
each section is understood. Reread each section as of many times as necessary
until you understand its meaning. Mastery can take minutes or hours or days.
The last major reading is for writing down terms and definitions and important
concepts (see #6 below).
Talk to yourself as you read. Explain what you have read aloud and make up
your own examples to better understand what you have read. Rereading the
material aloud, especially in your own words helps clarify the information.
Hearing yourself makes a lot of difference.
Words and symbols of biology have specific meanings. Each time you come to
a new term or concept, cover up the text and see if you can express the idea
aloud in your own words. Write down all the words you don't know. Emphasize
words in bold type. Whenever possible write out the definitions in your own
words. Strive for understanding the definitions so that you can easily state
them in your own words; you are more likely to remember them that way. By
saying it out loud and writing it, you are more like to recall it later,
Study all diagrams and charts. They condense a lot of valuable information.
Cover up and see if you can visualize them.
Write as you read.
During your first reading write nothing in the text.
Don't highlight it slows down reading and it's often used as an excuse
for not concentrating.
In a later reading, call attention to important words or phrases by underlining
them (don't overdo this). Complete sentences or paragraphs should be bracketed
and not underlined.
Write summarizing statements to yourself in the margin.
Make notes to yourself right in the text.
Note questions that you need to have clarified.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE RESALE VALUE OF THE TEXT.
Record all key points on a separate sheet.
If there are study questions at the end of the chapters, be sure you can
answer them. They are good practice for the exam.
Make flash cards with terminology and concepts.
Keep testing yourself on a separate sheet of paper.
Without looking back, write out and say aloud the important points.
Create tasks for yourself as you read the text. After reading an example
and working it out for yourself, try to think of other examples that would
fit the idea being discussed.
Use more than one book on the topic you are studying whenever possible. Pick
books that appeal to you. If you are very verbal, a book with long explanations
is likely to be most helpful. If you are more visual, you might choose a
book that has more illustrations.
Read the chapter before, and again after, class. You will get the most out
of class if you have read the material before the instructor presents it.
Even if you felt you understood the material in class, read it over again
in the text. The more you review it the more likely you are to recall it.
If possible, have a friend or family member quiz you on your notes and text
information. Done regularly, this commits more information to longterm
By Cindy Arem Ph.D. and Paul Johnson, Pima Community College