One essential tip that will help you ace your science classes

 

 

When compared to your general education courses, your science classes almost always require more study time and much more effort in order to get those hard sought A’s. And medical schools look at your science and math GPA separately from your overall GPA, so its incredibly important to score well in these classes. Because the grades you get in your science classes will be weighed more heavily than those general education courses.

This is why its essential that we develop all the best study skills and habits we can and really optimize ourselves into the best students we can. Science classes are tough! But they can be a lot easier if you know how to approach them. A few changes in your mindset can completely revolutionize how you do in these classes. I will give you one of these mindset changes, which if you actually try to apply it will definitely improve the kind of grades you are getting.

That change is how you approach understanding the material. You need to change your focus from understanding what is going on to WHY its going on. This is one of the most paradigm shifting things I learned which really helped me learn hard science topics faster. If you focus on why something is the way it is , instead of just whats happening you understand it on a much deeper level. By knowing the why you will always know the what. But knowing whats happening does not mean you know why it is happening the way it is. And by knowing the why behind whatever it is you are learning, you actually understand it. And when you understand something rather than just memorizing facts, you will actually have a WAY easier time recalling it on the test and getting the right answer.

 

The why = Understanding the logic and reasoning behind things. (Like understanding why you put a negative sign on mg or not, etc.)

The what = Just knowing the facts but not understanding the reason for them. (Ex. In physics the force of friction always opposes the direction of motion.)

Knowing the reasoning and logic behind what you are learning is critical to tying it all together and easily being able to recall it on a test. And of course for really learning the material!

 

Let me give you an example of how this is done in practice: 

Example: An SN1 reaction from organic chemistry.

For those who aren’t familiar or forgot.
So in a SN1 reaction, we have an organic molecule which typically has an alkyl-halide substituent on it and a nucleotide. This reaction is marked by the substitution of the nucleotide for the alkyl-halide with a carbocation intermediate.

There are two ways to try and remember what will happen. By focusing on the why or the what (Just knowing whats going on; memorizing facts).

If you try to focus on the what, your thought process looks more like this: 

– We have an alkyl-halide which is attached to a tertiary carbon
– SN1 is typically done in protic solutions.
– The alkyl halide dissociates
– A carbocation is formed
– The nucleophile attacks the carbocation, creating a new bond
– The end product is the organic molecule with the nucleophile attached to the carbon the alkyl halide was attached to. There is also a negatively charged halide in solution.

^ These are just facts. And quite a few that you have to remember.

 

Now if you focus on understanding why it happens the way it does, you will have a much better understanding.

We have an organic molecule with an alkyl halide attached to a tertiary carbon. This is most likely an SN1 reaction because I know that an SN1 reaction involves the formation of a carbocation intermediate. Because there is a tertiary carbon, the carbocation will be stabilized making it much more likely to form. Also the tertiary carbon sterically hinders the nucleophile from directly attacking the carbon, which prevents the possibility of an SN2 reaction. The alkyl halide is a good leaving group, because halides are very electronegative atoms so they will be happy to take the electrons out of the bond. This is also why it will have a negative charge upon entering the solution. Once we have a carbocation, it will attract the negatively charged nucleophile to it. Because the nucleophile has a negative charge, it must have lone pair electrons to donate so it will form a bond with the carbon.

 

Wow that was a lot! But as you see, if you actually just understand why things are going on you will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together easily. I haven’t taken organic chemistry for almost 2 years now but yet I was able to recall all of those details because when I studied it I focused on understanding why the reaction took place for each step!

Getting good grades is about being the best student you can. And one critical mind shift that should take place for learning , is focusing on the why instead of the what. Just know that there is always a why to any kind of science question you have. Try to understand why things are happening instead of just memorizing whats going on. I promise you will do way better on your tests and you will really learn your material too!

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Wil

Hey Pre-meds! My name is Wil. I am the founder of this website and a student at the Medical College of Georgia. It is my mission to help as many pre-medical students achieve their dreams of getting into medical school!

2 Comments

  1. Fiona Van
    Fiona Van Says

    These are great tips Wil! I’ll admit, I’m definitely the first person in your scenarios when it comes to studying, but I’ll try to “shift” my mind in the way I study to truly understand the material. Thanks for sharing!

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