How to Take Biology Notes


Taking notes in classes and lectures is extremely important especially when it comes to preparing for quizzes and exams. Some students use pencil and paper while others have started taking laptops to class to type out notes. Whichever method is used, taking notes can be beneficial by focusing on a few pointers to make note-taking more efficient.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil/Pen
  • College or Wide-Ruled Paper
  • A laptop (if typing notes)
  • Word Processing program
  • Voice Recorder (if necessary)
  • Use any preparatory papers or guides provided by the teacher/professor. Having a study guide can serve as an outline for your own notes. This can include anything such as evolution diagrams, cell and microorganism outlines, animal and species diagrams and so on.

  • Make an outline using bullets and key terms. As the teacher lectures, keep track of important topics and provide information about those topics in a list form. Start with broad topics such as molecular biology, then keep smaller, more detailed bullets below such as DNA, RNA, and nucleic acids.

  • Create abbreviations for terms and phrases to help keep notes quicker. However, don't get carried away with over-abbreviating. This can lead to confusion when you go back to read the notes and cannot remember what the abbreviations mean. Most students know that deoxyribonucleic acid stands for DNA, but don't abbreviate a word that may or may not need to be.

  • Paraphrase the lecture and don't take notes word-for-word. It's too difficult to type or write as fast as a teacher speaks, so making notes of important information and summarizing it makes taking notes easier to keep up with.

  • Don't try correcting mistakes during the lecture, wait until later when you can re-write the notes. Erasing or marking out information can cause you to lose track of what is being taught. Biology words can be long and hard to spell. You can always go back later to make notes clearer.

  • Don't attempt to make notes perfect. Scribbling and drawing diagrams and equations all over the page can actually help more in the long run. Using arrows and lines to connect relating information might look confusing to others, but to you they will make sense. Biology is not a subject that is easy to comprehend anyway and drawing cell and acids structures can look confusing to some, but to a biology student, they make a lot more sense.

  • Use a voice recorder if your teacher will allow it. Many biology professors lecture quickly and with a lot of details at a time. Some teachers do allow recording of their lectures to go back and review before exams. Make sure this is okay with any professor before you do it because some do not permit doing so and can lead to failure in the class if caught.

  • Make copies of illustrations from textbooks. These copies provide better diagrams to record notes on then trying to draw them yourself. It also saves you the time and provides better detail. For example, if studying microorganisms, make copies of different fungi, viruses, or protista that are part of the lecture to help fill in the blanks.

  • Re-write notes at least once before any exams. This will help you retain the information better as well as clarify pictures and diagrams that might confuse you before tests. Studying in a pattern can help this as well too. Starting with a broad topic at the top such as plants, then narrowing it down to the different types of plants, to even more detailed about their structure can help you remember all the specifics.


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