“Dr. Ylostalo, how can I get an A in your Microbiology class?” A question I often get asked early in the semester by students who seek to succeed in my course. Here are some of the main points of the discussions I have with the students asking this question. These approaches will not only help you to succeed in a Microbiology course but will also help you in other Biology courses.

Prepare before lecture

Now this might seem obvious to you, but I also know that not all students keep up with this, especially when things get a bit hectic a few weeks into the semester. Reading the assigned readings before each lecture ensures that you have some idea of the topic and the main concepts being discussed in the class. The assigned readings will hopefully kick start a successful study pattern and also initiate the learning process.

Maximize the lecture experience

Since you have prepared for the lecture by reading the assigned materials, it is much easier to pay attention to the teaching and note-taking. Even in an 8 am class, show up on time and be ready to learn. Ask questions and definitely participate in all individual and group activities your professor assigns during lecture. These activities and group works are designed to maximize the student learning and engage the students into higher order thinking and problem solving that are essential for success.

Review after class

It is extremely important to review the lecture material, preferably the day of the class. Go over your notes and readings, and quiz yourself. Even small groups might be helpful as long as they are focused on learning. This will help you to add to your already existing knowledge. Focus on quality studying over quantity studying (no cell phones nearby!).

Complete assignments

This might seem like another no-brainer, but still worth mentioning as in many Biology courses, this is one of the important components of your final grade. Many of the homework assignments are online and employ graphs, videos, learning modules, and problems. This step is already at least the 4th time you have gone through the material, so you should be able to complete the assignments relatively easily while improving your ability to apply the knowledge you have learned. Most assignments are open book, so you are actually studying while earning points!

Meet with a supplemental instructor and/or your professor

Some courses have a supplemental instructor (SI) who attends the class regularly and holds additional study sessions outside the class time. Use this free service to enhance your learning experience and improve mastery of the concepts. Also, your professor is an excellent source of information and can help you to find answers to your questions and provide you with additional resources to tackle some complex topics. Office hours are a great time to meet with the professor one-on-one to go over the lecture content or even your previous exams.

Final words

Learning is a process that requires the right mindset and discipline to succeed. You have to go over the new material multiple times, and multiple ways, before mastery. A combination of preparation, lecture content, activities, review, homework, and professor help can aid you to succeed and also enjoy your course. Use these tips and perhaps you are on your way to an “A” in your Biology course.

Are you interested in pursuing a biology degree? We’d like to invite you to stop by for a visit, and see if Mary Hardin-Baylor is a fit for you.