How do you takes notes for biology?

Nursing Students Pre-Nursing


I am currently taking human anatomy and physiology I. I am having a difficult time making a study guide and managing time. The only way that I can understand the lecture is to transcribe the lecture word for word (the textbook does not closely match the lecture.) Otherwise, the material sounds foreign. This takes me nearly all day/night or multiple days to completely retype one lecture into quizlet (about 8-10 hours). I am scoring about 85 per exam. I have researched but still have not found any helpful tips. What can I do to understand the lecture and record facts without wasting so much time? Note: My school did not require completion of any general biology courses.

Its important to establish your learning style early on. I tried your method once because everyone was doing it and it drove me crazy. My best learning method is reading the chapters before class and watch videos on youtube so I have an understanding of whats going on before I even get to class. I would actually listen to the professor and jot down notes on things that was i was unfamiliar with. Try to actually understand the process and material before making note cards/quizlets. When I know whats going on then I do quizlets and repetition. Another thing thats important, learn your professor testing style. If they allow you to keep test: check out how they word things, what topics they focus on, where they pull their questions from...Another tip, answer all the questions in the back of the chapter, go online do different exams on the subject, so you get hit from different angles. I can't count on my fingers how many times i was saved during my pre reqs when maybe the professor didn't strongly emphasize on a subject but I randomly saw it on a test online I took.

Thanks for the advice, I will try your suggestions!

Specializes in Stepdown . Telemetry.

I am like the op, i cannot understand well without processing onto paper. I have one of those extra large binders full of notes from school. (Cant bring myself to throw them away lol).

I felt kinda silly at the time and didn't understand why i was doing it, it was just what my brain wanted/needed me to do. Now i understand that because i have trouble keeping things in my head (working memory), writing is how i learn and its a legitimate way to do so. Although its time consuming, i had zero motivation to simply read, as i was processing very little, so writing notes felt rewarding.

A word of caution: make sure u are not just mindlessly transcribing, as this serves no purpose. Not even the rationale that you will re-read later. Process the info in your head and write down what u have processed.

Studies have shown that writing notes boosts understanding as you are incorporating multiple sensory systems. Its not about having the notes that is valuable, but the process of making them - that is where the learning occurs.

@Kaylee - I agree!

My learning style is similar, but I have to draw things out too. I'm a mix of visual/tactile so I'm a sucker for notes, videos, models etc ;)

As for the OP: Try to put the material into your own words. One thing I like to do is 'teach' stuffed animals on my desk - I've got a giant stuffed carrot from Ikea for this purpose ;). If you learn something with the intention to teach it, studies have shown that this will help you retain it more. If you're having a hard time grasping certain concepts, don't be afraid to explore other avenues such as videos online.

For complex concepts, try drawing diagrams where you can show what's happening during each step. In drawing and writing, you're cementing the information in there and forced to be conscious about what it is you're putting on the paper.

Specializes in Rehab, Ortho-Spine, Med-Surg, & Psych.


One method I used was to buy onion paper and trace all organs and (most) bones onto it. I would then name its parts with lines pointing to it. Then a brief description of its function at the bottom.

It is also time consuming, but it helped me.

Specializes in MSICU.

My instructor suggested rewriting the lecture/PowerPoint into your own words if writing is your learning style. Personally, I record lectures and then listen to them while I am driving (I spend a lot of time in the car). I also take notes directly on the PowerPoint during lecture and then re-read the whole PowerPoint to study. I did not find reading the book ahead of class helpful to me because I had difficulty understanding until it was explained in lecture. I did find reading the book after lecture helped, since I could easily understand what was going on and the info in the book gave me greater depth.

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