As I was researching for an upcoming post, I decided to look back through my college notes on the subject. Surprisingly, they were full of diagrams. I had forgotten just how much I relied on my visual memory for revision. During exams, my desk was scattered with colouring pencils and the odd sharpener. Examiners probably looked on in confusion as I drew illustrations in between writing frantically. Time to explore the visual side of science!
Even after many years and a few fried brain cells, the diagrams brought my notes alive. It made the re-learning process a lot easier as the subject came flooding back without having to trawl through pages of text.
The main reason I decided to write this post was to give science students a few revision and exams tips. These helped me do well during my time in university. Diagrams won’t suit every science subject but they are featured in a high proportion. Here are a few tips for relevant courses:
- Use diagrams everywhere… in essays, reviews, lab reports and exams.
- Make them colourful and easy to understand.
- Include LOTS of labels.
- Increase your knowledge by drawing a subject summary / overview diagram.
- Most importantly, give the lecturers a break from reading endless words!
Use them to illustrate steps of a simple process e.g. my lovely blob showing the last stage of programmed cell death (above right). Move on with extra colours for more complex multi-stage interactions (below) where a single diagram can be a reminder for many pages of text and scientific papers. This type of overview is especially useful for last-minute nerves outside the exam hall.
What have you found helpful when preparing for exams? If you have any other exam tips to give budding scientists, comment below.
PS: If you pay close attention to the (old & possibly out of date) diagrams in this post, you’ll have a clue about the topic I was researching (published here next month).
Reminder - Next week (Monday to Friday) on Science Calling there will be a week-long special on Gender Stereotyping featuring guests posts and personal stories. Pop by!