HOW TO STUDY FOR EXAMS - How to prepare for exams


In science subjects like chemistry, physics and biology you will need to spend some of your revision time before an exam. The trouble is that most of the terminology you will have come across may not be intrinsically  memorable.  With  a  little  mental  inventiveness,  however,  you’ll  soon  be  able  to understand the language of chemistry, biology or physics.

It is easy to create highly memorable images in your mind for just about any technical terms you might encounter. Take a little time (it doesn’t take long) to make yourself a list of memory aids for the key terms you will need in the exam. To get you started, here are a few chemistry examples:

•  Elements

Elements  contain  only  one  type  of  atom.  They  cannot  be  chemically  broken  down  into  simpler substances.

•  Compounds

These are substances which contain more than one type of atom, chemically joined. Compounds can be chemically split into simpler substances. Think of an animal compound containing several species.

•  Acids

Acids are substances which:
1  turn blue litmus paper red: imagine a police officer and the “boys in blue” turning red with anger
2  have a sour taste: think of the taste of vinegar (ethanoic acid)
3  react with metals to form salts: visualise members of a heavy metal rock band at an acid house
party turning into pillars of salt
4  neutralise bases: the bass guitar is neutralised.

•  Alloys

Alloys are mixtures of metals formed by melting together two or more different metals and allowing the  mixture  to  solidify.  Brass,  for  example,  is  made  up  of  copper  and  zinc.  Think  of allies  joined together to form a solid front.

•  Deliquescence

This is when a substance absorbs water from the air and dissolves in it to form a solution. To remind you, imagine walking into your local delicatessen and seeing a lemon sorbet that has been left out in the air too long and is turning into a runny liquid.

•  Efflorescence

This is when a crystalline substance turns to fine powder on exposure to air, or when salts come to the surface of a substance and crystallise. Imagine an effluent containing dissolved detergent crystals drying out in the air, and the crystals turning into a powder.

•  Alcohols

Alcohols are compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. You’ll always remember this if you think of alcohol as “causing hang-overs”. Ethanol, C2H5OH, is the alcohol found in drinks and produced by the fermentation of sugars from yeast.

•  Ions

Ions are particles that carry an electrical charge, which might be positive or negative. Think of an electric iron.

•  Anions

These  are  ions  that  have  a  negative  charge.  Imagine  somebody  called Ann  ironing  a  piece  of negative film.

•  Cations

These are ions that carry a positive charge. Think of cations as pussy-tive.

•  Exothermic reactions

These are reactions that produce energy in the form of heat. Think of energy or heat exiting.

•  Endothermic reactions

Reactions in which energy, as heat, is absorbed. Think of heat entering.

•  Allotrope

An allotrope is one of a number of forms that one element can take. Carbon, for example, has several markedly different allotropic forms, including graphite and diamond. Think of making different shapes or forms out of the same piece of rope – a lot of rope tricks. This is a good example of how to create very individual associations when faced with a term or phrase that has no obvious connection with its own meaning or definition.

•  Ammonia

Ammonia is produced by mixing the two gases hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen together in a ratio of 3:1 by volume. Using the DOMINIC System, imagine the three members of Charlie’s Angels (CA = 31) squeezing the two gases together into one. The gas is manufactured by the Haber process, and then converted  into  ammonium  compounds  for  making  fertilisers,  nitric  acid,  explosives  and  cleaning products, as well as some plastics. To remember all this, imagine going down to the harbour and seeing all these things as a shipment being lifted off a cargo boat. Ammunition will remind you of explosives,  fireworks  and night tricks,  bleach  is  used  in  household  cleaning,  and  the  smell  of fertiliser, like that of ammonia itself, is pungent.

You can see how easy it is to invent ridiculous images that will remain memorable in an exam so that instead of breaking your flow of thought by agonising over a definition you’ll be able to recall the information easily and get on with your answer to the question. The same techniques can be applied to biological terms just as easily. Take the terms phenotype and genotype. It’s easy to fix in your mind that phenotype refers to the physical signs of genotype – our genetic composition. Physics, too, with all its complex equations, can be made visual and therefore memorable. 

Biology Lessons & Notes