Author: Ian McAllister
Using Trees for Exam Cram<
Simplify the diagrams you are given in class as much as possible. Biological sections in strict geometrical shapes may not be very accurate (with circles representing squashed ovals) but they are easier to remember. You would get more marks in an exam than for no diagram at all.
While studying organic chemistry at school, I prepared a large wall chart on a sheet of brown paper using skeleton drawings to show every reaction we had to know. I practiced getting from any chemical to any other chemical following paths on the chart and soon learned which reactions were one-way only, and which went both ways. I’d effectively crammed a whole year of studies onto one piece of paper.
The line that started in the middle of the left-hand side began something like this:
You can see how it builds, one little block at a time, from one carbon atom to two, to three. It is so logical, like child’s building blocks, that it is easy to remember.
You will have been shown the system if you are studying organic chemistry. When you go on to study biochemistry, everyone seems to forget the skeleton drawing approach. I had to learn about the catabolism of glucose to carbon dioxide and water.
Fortunately I knew how to use the skeleton drawings and a page of skeletons was easy to remember, because each one had only a small change from the one before.
I shall deal with two types of tree, the logic tree (the common “Family tree”), and the Associative tree. The former is usually drawn as a trunk with roots splitting as each decision is made. The associative tree is drawn with branches and roots radiating to show associations with the center. There is no firm logical reason for each branching. In the rest of this book I shall use the term “Tree” to mean the radial associative tree (also known as “brain map”) unless I tell you that it is a family tree.
You can even computerize your brain map. Why should you bother if it’s quicker to draw it on paper? Well, with the computer version you can have whole files of information at the end of each branch of the brain map. Here is some free brain map software. The learning curve is quite steep, but at least it is free. http://freemind.sourceforge.net/
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Use a family tree every time you have to learn classification, whether it is in archaeology, anthropology, bacteriology, biology, or pathology.
Suppose you are studying first-aid. You might like to make a family tree to help you to identify the problem and appropriate action to take. Start at the top of the page with “Safe?” to remind you that as a dead first-aider you can’t do first-aid.
The line down to the right would read “No” and lead to the instruction “Make safe”. The line down to the left could read “Yes” and lead to the next question, and so on.
Don’t worry if two branches of your tree have the same choices later on. This usually happens.
The big advantage of this sort of tree is that you can easily remember a picture like this, even in an emergency such as an exam, whereas you might not remember the pages of the handbook.
When I was trying to learn to identify bacteria I nearly gave up. Then I used a family tree, and the whole lot of it went onto one page! I never had any more trouble with it.