Course Specific Advice from Peers

Check out what your peers have to say! Consider the following course specific strategies for academic success from senior student volunteers in the PAL Centre.

For more strategies from high achieving students, drop by the PAL Centre during hours of operation and speak with a student volunteer.

Biology 2382 - Cell Biology

  • Multiple-choice exams.
  • Pay close attention to diagrams of pathways and structures! Using these visual aids is a great way to learn course content and they often contain clues to help explain confusing concepts. If printing out your lecture slides, make sure you print them large enough to see the details of the diagrams.

Calvin, 4th year Medical Sciences

  • Make a glossary of terms by topic/chapter as you go through the course because the names of proteins/molecules are very similar to each other. Review your glossary before the exam. (this strategy also given under Genetics, Bio 2581B)

Joon, 4th year Medical Sciences

Biochemistry 2288A - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for Foods and Nutrition

  • This course has lots of content that may feel overwhelming at first. Break it down, work through the individual topics and try to make connections between them, as many of them build on top of one another.

  • For example, the first level of branching in a mind map on Lipids may include the different types of lipids (fatty acids, triacylglycerols, glycerophospholipds, sphingolipids and steroids).  At this stage, compare each of their functions, structure and any other subtypes (ex. saturated vs. unsaturated under fatty acids).  Next, branch out to diffusion & fluidity and the factors affecting these characteristics.

  • Creating mind maps for other macromolecules (ex. Carbohydrates, Proteins) and reviewing them together, can help create a big picture understanding

Tiffany, 4th year Foods and Nutrition 

Biology 2581B - Genetics

  • Make a glossary of terms by topic/chapter as you go through the course because the names of proteins/molecules are very similar to each other. Review your glossary before the exam. (this strategy also given under Cell Biology, Bio 2382B)

Joon, 4th year Medical Sciences

Business 1220E and 2257

  • Do your cases. On average, each case takes 2-4hours to complete. Something you can do to ensure you do your cases for each class is to allot time in your schedule specifically for working on the cases. It is important to not fall behind on the cases because, as each unit progresses, the cases will build on each other. Consistency with doing the cases will help you through this course. It will also help you to see actual or potential trouble spots for you in the cases.
  • While it can be helpful to practice cases with friends, you should try to do cases (especially as the exam gets closer) by yourself in preparation for the exam.
  • Don’t wait till you get to class to make a decision or form your opinions. It’s OK to have different ideas from your professor and classmates.
  • Participate in class. This is the only way to tell whether or not you are on the right track with your work. You can be putting hours and hours of work into doing your cases, but if you never participate in class, you will never know whether your analysis and implications are correct. It is easy to just sit there during class and listen to the discussion and think, “Yeah, I could have gotten that answer too if I had done that,” but it’s easier said than done. One piece of advice a mentor had given me is to participate at least three times per class. Participating really helped me stay engaged and focused in the class, which the lecturer can tell.
  • Do a comprehensive case in four hours. Start with the Finance unit. With your last few cases in the unit, do the case as if it was the actual exam. Find a quiet place where you can work for four hours without distractions, whether that is a study room or the library. Time yourself and see which step you are on at certain points in time. How long does it take you to read over the case? At what time should you finish all of your analysis by? When do you want to start writing your decision? Try setting a general time limit for yourself for each step of the case. Remember, most of your marks will come from the implications you make, not the actual analysis. So be sure not to fall into the trap of analyzing every single case fact and spending too long on analysis. You need to learn how to pick out the most important facts.
  • After completing a case, you may find it helpful to go through it with a buddy. Tell your friend about your analysis, implications and arguments. And let your friend play the devil’s advocate. What that means is to see if they can poke holes in your argument. Was there a big case fact that you missed that would have greatly altered your decision? Was your decision convincing and the best one you could make based on the analysis? Does the decision tie back to the original personal and business goals?
  • When working on the cases, really put yourself into the decision-maker’s shoes. Is this something that they are likely to implement?

Wendy, 2nd year Management and Organizational Studies (MOS), Accounting
Gabrielle, 4th year MOS, Human Resource Management

Calculus 1000/1301/1500

  • It’s good to make summary notes on the subtle differences between questions on a given concept, in addition to doing practice exam questions. (this strategy also given under Chemistry 1301A/1302B)

Joon, 4th year Medical Sciences

Chemistry 1301A/1302B

  • Multiple-choice exams; 1301 is more conceptual; 1302 has more equations.
  • Practice exams are your best friends! Make a plan to do most, if not all, of the practice exams before the exam date. See what topics you have more trouble with and give yourself time to fill in any gaps in your knowledge and/or improve your understanding to ensure you won’t make those mistakes again.
  • Read each question carefully, word-by-word. Cross out any irrelevant information, circle relevant variables and identify what variable they’re actually asking you to solve for.

Calvin, 4th year Medical Sciences

  • It’s good to make summary notes on the subtle differences between questions on a given concept, in addition to doing practice exam questions. (this strategy also given under Calculus 1000/1301/1500)

Joon, 4th year Medical Sciences

Economics 1021A/B and 1022A/B

  • Here are a few things every economics student will need to know: demand, supply, fiscal vs. monetary policy, and the 2 methods of measuring GDP.
  • The exams are heavily textbook based.
  • One of the most valuable things from the lectures is the examples that your professor will provide. Because they will be explained in greater detail, these in-class examples are sometimes easier to understand than the ones in the textbook.
  • Draw the graph! Quickly sketching out the demand/supply graph and its movements and shifts will be much easier than analyzing the changes in your head. Drawing it out will also make it easier on you when you check your work later on.
  • Economics 1021 is very applicable to real life! Once you start connecting with the material on a more regular basis, you will find economic applications everywhere. Can you spot some basic economic principles in how consumers act? Why do certain technological products have such a premium price? Because the demand exists for it to happen!

Wendy, 2nd year Management and Organizational Studies (MOS), Accounting
Gabrielle, 4th year MOS, Human Resource Management

Foods and Nutrition 2244A - Dietary and Nutritional Assessment

  • Understand how to interpret blood work.  E.g. What may abnormal levels indicate? Consider all factors that could have caused an abnormal level.

  • Know how to interpret results of a clinical/physical examination.  E.g. What nutritional deficiency is the symptom or condition associated with?

Tiffany, 4th year Foods and Nutrition

Foods and Nutrition 3351A - Clinical Nutrition

  • This course has lots of content to know, however there is a lot of repetition of topics.  Try to identify similarities and differences between concepts to help retain the information.

  • Know guideline numbers such as AMDRs, DRIs, for major macronutrients and be able to apply this knowledge to cases

Tiffany, 4th year Foods and Nutrition

Foods and Nutrition 4471 - Nutrition and Metabolic Processes

  • Be sure to understand the first lecture! – This first lecture is a review of several biochemical concepts that will become very important for the rest of the course.  Be sure to ask if you don’t understand any of these concepts.

  • Bring it back to the big picture – Throughout this course, several biochemical processes are taught. This can be overwhelming when several steps are involved, and metabolites overlap.  Remember what the overall goal of the process is. This will create a better understanding of each step’s purpose.

  • But don’t forget the details – A course about metabolic processes focuses on details.  Although it is important to understand the big picture, students often lose marks on exams because they aren’t providing enough information. Be sure to attend lecture!

  • Understand patterns in the names – the names of processes or enzymes are good indicators of what is going to happen, making the steps easier to remember.  Become familiar with the functions of different enzymes (E.g. Kinases add a phosphate group while phosphatases remove phosphate groups).

For example: Glycolysis

"Glyco” and “lysis” – meaning to break down – therefore the process of breaking down glucose

The first step involves glucose to become glucose 6-phosphate, the enzyme involved here is glucokinase.  Knowing that kinases add a phosphate group tells us that glucose will receive a phosphate from ATP, to become glucose 6-phosphate (the name of this metabolite also tells us what happened)

  • Recognizing when enzymes are activated – recognizing which enzymes are activated when phosphorylated and which enzymes are activated when dephosphorylated is also a helpful, foundational step to learning in this course.  Also, determine whether the enzyme is involved in a catabolic or anabolic function!

Tiffany, 4th year Foods and Nutrition

Health Sciences 2300A/B and 3300A/B - Anatomy

 Health Sciences 2300A - Systematic Approach to Functional Anatomy & HS 3300B -  Anatomy of the Human Body:

  • Be sure to read assigned sections before lecture in order to become familiar with names and functions mentioned in class.
  • Actively review your notes as often as you can, taking special care with understanding diagrams. It is very helpful to use charts and diagrams that you have "blanked out" so that you can test yourself by filling in these blanks.
  • Yet another way to use diagrams in Anatomy would be to post a large copy somewhere you look everyday (above/on your desk, beside your mirror, as a background on your phone) so that it becomes habit to practice and study, as well as subconsciously remember this picture you now view daily!

Lianna, 3rd year Health Studies

  • A more interactive way to study anatomy is using 3D anatomy software, some programs are free to download while some have a cost. This is a great resource to reinforce material from the labs outside the lab. Much of this software has labelling quizzes, options to dissect structures and different views to practice with.
  • Spending time on diagrams is a key strategy for the bell ringer and other exams. How the structures are related to each other anatomically and functionally is critical for proper understanding.

Health Sciences courses (in general):

  • Spending time to understand the PowerPoint slides is a key to doing well. Being accurate in knowing the definitions and paying close attention to statistics are also crucial strategies.  Sometimes specific details from the textbook may be tested, but usually the textbook is supplementary to the lecture material.  However, the textbooks in the courses can help you gain a deeper understanding of how the concepts play out in the world.  This is helpful for application/scenario based questions on exams, so it is worth spending time on.

Apurva, 4th year Health Studies, Rehabilitation Sciences

MOS 1021A/B and 1023A/B

  • There is a lot of information to commit to memory and a lot of recall questions on the exams.
  • The textbook readings are very important in this course.
  • There are many definition questions on the exam and questions asking: “What are the steps of …” and “What are the (e.g. three) parts of …”
  • Prepare for your lectures! This is a course where reading the chapter(s) prior to the lecture will greatly benefit you and help towards your comprehension of the material.
  • Tie the theory you are learning in class to real life situations. This will help make the material you are learning more real and vibrant and help you remember the details better. For example, if you are studying concepts on human resources and you are trying to remember the advantages and disadvantages of hiring internally vs. externally, think of a company that each scenario would work best for.
  • Due to the nature of the material, study groups work well for this course. Try having everyone read and know the material prior to your group study sessions and then quiz/test each other on some of the more difficult concepts.

Wendy, 2nd year Management and Organizational Studies (MOS), Accounting
Gabrielle, 4th year MOS, Human Resource Management

Philosophy 2715G - Health Care Ethics

  • Make a table for all definitions and terms covered in the course. Test yourself by first covering up the column with the definitions and trying to recall the definitions from the terms.  Next, cover up the column of terms and try to identify the terms from reading the definitions.  You may be tested in either way on the exams.

  •  Make another table for all of the arguments covered in the course. List the major topics (e.g. Who counts morally?) and the different arguments made by each of the authors (e.g. Sagan & Singer believe embryos do not have moral status and it is permissible to destroy them.)

  •  Create a practice test for the final exam by putting together all of the questions from quizzes.

  •  Case Analyses: focus on applying knowledge based on the content of the course when answering the questions.  Answer only what is being asked and only give an opinion if required.

Tiffany, 4th year Foods and Nutrition

Physics 1028A/1029B

  • Multiple-choice exams; half conceptual and half equations.
  • Practice problems in the textbook are useful to familiarize yourself with equations and learn to identify variables. Listening to lecture recordings will consolidate concepts and help you think like the professor thinks for some of the less familiar questions.

Calvin, 4th year Medical Sciences

Psychology 1000

  • Definitions, definitions, definitions! Collect all of the terms and definitions from the textbook chapters (bolded words) and paste them in a word doc (organized by chapters). This can make your studying more focused and efficient because you have the most important information condensed on a few pages rather than spread through the entirety of the textbook  It can also help you more easily break down definitions into their parts, highlight and remember them since they are not dispersed throughout the text.  It’s like creating a glossary for each chapter instead of for the entire book, as it is at the back of the text.
  • Highlight important/interesting info when you read through the chapters for the first time, paying special attention to studies/findings and application examples.  Review these once you have mastered the terms/definitions and lecture material.
  • Skip the boxes in the text initially (generally the boxes have information about the current research being done in the areas discussed) and study them a day or two before the exam - usually very little information is tested from here.  The information that is tested is very specific, so a read-through the day before the exam should help you with recall.  It will also reinforce and put into perspective the bigger more important concepts that you should have mastered by then.


 Apurva, 4th year Health Studies, Rehabilitation Sciences

Statistical Sciences 2037A – Statistics for Health

  • Know your terms! This is a stats course more focused on theory than on mathematical calculations (although not completely.) Develop a good understanding of the concepts and be able to apply them to different scenarios. Exam questions will require reading and comprehension skills along with the ability to analyze what topics are being tested. Practice questions are a great study tool for this course.

Tiffany, 4th year Foods and Nutrition