Background information: I did BIO1130 with Dr. Jon Houseman in the fall of 2016. (here’s a clip of a remix of Dr. Houseman starting the lectures)
This course is a first year biology course. The course revolves entirely around evolution and basically how the world and the animals on earth came to be. I took the course with Dr. Houseman which proved to be a good learning experience overall (you can check out her ratemyprof profile here.
Dr. Houseman is a great guy. He’s really nice and one thing I really liked about him was his non-bullsh!t approach to what he expects. He gave us all the tools we needed and made sure we understood what the expectations were. He also was nice to a lot of his first year students. He answered many of my questions and helped guide me through the course.
To be honest, the book was a complete waste of my money. The information required for the exam is literally all in the slides and the lectures. This is actually an issue that I had in first year trying to figure out if I needed the book or not, but in this particular course I thankfully didn’t need it.
I remember Dr. Houseman pushed us to memorize the vocabulary list early on in the course. Do that! He’s really good at being completely upfront on what you’ll need and he will give you all the tools you need. A little hint is if the professor spends a long time on a topic and goes into detail about it… make sure you focus on that topic because it’s going to for sure come in the exam.
The BIO 1130: Introduction to Organismal Biology course was definitely not a typical human biology or plant biology course. The BIO1130 course revolves around evolution. BIO1130, like many other biology/science courses, is heavily reliant on memorizing, and making sure you use the right keywords. The professor is going to expect you to know all the vocabulary words, the concepts, know the facts, researchers and be sure to know to spell those weird new words, too! I also found the 2019 BIO1130 outline here: bio1130-2019-course-outline
Here’s an overview of the chapters from 2019:
- Science: definition, methodology and perception
- Evolutionary thinking before Darwin
- Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution
- Genetics, Neo-Darwinism and Modern Synthesis
- The evolution of populations
- Geographic variation and speciation
- Biosphere and ecology
- Ecology of populations
- Conservation Biology
- The origin of life
- Bacteria and Archaea
- The Cambrian explosion
- The conquest of the terrestrial environment: evolution of plants
- Evolution of animals: general concepts
- Evolution of animals: from echinoderms to chordates
Here are some of my tips to master BIO1130 materials:
- Go over the part midterms (questions + wording). Dr. Houseman often reuses questions from his past midterms which he does provide. Be sure to go over at least 3-4 years back and redo the midterms. It’s a great way to not only see the type of questions that are used and hopefully have one of the questions pop up in your exam, but also it’s an amazing way to learn how to answer questions. Answering questions CORRECTLY is key! You need to follow a certain pattern in trying to answer the question and to do that you need to practice using other questions, looking up their answers then correcting yourself and eventually you’ll understand exactly what it takes to answer the question properly and get full marks.
- Do the crossword. Something that many students did in BIO1130 was leave the crossword to literally the night before the exam. By many students I’m talking about myself 🙂 Don’t do that. Use the crossword cause I found it useful in the second midterm to hammer down the spelling of the words in a fun way! Also, I would really suggest using the description of each word to study with. Some of the questions in the exam use the same description and you can even use the definition provided to answer the questions and get the full grade that you deserve.
- Keywords (know the keywords, description is not enough). You’re not in highschool, the professor won’t grade the exams and even if they did they usually skim over quickly for keywords. TAs are usually tasked with marking your exams and just like the professor, they’re usually so overwhelmed that they start skimming over the exam and looking for keywords that you need to hit. Describing a word isn’t going to get you that mark, use the proper word. For example if the question requires you to use the word “hypothesis” replacing it with “scientific guess” or “theory” will not get you any marks.
Exams and practicals:
Since 2019, I began noticing this thing where professors try to push students to receive better grades by fluctuating the percentage of each of their exams. Outlines now say that midterms are for example worth 15-20% of the final course grade. This didn’t happen in 2016, so it’s really a helpful boost for students to be pushed towards a better grade.
The final course grade made up of: participation, homeworks and assignments (using the Wiley+ software), 2 midterms, labs reports, and a final exam. Clearly, they’re helping you.
Like always, making sure to ace the assignments and participation percentages since they’re a free grade booster. These two really depend on the professor in charge. Some professors choose not to include assignments and participation in their course, however if they do take advantage!
The midterms and final exam are meant to test whether you’ve studied the course notes and lectures. Exams have multiple choice questions, short answers, long answers. There are not going to be any weird calculation or application questions so much as there will be questions testing your memorization and induction skills. As stated earlier, some questions might be taken from past midterms and finals so be sure to go over them and learn not only the kinds of questions that will be asked but also how you’re expected to answer them. Memorize! Memorize! Memorize!
Some tips to help you prepare for BIO1130 exams:
- Connect the topics. Don’t just memorize random names and words. Connect them to other topics, be able to give examples of each of the topics, be able to define each term and know how it connects to other terms. Go the extra mile and really try to dig deeply into each of the topics. Everything you need to know will be in the slides or the lectures, so use these tools and ace that exam!
- Past exams are awesome! Like I stated earlier, in BIO1130, the professors are known to use past exams and take questions from them. In later years, professors are really against giving students past midterms, so use that advantage while you have it. If you can get your hands on exams with answers then you’ve hit the jackpot! If not, then try answering some questions and show them to your professor so he can guide you on how to appropriately answer the questions and what you could be missing.
- Memorize. I personally hate memorizing, but it’s so important for this course. Whatever your memorizing plan is, then be sure to really nail it down. Memorize how to spell the words and everything related to each of them including definitions and related words.
For many Canadians students, doing labs is a fairly routine practice, however for international students like myself, having a lab was a whole rollercoaster. Labs are usually 20-40% of the final course mark, so it’s important! Labs are used to make students practice what they learnt in class. I found the labs to be really straight forward so there isn’t much to worry about. Here’s a general lab schedule from last semester (2019):
Lab 0: info session
Lab 1: Field trip to Mer Bleue
Lab2: Scientific Literature
Lab3 - Vertebrates Evolution (Cladogram)
Lab4 - Microevolution
Some tips to help you get the most out of the labs:
- Details are important. One thing that frustrated me in the labs was how meticulous they are about details! Make sure to go over the lab manual and follow exactly what they do in their. You’ll be required to make graphs, for example, so be sure to do it exactly how they want it to be done. You’ll lose grades for even the slightest mistake!
- Finish your labs early. BIO1130 labs are usually due in person and must be submitted in the BCH building, so make sure to print your lab the night before and not wait until the last day to finish it (this might be different for Fall 2020 since the labs will be online). I would highly recommend you finish the lab report as soon as you do your lab, it might take you a couple of days but submitting it at least a day before it’s done will ensure grades will not be lost due to a late submission because of traffic or a technical problem.
BIO1130 taught me alot about my studying habits and what memorizing effectively and efficiently looks like. Hope you enjoy the course!