How I Made My A in Human Physiology

Contrary to the rumors you may have heard about this course, last year approximately 32% of the students in this course earned an A or A-. They earned the grade with hard work. Over the last few years, some of these "A" students have agreed to provide tips on how to do well in this course. Also listed are several study suggestions from Dr. Davis himself. You may find this information interesting, useful, and perhaps humorous. Beware that some of your fellow students employ sarcasm. Witness the comments of Student # 0!

Student # 0

First of all, being absolutely morally corrupt does wonders. I thank God
everynight when I obtained a copy of the first exam. Unfortunately, you
can't be that lucky everytime. So, here are some tips that might help you
to get an A:

Never do the questions that Dr. Davis gives you to do. I mean, really, it's
just foolish to take advantage of these. It's not like reviewing the
concepts and information that Dr. Davis has determined to be important can
help anyway.

Forget about the reading. What you don't know is that Dr. Davis made a deal
with the book store. He gets a little kickback for every book you buy.
But, if you really feel like you dont want to waste a hundred dollars,
reading the assignment before class can help. I think I heard a couple of
people say how it became easy to take notes in class, but that's a rumor at

As far as studying, I suggest starting the night before the exam, preferably
after a couple of beers to help relax your mind. And pulling all-nighters
is OK for this course. Freshman do it; so can you.

But, seriously, try to see the big picture. Always think feedback loops and
how one system relates to another. Even though physiology is taught system
by system, the body doesn't work like that. Just because you're talking
about the heart doesn't mean you can ignore the nervous system. And take
advantage of any tables or graphs in the book. Make sure that you can
reproduce these when it comes time for the exam. Memorizing facts are
important, but you need a lot more. Try coming up with situations of your
own. The "what would happen if this organ or these cells are damaged"
questions are a good way to study.
And relax. Don't stress. Manage your time, and things will turn out fine.
Good luck.

Student # 1

Here are my tips for making an 'A': (oh, and please don't attach my name to this as I'd like to remain anonymous!)

Yes, it is possible to earn a good grade in physiology. I did! Maybe my pointers will help you do the same!

Student # 2

I guess the first thing that needs to be said about making an A in Physiology is that it can be done, and it is not accidental. Before you can make an A in any course, you have to believe that it can be done, without relying too heavily on "luck." (Although luck does help every once in a while...) After you figure that it can be done, you just have to figure how it can be done. I think that's probably why I was asked to write this, and probably why you are reading it. My advice (which is also my method, as best I remember it) is to read the chapter before it's covered in class. Then, read over it again later after it's covered in class. Dr. Davis gave us questions to answer; DO THEM!! Even after you've gotten one test under your belt, and you know how deep Dr. Davis wants your answer to be, keep on answering them in your notes even more deeply. Seldom will those questions be repeated verbatim; however, odds are the general concept will be on the test. The best way to get the general concept is to answer the "question behind the question."

There is a lot of stuff you just have to memorize, too. (Cranial nerves, hormones, etc.) Flash cards work well. Also, keep in mind that your grade is not directly linked to your percentile in class; in other words, the guy beside you making an A doesn't prevent you from making an A, too. Therefore, it is to your advantage to seek out a friend in the class and study with them. After you've gone over your flash cards, for instance, shuffle them and hand them to your partner to quiz you on. This makes sure you know the info, and not just the order of the cards! Also, having a friend quiz you allows you to catch things you don't really know as well as you thought you did. Remember, you aren't making out the test--Dr. Davis is. So just because you know that so-and-so occurs a certain way doesn't mean you'll remember that when the question is worded slightly differently.

On the other hand, don't try to memorize every detail. You don't have time, and Dr. Davis has too much to cover on a test to quiz you on minutiae. (I don't mean things like the diameter of an erythrocyte, which is actually pretty important; I mean things like the exact length of the vagus nerve.) There is also a lot of stuff that is really "common sense" if you think about it. Instead of memorizing a feedback loop by rote, just realize that "hey, if I lose blood volume, my blood pressure's going to drop, etc." That way, a feedback loop that looks very complex and foreign on the page actually makes sense, and you can reproduce it a whole lot better than if you tried to blindly memorize it. Plus, by "common-sensing" your way through it, you are a little better prepared if Dr. Davis throws a curve ball (like you gain blood volume instead of losing it).

Hopefully, this will help you somewhat in Physiology. I guess the take-home message is this--it can be done. If you just realize that, and don't psych yourself out, you're off to a good start. If you need any more advice, or help, odds are there will always be SOMEBODY who can help (even if it means asking Dr. Davis for help!) Don't be afraid to ask.

Student # 3

My tips are to answer the questions and learn the diagrams. If you're too tired and think you might skip them one night, reconsider and answer the questions. Read the assignment marking the answers in your text. Then go back and copy all of the answers into your notes at one time. Study the questions until you can answer them from memory and satisfactorily grasp the concepts they deal with. Second, the diagrams in this text are very well done. Don't assume you can reproduce them because you understand the concepts they contain. A good memory for the diagrams will enable you to answer several multiple choice questions each test. They are a quick reference when your exact recollection of a fact from the questions fails you. You can work through them mentally and confidently answer a tough test question.

Student # 4

I've found that the most important learning strategy is to visualize the information or event to be learned. There are several ways of doing this: by using diagrams such as the ones in the book, by using flashcards to absorb tabular information like the cranial nerve's name, number and function, and by using domino diagrams that describe the cause and effect relationships between events. If you are having difficulty understanding the relationships between biological events and the structures involved then ask the professor. He should be considered the first line of information because he writes the tests. If you have trouble following the professor's logic then consult your classmates and the book. It will come to you if you put a little effort into it. If all else fails ask yourself the true nature of the problem and go with your instincts. Only you know the best way to learn and by posing the question in a clear and concise manner, you will have at least gained a more precise understanding of what your problem is. The most important thing you can do during a test is relax. Approach it with a light hearted comical attitude, and take some candy (your brain after all subsists mainly on glucose). Good luck!

Student # 5

I think one of the biggest keys to doing well in physiology is reading the material ahead of time. You don't have to memorize it, but at least get a feel for it. Most people don't do this and when class time comes many are frantically trying to write down as much as possible. If you've read ahead you'll be able to absorb what the teacher is saying and not have to worry about writing as much.

Another thing I found helpful was to review the material that had been covered in the past week. Say Friday afternoon, you get done at 2pm and nothing happens at the row till about 10pm, so I'd take an hour or two to review the material covered in the classes that week.

Lastly I think that group studying in preparation for a test is helpful. One person never has all the answers, but if you get 3-4 people together with all their notes you'll more than likely figure it out.

Student # 6

The most important thing to remember in this course is that you CAN make an A in it. Don't believe the rumors that its impossible and to not even bother. Granted, this course is difficult, but it is also very do-able. Here are some tips that I would follow to ensure that an A is within your grasp.

1. READ THE BOOK. This may be a change for many of you, but it is vital for success in this class. Read the material for the lectures prior to the lecture. You may not understand everything when you read it, but you'll be amazed at how much easier things are when Dr. Davis goes over it in class.

2. Take Good Notes. You'd be surprised how much you can miss with just a minute of daydreaming. Don't write down every single detail, but make sure that you get the concepts down. If you don't, then…

3. Ask Questions. This is a big trap that students fall into. If you don't understand something, then ask. Chances are that there's someone else that was wondering the same thing. Dr. Davis is great about seeing him outside of class. Take advantage of it; he's your best resource.

4. DON'T CRAM THE NIGHT BEFORE. Your studying for your next test should be everyday, not the night before. Keep up with the material and don't let it pile up. Remember, all-nighters DON'T WORK… your brain needs rest.

5. Find the "take home message." Many times you'll hear Dr. Davis talk about the "take home message" of a topic. Know this! Once you have your first "Davis test", you'll realize that he doesn't ask black and white questions. Remember, this is the human body you're learning about; EVERYTHING ties together somehow and you'll need to know how.

Hopefully these tips will help you out in your search for an A. Remember, with a little hard work, anyone can make an A in this class. Good luck!

Student # 7

Number one piece of advice: Do the questions Dr. Davis provides at the beginning of each section. They are a good study guide for the exam. But that doesn't mean do all of them the night before the exam. Do yourself a favor and answer them as you go along. Otherwise, you have a LONG night of studying.

Next: Be specific in your answers to non-multiple choice test questions. Don't think Dr. Davis will sort out your answer and make sense of it for you. He won't. And another thing: Make sure you print out the lecture slides. It makes keeping up in class SO much easier. Print in Olin so you don't use all the ink in your own printer cartridge.

On tests: Make sure you read the multiple choice questions carefully. Pay attention to qualifying words. Tests are long, so pace yourself.

And in lab: Don't get frustrated by lab! Most of the labs are a lot of fun, but some are, um, tedious. Keep frog axons well hydrated, and make good use of your lab assistant and Dr. Davis if you don't know what you're doing . Remember--no one seems to like the MacLabs. Have fun!!


Student # 8

The secret to Physiology is being able to make connections and long term memory. Although you learn about each organ system separately, they all work together in harmony. Review your notes on each system and try to connect the latest inform ation to information about previously learned systems. For example, go over the nervous system when learning about the circulatory system since the nervous system plays a big role in regulating the circulation and heart.

Be sure to keep up with the reading and the questions! Also get into a multiple choice testing frame of mind. After a year of Dr. Moss and Dr. Shiflet short answer/ essay tests, multiple choice can be surprisingly difficult.

Student # 9

The key to making an A in Physiology is simply knowing the diagrams; looking over them for the test however, will not do. You should be able to understand what mechanism they demonstrate, how it works and how it relates to other organ systems. A great way to determine if you have gained this level of understanding is to reproduce the diagram from memory and reason your way through the concepts it teaches. Moreover, homeostasis is key; in the back of your mind always be thinking if this change occurs, h ow does it affect this and all other related systems. If you can do this, Physiology makes a lot of sense and is easier to grasp. Simply memorizing facts will not get you far in this class.

The numerous questions that Dr. Davis gives for each chapter are easier to do if you write in the margin of the book the question number next to the highlighted answer, rather than writing the answer out on paper. If you do this I suggest that you writ e the page number the answer was found on, on the question sheet. The questions are helpful, but should not be the only thing you study.

About lab, at times it can be frustrating, but it always has some bigger picture to teach. I am a visual learner, so lab was a wonderful opportunity to see mechanisms in action. Dr. Davis conducts labs, case studies, and questions in a way that forces you to apply what you have learned and draw conclusions logically. These techniques of reasoning are very helpful in studying for the tests. Nonetheless, Physiology has been one of my favorite classes. The subject material is interesting and logical; thus studying for the class is much less monotonous. Making a good grade is very possible with a little dedication.


Study Suggestions from Dr. Davis

Other Advice

The information in the tables and figures is crucial. Be able to reproduce the contents of a table or figure from memory. You'll be surprised at how much you don't remember once you try to reconstruct a figure from memory.

Negative feedback loops are of critical importance and a theme throughout the course. Be able to construct a negative feedback loop for each of the homeostatic mechanisms. Make sure you can identify the stimulus, the sensors (a.k.a. receptors) afferent pathway, integrator, efferent pathway(s), and effector(s). Remember sometimes the sensors also serve as the integrators.

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