Studying for a biology lab practical exam can be a daunting task, especially if you’re more used to written subject exams. But fear not, with the right approach and some handy tips, you can ace your lab practical with ease.
Here are five study tips to help you prepare for your biology lab practical exam:
- Review lab procedures and protocols. Unlike written exams where you can rely on textbooks and lecture notes, lab practical exams require a good understanding of laboratory procedures and protocols. Start by going through your lab manuals, handouts, and any notes you took during lab sessions. You can also find plenty of video overviews of various lab techniques online to further reinforce your knowledge. (Our online Learning Center and YouTube channels are both great places to start.)
- Review lab data and results. Apart from reviewing lab procedures, it’s also important to revisit any data and results generated during the lab exercises. Also, check with your instructor to see if there will be a data analysis section in your practical and what techniques/methods might be included.
- Don’t skip learning key terms and concepts. While you might not be asked to define or describe a ton of terms and concepts in a lab practical, you will still need to know and understand them to answer many practical questions and to demonstrate sound experimental decision-making and troubleshooting. So, make flashcards or create a study guide to help you remember important terms and concepts especially as there’s a good chance that these will serve double duty with the written biology exam.
- Plan to practice techniques and procedures. One of the key differences between studying for a written exam and a lab practical is the need to practice laboratory techniques and procedures. Likely your teacher will provide class time or open lab time to practice any techniques or procedures that you will be expected to perform during the exam. This may include pipetting, measuring pH, using a microscope, or performing a particular assay. Markdown, make room for, and maximized these times.
- Become a lab gearhead. Don’t forget to make sure that you are familiar with the equipment that you used during the term. This includes understanding the purpose of each piece of equipment, how to use it correctly, and any safety precautions that need to be taken. Most of the leg work of this will have happened during the semester. However, make the time to compile a list of equipment that you might be asked to work with during the practical and then do an honest assessment of how comfortable you are with each item on the list.
Other pieces of study advice apply across the board but are particularly potent for a lab practical: form a study group, remember to get plenty of sleep and eat well before the exam, and during the exam stay calm and focused. Good luck!