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The science subjects — namely Biology, Chemistry and Physics — are tough subjects for a lot of high school students.

And it’s no wonder. They’re hard!

Your science subjects are full of concepts that are thrust upon you, and that you’re expected to absorb and understand in the space of a few weeks.

Concepts like, the different types of bonding of molecules and how this affects their reactivity — how the infrastructure of a cell works — how a current can generate an electromagnetic force. Jeez!

It’s not easy stuff.

And not only do you need to absorb and understand concepts like these quickly, you then need to process what you’re taught in class and apply it so you’re ready to answer exam questions.

Is it any wonder high school students are confused and stressed out?!

But as always, despair is not the answer. There are always things you can do to improve your understanding of your science subjects — and in turn — your grades!

So what are they?!

1. A multi-faceted approach to study

Because science subjects are very concept heavy, there can be a lot of theoretical and sometimes seemingly intangible ideas to wrap your head around.

The electron transport chain of cellular respiration — the application of forces on a moving object — not exactly concepts you can come to understand in five minutes.

Concepts that make your brain really hurt, especially when first introduced to you.

Well, concepts like these are MUCH easier to understand and process when you approach them with a RANGE of different learning techniques.

You’ll make life a lot more difficult for yourself if you try and wrap your head around covalent bonds if you simply read a paragraph of text about it.

Sure, start off by reading a little bit about covalent bonds. But make sure you supplement that by watching a video about it on YouTube or at Khan Academy, and that you draw your own diagrams of covalent bonds so that you know HOW TO DO THIS YOURSELF by the time your exam rolls around.

You’ll be able to understand your subjects, and do so MUCH more quickly, if you’ve tackled your study using a range of different study techniques. (Techniques which should all feed into your Study Formula!)

Thankfully, there are SO MANY learning aids out there, largely thanks to the Internet, to help you better understand your subjects. Make sure you put them to use!

2. Practice APPLYING your knowledge

This one applies to any subject really, but it’s absolutely crucial when it comes to science subjects.

The questions you get asked in your science exams are purposefully designed so that, in order to the marks, you have to show the examiner that you really understand the relevant topic. (More from us on how to answer science exam questions here.)

A good benchmark of whether you understand something is whether you can have a conversation about it.

For instance, rote learning a few bits and pieces about acids and bases isn’t going to cut it. To do well in your exams, you have to really understand what the deal is with acids and bases. What are they? Why are they different? What are their properties? And for top marks — what is the relationship between their differences and their different properties?

To get to this level of understanding, you really need to practice APPLYING what you’re studying. And the BEST WAY to do this, is to practice answering the types of questions you’re going to get asked in the exam.

So get your hands on some practice questions from a book, or from school, or from the Internet, or some past exam papers, and put your studying into practice.

There is no better way to get prepared for your science exams. (We discuss WHY in more detail here.)

3. Start with the basics — not the advanced

I once tutored a girl who was struggling pretty hard with school.

By the time I came along, a good chunk of the school year had already passed, and what she was supposed to be learning in class clearly required some basic knowledge of her subjects, which she simply didn’t have.

She asked one day if we could go over acids and bases. So off we dove into the world of acids and bases — hydrogen ions — acidity — how this all affects pH, and so on…

Confused? So was she.

I realized, this poor girl had been left way behind, and was trying to write Shakespeare before she’d learnt the alphabet.

This trap of falling behind befalls a lot of students. They don’t quite get something in class, and before they know it, the class has moved on and they’re supposed to be learning about a concept that relies on them understanding a simpler concept that was taught last month.(We’ve talked about this and how you as a parent can help here.)

At this point, the train starts to derail.

To avoid falling behind to the point of having no idea what to do when you sit down to study, it’s really important that you do your best to keep up with class throughout the year.

ANOTHER THING you can do, is when the time comes to start preparing for exams, make sure that you’re ticking off the basic concepts before you build on them.

It’s absolutely fine if you need to start by reminding yourself what the deal is with atomic structure before moving on to atomic bonds.

We all need a refresher on the basics sometimes, and there is NO POINT in you spending your precious study time trying to force difficult concepts down your throat when you don’t really understand the basics. And it will be obvious to your examiner if you don’t.

Start by making sure you PASS your exams, and then build up to a level of understanding that lets you get EVEN BETTER MARKS!

The take home message from all of this, is that you can approach your science subjects, well, scientifically.

Be systematic in your study, be smart about what you’re studying and in what order, take all the help you can from the world’s abundance of study aids, and your science subjects should start to become a lot clearer.


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