John Postovit

University of North Dakota
M.Ed.,Stanford University

From over 16 years of teaching experience, he has philosophy that it takes humor, patience and understanding when teaching tough subjects.

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Synthesizer: Study Plan

John Postovit
John Postovit

University of North Dakota
M.Ed.,Stanford University

From over 16 years of teaching experience, he has philosophy that it takes humor, patience and understanding when teaching tough subjects.


If I ask a student what are you doing to prepare for the AP biology exam? They tell me, ?Well I?m going to study.? That?s a good answer, but it?s not a great answer. Imagine I was asking an NFL player, so what are going to do to prepare for the super ball? If he just said well I?m going to run around on the field and practice catching a ball. You?d say, "Well okay, but that?s not at the professional level." A professional athlete he?ll say I?m going to watch game videos of my opponents, and I?m going to figure out where are they strong and where they are weak. And then I?m going to work with my coach. I?m going to sit there. I?m going to figure how can take advantage of the skills I have, to get around their strength, and to take advantage of their weaknesses.

That?s what I?m going to try and show you how to do now in preparation for the AP Biology exam. So we?re going to go through and figure out, how do you diagnose your strength and weakness? And then how do you show up your weaknesses and home your skills?

So the first thing you got to do is, you got take a practice test. And that?s a way for diagnosing your strengths and weaknesses. Don?t think of it as, "Oh I got to take a test." Think of it as, I?m going to a scrimmage against my opponents, because that?s all it is. It?s practice, and it will help identify where you?re strong and where you?re not so strong.

So if you check out your bonus material folder, you?ll see links to a pair of online practice AP exams that you can take, and do a great job of trying to figure out, how can you prepare yourself for the test. You may also want to try talking to your teacher, and see if he or she also has some practice test. Because the more practice you get, the better you?re going to do on game day.

Now when you do this, don?t just there and go, "Oh I got this 60% or I got a 40%." Actually go through and then, look at which questions you got right and which one you got wrong and group them by content. And what you may find is hey I?m really good in DNA, but that cell cycle stuff I?m weak on.

Or I know the five different kingdoms, but I?m really kind of weak on that whole cellular the transport stuff. And that will help you zone in on where do you need to pump up.

Now you need to be kind of strategic in this. Because while it?s great for you know to a 100% of the content that?s going to be on that exam, don?t sit there and go, ?I?ve only got three weeks left before the exam, and I?ve got to cover 40 chapters in my textbook that I don?t really know so well.?

Look at the ones that are big topics on the exam, and then the ones that are not so big. And if you got say 50% of the questions on DNA right, and 50% of the questions on the structure of the kidney right, you may be thinking they?re equal volumes. No they?re not. The DNA stuff, that?s going to be a big thing. The structure of the kidney, chances are they may only ask two or three questions, maybe four at most on the AP exam. In a lot of the years, they never address it.

So if I had to decide and I had limited time, I?ll go for studying the DNA stuff. And just say, as a strategic decision, I?m going to put aside the kidney stuff. Just because I want to get ready for that test that?s coming soon.

The second the thing to do, after you?ve taken the exam, is to go through and look at not the content of the questions, but the style of the questions. If you watch one of my other episodes, I break down the different kinds of questions to expect to see on the AP exam. See if you tend to make mistakes more often on one particular kind of question than the other. Because what I find for myself is that, sometimes it?s not the content, it?s just the way that they?re asking the question.

This was really brought home to me in my own life one time when I was starting some Martial Arts. But I was going to spur in as Black Belt. And I thought well he?s got many more years of experience than me, but I will still try. So I tried to punch, kick and a punch and he just kind of walked around it and dumped me on my derrière. So I stood up and thought okay take two, punch kick, punch dumped me on my bottom again.

I got up and I find myself about to do the exact same thing, and suddenly said hey why do I keep making the same mistake, yet expected different result? So I did the punch and the kick and then I added another kick before I did the punch. That Black Belt he came in because he had seen from the way I was setting myself up, that I was going to do the exact same thing. But the problem is when I did that second kick he suddenly moved, like this. And we were supposed to be doing no contact i.e. pausing right about this far away from the face. I didn?t realize he was going to suddenly shove his face forward. And I punched him so hard he went flying back on a his own butt. And then he sat there for a moment I thought I?m going to die. But then he got up and he said, ?Good punch.? We bowed and switched partners.

So take advantage of this, take advantage of the idea that you?ve got the chance to practice and spot. Do you make the same mistake over and over? And rather that letting be AP Biology people kick you, stand up and change your pattern and kick them.

So now you?ve spotted where are you weak, where are you strong, how do you refine your knowledge? Well if you?ve only got a month or so in preparation for the AP exam, you don?t have enough time to read the textbook again. And so what you want to do is, instead of reading an entire chapter, just go to the chapter summary. One, maybe two pages, instead of 30 pages, and use that to go over the basic ideas.

Now if you find something in there, that you go, ?I have no idea what you?re talking about.? Then you can turn to that one small section of the chapter, instead of having to try to read the entire chapter at once. And you can use this to go back and reinforce your ideas. And if there?s something that you just really have no idea about, read the chapter summary. And even if it?s something you had no idea about before, by reading the chapter summary, you?re going to pick up some of the basic vocabulary, and some of the basic ideas of that concept. So that in the multiple choice section, they?ll help you spot the right answers, or at least eliminate the wrong answers to improve your chances of guessing right.

Then on the essays, you may only have gotten a couple of ideas from there, but you toss out those ideas and you?ve got yourself a passing grade. And that?s the key.

Now once you?ve done that you can also start checking your understanding of a concept, by turning to the major diagrams of a concept or in a chapter. For example, you could also print out some of the diagrams from my slides. And here is one that shows the light reactions. And just sit there and see can you go through the diagram without looking at any captions or whatever. And can you spot and then narrate what?s going on.

So explain, what?s happening. If you do that, that?s a great way to test do you get it. And if you have problems and you?re going, ?I have no idea what that option is doing there.? That tells you, you need to go back and add that knowledge back in. You need to watch my video, you need to read that section of the text book. Open up to the diagram in your textbook of the steps of mitosis, describe what?s happening. Don?t read the captions. But see if you can go through and do it. And then check the captions and did it work out? Did you right? If so, that?s awesome.

Now similar to this, is one last thing to really help make sure you?ve got some of those concepts down, especially for the processes. Take a look at either printing out some of my slides. Or take a look at the diagrams from your textbook, that show the sequence of events of something, say like translation. Translation is all about putting amino acids together to make a protein.

Well there is all this different steps involved. Go ahead print them out. And then randomly sort them out, and see can you put those in the correct order. If you can do that, then that tells you, you get the logic of it. And once you get the logic of it, you don?t need to memorize it anymore, because you just get it. You don?t sit there and go, "Oh no pop quiz they're going to tie my shoes." No, you get that you just go through and you follow through.

Walking, you don?t sit there and go, "Oh right leg, left leg, which one is first?" No, you just do it because you get it. And that?s all you got to do. Get yourself ready, take the practice test, analyze your strength, analyze your weaknesses. Then go through the chapter summaries, and reinforce your strengths and cover up your weakness. Double check on this by looking at the key diagrams in your chapter and in the chapters that you need to review. And then as a final test, go ahead and find some of those diagrams that have multiple steps. And see can you put those steps in correct order. Do that and you?re good to go.

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