How to Be Successful in Microbiology

Success in microbiology requires hard work.
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Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoans. During this course, you will need to learn a significant amount of jargon (i.e., specific scientific terms) as well as complex processes that describe how microorganisms obtain nutrients or make energy. You will also need to learn lab procedures and learn about different types of tests used to identify microorganisms. Microbiology is a challenging course, to say the least, but a good study strategy can help you to be successful in this course.

    Read the appropriate sections in your textbook or lab manual before class. Don't simply skim the material, but take the time to try to understand each diagram or figure.

    Write down each term on the front of a 3-inch by 5-inch note card and write the definition on the back of the card. Keep a separate set of cards for the lecture and lab sections of the course. Microbiology instructors often quiz students at the beginning of each class, so you should review these cards immediately before class.

    Use a ruler to draw a vertical line down the middle of each sheet of paper in your notebook. During lecture or lab, take notes only on the left half of the page. Write down any questions you may have, and be sure to ask your instructor for the answers during or after class.

    During laboratory procedures, take detailed notes in your lab notebook--again, use only the left half of the page.

    Between class periods, re-read the lecture and lab texts and take notes on the right half of the page next to your class notes. Be sure to write down any new questions you may have, and email your instructor or attend office hours to ask for the answers. Draw out any important process diagrams on 4-inch by 6-inch note cards using different colored pens for contrast.

    Review your vocabulary and process diagram note cards at least five nights per week. Review your class notes in their entirety, from the beginning of the course, at least once per week.

    Make additional charts or visual study aids as needed to help you with difficult concepts. For example, you may want to create a table of the differences between gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Get help with difficult concepts immediately. Do not wait or you may fall behind.

    During the week before a test, write a review sheet of important terms. You may choose to include only those terms that you have not yet successfully committed to memory.

    Things You'll Need

    • Textbook
    • Lab manual
    • Pen or pencil
    • 3-inch by 5-inch note cards
    • Divided notebook
    • Notebook paper
    • Ruler
    • 4-inch by 6-inch note cards
    • Colored pens or pencils


    • Seek out online sources for help or practice with difficult concepts.


    • Always attend lecture and lab and show up ready to participate. Never miss a class, and never allow anything else to keep you from making the most of your class time.

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