Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on mybasilisk.com – one of our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 graduates.
Like many students, Scott often finds himself with little time to properly prepare for his exams.
Originally from Ontario and now his U2 year of Biochemistry at McGill, he still has no idea what he wants to do with his life – he’s just going with the flow. And that’s okay. But, like most of us, he wants to move forward and keep his doors open.
“I don’t have any specific goals like becoming a pharmacist, but I just want to be able to do a wide range of things if I wanted to. I don’t want my grades to be the limiting factor”, he says.
I don’t want my grades to be the limiting factor”
The trouble with keeping your grades high in classes that end with “-ology” (especially ones high in memorization) is that professors often can’t afford the time it takes to create a “helpful amount” of practice questions to prepare you for their exams. And when they do, the questions are often outdated, or in no particular order making it difficult for students to identify which lecture(s) they need to spend more time on.
And that’s exactly what Scott found after his first midterm in the highly popular CHEM183: World of Chemistry – Drugs, a McGill course known for 3 things: the huge (600+) student capacity, the great professors, and the notoriously memorization-heavy multiple choice exams. Scott didn’t do quite as well as he would have liked. Luckily, there were still 2 exams left to improve his grade.
Why re-reading your notes doesn’t work
His study method of “re-reading and re-writing [his] notes” was not well-suited for this class. You see, in CHEM183, a superficial understanding of drugs and their outcomes wasn’t enough. You needed to understand the nuanced differences between different drug cause and effect well enough to be able to circle the right answer when faced with a multiple choice question where all 5 of the choices basically sound like the same thing.
When you re-read your notes, you trick your brain into thinking that it understands the material and that feels good. However, if you were to close your book and do a practice quiz, you’d quickly find the weaknesses in your understanding of the material.
A passive study method like re-reading and re-writing wasn’t enough: Scott needed instant feedback and an ACTIVE learning strategy.
How Basilisk helped Scott boost his grade by 10%
One day as he was scrolling through a carefully curated collection of memes on his facebook, he chanced upon a post about Basilisk in the CHEM183 page. Tired of his old study methods, he tried it out in a last-minute effort to prepare for his 2nd multiple choice exam.
This time, his studying was smooth.
“I used it to gauge how much I knew, or didn’t. If there was something I forgot or something I missed, I could write it down and go back to my notes to refresh it.”
One of the most important aspects of learning is getting feedback on what you know. The quicker it is, the faster you can learn. The problem is that most study methods (like re-reading and re-writing your notes) don’t give you any feedback, and fool you into thinking you know what you’re talking about. It’s easy, but it’s ineffective.
On the other hand, testing your knowledge by taking a practice quiz leaves no room for uncertainty. Either you know the answer and get the question right, or you learn. That’s why Scott used it: to gauge his understanding of the material.
“I studied 3 days before the exam, and the next day I’d just do practice questions to see how much I retained. Then I could see how much I knew and go back to my notes.”
This time, Scott was a lot more confident walking into the exam room. And more importantly, he got a better grade. We asked him how much.
“For World of Chem, like…10% higher.”
That’s the difference between a B+ and an A.
Our secret? We only hire A students to make questions for you based on this year’s content, and all the questions are organized by lecture. When you sit down at your final exam, you’ll smile to yourself because you know the material inside and out. It was all in the Basilisk practice quiz you did the night before.
“[The questions] were pretty close to what the exam ended up being, and the general difficulty level too,” Scott explained to us, relieved.
How you can improve YOUR grades with Basilisk
Scott’s a convert: he uses Basilisk for multiple classes (especially Pharmacology), because he knows it works.
Every student wants to do well in their classes, and for different reasons. Some want to get into medicine, some want to make their parents proud, and some want to master the material because it’s fun.
But maybe you’re like Scott. Maybe you just want to make sure that your grades are not the limiting factor when you step out into the real world to interview for your dream job.
And you’re not the only one. We’re working to support over 8000+ students at McGill alone, and you can join them by clicking below: