How will you mug up NCERT Biology? Is there a process?

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It’s a blanket statement that you all have heard -. NCERT BIO is the Bible. NCERT pad ho, ratto.. it’s CowMata and all.

No doubt it’s true and it’s getting more and more truer ( I don’t know if this word exists, the computer didn’t correct me ).  So how easy or difficult is it to study and by heart the NCERT textbook? How many readings do you require?

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Some suggestions here.

  1. The first reading – by this I mean, the very first time you are reading the chapter. At this point let us assume that the entire topic is new to you. The approach during this read should be exactly like the way you are reading a newspaper or a storybook. This read therefore should be very interesting, putting no pressure on memorizing anything. Do you ever by heart any facts while reading the news? Do not use any pen/pencil/marker during this read. Do you ever underline points in a novel or a newspaper?

The focus here should be on not letting any concept un understood.  There should be complete clarity. When do you do the first read?  There are some chapters that require more understanding than others. Such chapters should be attempted to be read-only after they are taught in your class. These chapters should be read within the next 2 days after they are taught to you. (Some chapters are relatively easy. And you may try reading them on your own. My favorite example of such a Self Study Chapter is Biodiversity!) But it’s highly unlikely, that in such a busy schedule, you may ever find that time.

Also, see to it that you finish the whole chapter on the same day during the first read as far as possible. It’s not an uphill task as it’s an enjoyable process, only attempting to follow what you have been already taught by your teacher. Also, it’s a quick one, as you are almost reading continuously without any attempt to memorize. So what did you do exactly in the first read?

You converted information into knowledge. Information is facts, and stats, are like individual pieces of puzzles.

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The brain automatically puts the pieces into each other by a process called assimilation and completes the puzzle. This completed puzzle is the knowledge. Mind well, you have not used the memory part of the brain at all as yet.

So what should be the endpoint of the first read? – the answer is – You should be able to tell a friend/parent / younger sibling, what the chapter is all about. In other words, you should be able to narrate the story of the chapter. You need not remember any names, dates, examples, or any such details. It’s like you are narrating an accident story that you read in the paper to a friend. Do you remember the name of the victim? No. But yes, you do remember he was young or he was an IT professional. You also automatically remember the facts that interest you. You may specifically remember that the victim was from Bangalore, as you are from the same place; or the victim had two small children, in case you are an emotional person.

Let me tell you, this first read is the most enjoyable one. There is a lot of freedom, with no pressure or bondage to memorize.

  • Second Read  –

 By now, you know the story of the chapter. You already have the ‘ knowledge ‘ of what you are about to read or at least a fair idea of the content. You also have gauged its length. You are also aware of how much time you had required for the first read.

So when do you begin the second read? The second read should ideally be within a few days of the first. Maximally within a week. You surely do not want to trouble your brain to do the first process all over again. During the second read, you may divide the chapter into sections. Otherwise, there will be mental fatigue and cognitive overload.

So coming to the point, how do you proceed with the second read? Now here you are going to need your favorite gadgetry, your colors, markers and all, however not immediately. We are now going to divide the second read into 2a and 2b, as you will see that you require different skills for both. In 2a, Remember, that your endeavor is to convert the information into data. Data has just been sorted and categorized information. The most important skill to be used here is mind mapping. I would like to explain this in detail here with an example, as  I strongly believe that, 2a is the most important step of the whole game and if you manage it properly, the process becomes very simple.

2a is also a little time-consuming as it requires great attention to the details, at least mentally. So again coming to the explanation with an example – say you are reading Complex Tissues from Anatomy of Flowering Plants. ( ) At the end of the first read, all you know ( note that knowledge is the Verb form of Knowledge) is that Complex tissues have more than one type of cells and you may also know that it’s of two types – Xylem for water and Phloem for food. This much is adequate at the end of the first read, that is at the end of 1.  So now you are about to begin the 2a. Here you will have to pay great attention to creating data from the printed information. So during 2a, you will now focus on categorization. You will begin with a definition of the xylem, the definition meaning what it is. If you open your textbook, you can see that this comprises of the first two sentences of that paragraph. Then you go to the four kinds of elements that the xylem is composed of. Then more details about each element. Here there are multiple adjectives used to describe each element. Tell yourself that each of these words is specific, not just printed to increase the length of the subject matter. When we say tracheids are elongated tube-like, it means it’s a carriers for transport. We read ‘ lignified’, we immediately categorize it as dead tissue. So as you proceed, focus on all words – nouns, and adjectives used for description. Use your visual imagination to create images of these words in your mind. You can also use daily life situations to imagine certain concepts.

Why so much attention? Each of these words is a potential MCQ. But as of now, we have not reached that stage to make a note of that. We are still in 2a, wherein you are making categories and subcategories in the brain only. Still, you are not attempting to memorize anything. As yet you have not used any color, marker, or any of your favorite pencils in the book. So at the end of 2a, you now have the data in your mind only. ( to be specific, when I say mind, it’s the temporal lobe of the cerebrum which does the function of analysis !!  ) .

What is the endpoint of 2a?

      Overall knowledge the xylem is a complex tissue that carries water. (This you had at the end of the first read ) . Xylem has four elements, names of the elements, and the data that there are certain features specifically used to describe each of the elements. You are now also aware that there are multiple adjectives used, which are all very confusing and are going to this require more attention. You have comprehended the meaning of each adjective used and the meaning as regards the function for that tissue. At this point, you may also make cross-references to other chapters. I would go back and see where else are lignified walls that I had come across. So you know and have taken note of multiple facts but individually.

      Now begins the 2bread. Technically this is the third read. But let’s not call it that. As here you are not actually going to read. You are only going to dress up whatever you have read and categorized in 2a. So here comes the act that you were waiting for so eagerly. Start with making brackets. Each bracket should have a title. For example, the first two sentences of the paragraph should be bracketed as definitions and functions.  Coming to the details of the description of each element of the xylem – you should know exactly how many facts are used to describe each element. So if it’s xylem parenchyma – living, thin-walled, cell walls made of cellulose – so three points. That way, dress up the paragraph in a way useful to you. Use brackets with titles such as definition, structure, function, and reason. Then use numbers, alphabets, and colors to make the subsequent readings easier. In 2b, you are only dressing up 2a on paper. It will make your textbook user-friendly for you. NEET Preparation in Pune

During  2, also make a note of tables and diagrams adjoining the text. Note down any additional points that are there in diagram but not in text. Sometimes some features are described only in diagrams and not in text. Take example of labeled vestibulum in female cockroach diagram . . It’s nowhere in text. Or the recent question of NEET 2021, where, they asked about the receptors for sperm binding. The answer is shown in the form of the diagram – ovum surrounded by few sperms, where ZonaPellucida is marked. And there is no mention of it in the text. Also mark important lines. I call them ‘ lines depicting some rules ‘ with a different color. For example, gymnosperms lack vessels in their xylem. Or Oils have a lower melting point.

Also whenever you encounter a sequence, make a miniature flow chart then and there. For example , encystation( unfavourable) – multiple fission( favourable ) –sporulation ( favourable )  in Asexual Reproduction of Amoeba . Another example of a longer sequence is Eutrophication of Lake. All these sequences are important for their chronological orders .

       So by the end of 2b, you have your material ready in the form of a decorated textbook and also all the necessary information cataloged in the brain in the form of data. Till now, you have not attempted specifically to memorize anything. You have converted information into knowledge and data and also processed the data in a representative form in your textbook.

  • Third read – Well most of the job is done after 2b . So 3 is relatively easy . When can you say that the chapter is done ? It’s at the end of 3 . When do you do the reading no 3 ? It  should ideally be before the test for that chapter . By now you have a readymade material ready in the form of a catalogued sorted brain and a catalogued sorted text book . Now , your endeavour should be integration of knowledge and data . The knowledge helps us in answering the conceptual questions and the data helps us in answering the factual ones .  This is a reading which has a purpose and a  perspective. The purpose of retaining and purpose of reproducing . Here is the onset of  memorising gradually.

This is the time, you also could identify the probable MCQs yourself. Of course, you will only get better with this skill as you solve tests.

So quoting the same example of Xylem, at the end of reading 3, you will know the topic conceptually and knowledge-wise and also the finer details of the facts. You can now memorize the adjectives used to describe tracheids or vessels and also make finer distinctions between the two based on their functions. You should also cover the book back questions and exemplar questions during Reading no 3. I would call the chapter complete after 3 is done. Only and only after 3, you can attempt your internal MCQs.

So at the end of read 3 , you have completely comprehended the topic, you have cataloged it in brain, you have your final reference material ready, and also integrated the stuff for memory. So at the end of 3 , you are really ready to reproduce the content. Of course, the readiness of this will come with subsequent reads.

  • Subsequent Reads – these can be safely called as Revisions . Here you are absolutely not adding anything new . It is only perfecting the already seasoned content . With each revision, focus on improving the memorisation. Also the endeavour should be to quickly identifythe MCQable lines and words . This will come naturally with time as you attempt tests .

Also when you revise Units, that is multiple chapters together, you must be in this phase. You must now start timing the chapters and see to it that with each subsequent read, the time lessens. Parents could engage in take-ups only during this phase and not before. By this time, you should be having a visual map of the print. Subsequent reading is an ongoing process till almost the final day. So how many such reads do you require? At least 12 -16. It’s not funny. You actually land up reading any chapter that many times till the final day. You will read the same chapter for combination tests, Unit tests, and volume tests. Then for Full Portion prelims, you will revise units in rotation. So it’s not a surprise.

What is left now? Is application of all that you have read and memorisation for the examination.  So now is there going to be another lengthy process for application? Luckily NO.

For  Biology, application is quite simple and is almost synonymous to perfect learning.

So this is all about reading, learning and so call called mugging up process. Make sure you write the dates and the time required for all your reads. It’s a process, that you have been already doing since school days. Then why such a long write-up about it?  This is to make you conscious of what you are doing. This will result in ‘ reading with awareness’. Since Biology is the better half of NEET, do everything possible to pamper it.

Dr Himani Tapasvi

MD( Radiology )

FRCR ( London )