Preparing to study biology
Getting ready to study biology? You may want to brush up on these foundational topics!
What should I know before starting biology?
If you are curious about biology or plan to study it in the future, you may be wondering what "prerequisites" it has – that is, what other knowledge will give you a solid foundation to learn biology. If so, big kudos for thinking ahead!
In my opinion, the only strict prereqs for biology are curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to think critically about the natural world. If you have those, you can start learning biology without other background, as long as you're willing to pick up bits of chemistry, physics, statistics, and math along the way.
That said, you may find your journey through biology smoother and more satisfying if you already have some familiarity with topics in other areas, particularly chemistry. Below are some foundational topics that will help you get the most out of Khan Academy's biology materials (or any biology class).
General science skills
- The scientific method. Are you rusty on what a hypothesis is or how it gets tested? How about experiments? These basic concepts will help you not only in biology, but also in any other area of science!
- General chemistry. Get a feel for atoms, molecules, and how they interact with each other. After all, that's what you (and all life) are made up of!
- Acid-base chemistry. A lot of the chemistry in your body is acid-base chemistry that takes place in watery solutions. Knowing what acids and bases are will get you a long way with biochemistry.
- Laws of thermodynamics. Get a feeling for what energy is and what rules govern its transfer. Energy is constantly flowing through ecosystems, organisms, and cells, and is essential to keep these systems running!
- Basics of probability. Probability is a key concept in biology. You don't need to know tons of details or formulas, but if you understand the basic concepts, that will help you a lot with genetics and population genetics.
- Statistics. Remind yourself about the basic ways we can describe sets of data, such as mean, median, and mode. If you go even deeper and learn about hypothesis testing, you'll definitely be ahead of the curve!
- Basic algebra and graphing. Most intro bio classes are not that math-intensive, but having an understanding of basic algebra and graphs (e.g., the meaning of slope) will help you understand figures and data in biology.
Do I have to know all these before starting?
Not necessarily! As I mentioned, you can also learn as you go. You just need to be willing to work on these topics in parallel with your learning of biology. So, don't be deterred from biology if you haven't yet mastered all of these topics.
Case in point: I was the poster child for how not to prepare for biology classes. I never took physics in high school, and didn't take it in college until I was a junior! I was also behind on my chemistry classes for most of undergrad. While I don't recommend that approach, it goes to show that a motivated person can be successful in biology even if s/he is "catching up" on some of the prereqs.
What if I don't like [chem/physics/stats/math]?
Don't be deterred from biology if some of these topics are not your favorites (yet!). Biology is a huge, diverse field. All biologists need to have some basic, foundational understanding of chemistry, physics, math, and statistics. But they don't have to become specialists in all these topics.
Also, if you had a bad experience with one of these topics in the past, why not give it a shot on Khan Academy? You may find it's more fun than you expect!
Want to join the conversation?
- Do you have to know chemistry to learn biology?(36 votes)
- Depends on up to what level you would like to learn Biology and all its related sciences (ecology, genetics, etc. to name a few.
You should be able to get away with "normal" high school bio without learning chemistry, although a general understanding of chemistry does not hurt. Other biology courses with more complex curriculae (think AP Bio, IB DP Bio, A-Level Bio, etc.) will require chemistry knowledge.
University level biology is another whole game. Chemistry is required to such a point, that most biology programmes have chemistry courses and credits built into them.(27 votes)
- so you used basic and algebra in the same sentence and basic was reffering to algebra now i am confused!!(17 votes)
- For applying some concepts in Biology you need to know basic algebra.(Punett Square)(7 votes)
- Are there any parts of the human body that get oxygen directly from the air and not from the blood(8 votes)
- In human lungs. Alveoli get exchanged for oxygen.(14 votes)
- Is there a specific grade range to start learning biology? For I have little experience with middle school subjects and less with High school subjects.(8 votes)
- Lol I'm still in middle school and I'm already learning biology. To answer your question, there probably isn't an age range.(4 votes)
- What is a biological phenomenon? And which are some examples of it?(1 vote)
- A Biological phenomenon is the biological processes, properties, and characteristics of the whole organism in human, animal, microorganisms, and plants, and of the biosphere.
An example would be the concept of metabolism.(21 votes)
- I've been wondering which one I should start of with, biology, physics, chemistry, or something else in science ( I'm in 7th grade).(4 votes)
- Before you go into science, I must suggest that you work up your math a bit. Math is basically the foundation for all of science and it will definitely come in handy. So make sure you're ready to add and subtract first. Once you've done that, I'd recommend chemistry.(7 votes)
- What grade level is most recommended for Biology? If I am doing dual enrollment , should I start at an early grade level?
If I am in 9th Grade, would it be more beneficial to do it now instead of later?(3 votes)
- You can learn biology at any age. As long as you have a willing mind to learn new things in such a complex and diverse subject, you'll be fine!(2 votes)
- What are the basic things we need to know about very importantly before starting to study biology?(1 vote)
- is growth in case of organisms a result of metabolism ? plz ans my question...(1 vote)
- Growth is the result of an increase in dry mass in an organism, which is an increase in the number of cells, size of cells, or both. Metabolism is defined as "the chemical processes that occur within a living organsim in order to maintain life." That means, pretty much everything going on in the organism. So in a sense, yes growth is a result of metabolism, because metabolism is every reaction that goes on in the body.(3 votes)
- My 9th grader and I both started the new High School Biology class last night. We were both confused. Although we were able to get through the quiz, we didn't learn anything. The videos use terms like nucleotides, organelles, amino acids etc that aren't defined. The quiz also uses terms not defined in the videos like epithelials, cartilage chondrocytes, etc. Is it better to start with Intro to Biology in the Biology library?(2 votes)