BIOSCI 107 — Biology for Biomedical Science: Cellular Processes

Welcome to my first ever paper review! This one is about BIOSCI 107, and let’s just say, its going to be brutal out here (oh yeah I’m an Olivia Rodrigo stan as well).

BIOSCI 107 is a paper part of the School of Biological Sciences undergraduate courses as part of the Science degree. It is also one of the core papers you take in Semester 1 as part of your application for clinical programmes.

To be frank, this was probably my least favourite paper of the entire year. While I enjoyed biology in high school, I felt as though instead of focusing on concepts, the way the course tested you was more about trivial random questions. But I’ll try be as nice as possible because I liked most of the teaching staff as well as give you as much relevant information as I can!*

*Remember that this is based on my own experience when I took the course in 2021. The course may have changed and you’re definitely not going to have the exact same experience as me!

TL;DR Review

  • Content = 3/5 — Some modules way more interesting than others. Detailed information seemed unnecessary at times.
  • Delivery of Lectures/Information = 3/5 — Really depended on which lecturer you got for each module.
  • Teaching Staff = 4/5 — Most of them tried really really hard. Special s/o to Professor Lipski and Dr. Reid.
  • Course Organisation = 4/5 — The course coordinators did a solid job of ensuring deadlines were met and notifications were put out.
  • Assessments = 2/5 — Definitely could be structured better and fairer to test on actual knowledge and not solving the UCAT in a UoA exam
  • Laboratories = 5/5 — Super simple and easy to get full marks in. GTAs and TAs are life savers.
  • Overall = 3.5/5(B) — Entire course (especially Dr. Reid, Monica and Professor Lipski) were let down by John Fraser, pointless information rather than main concepts and the stupidly worded questions in the tests ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Assessments and Weighting

  1. Laboratories = 20%
  2. Online Feedback Activities = 10%
  3. Mid-Semester Test = 30%
  4. Final Exam = 40%

Lectures

The course is split up into 7 different topics, each covering different parts of cellular processes that happen in our bodies. I actually kind of liked most of the content that was delivered, but some definitely took longer to grasp than others!

  1. Cells and Tissues (4 lectures) — This block of lectures are taught by Professor Anthony Phillips and covers the organisation of the human body and the different types of body tissues. Unforunately, I had this block of lectures when Auckland was at Level 3 for a week so I don’t really have a good feel for the teaching. However, at the time I did find the content quite easy. DON’T BE FOOLED LIKE I WAS. This ended up being the worst section I did in the first test, but it wasn’t because I didn’t know the content, but the way the questions were worded (more on this later). Ensure you know the content back to front! Also, this is the only section that requires you to read the prescribed textbook so make sure you do your readings because questions from it can come up.
  2. Cell Structure and Function (5 lectures) — This block of lectures were taken by the course coordinator, Dr. Suzanne Reid who is an absolute gem. This part of the course is a lot of overlap between Level 2 Biology (minus the genetic stuff) so it wasn’t too difficult. Dr. Reid is also a super thorough lecturer who ensures that we have enough practice resources both in and out of lectures which I definitely appreciated!
  3. Special Topics (3 lectures) — This part of the course was slightly different from previous years. There was one lecture each on three different topics; embryology (Hilary Sheppard), protein structure (Iain Hay) and skin (Vaughan Feisst). The embryology topic seemed so difficult while the lecturer was going through it, but she was super nice and helpful, answering our questions along the way and her MCQs ended up being the easiest of the whole test. On the other hand, protein structure was sort of a nightmare. While the content itself was quite easy, the MCQs were not and the lecturer (from what I heard, I was sick this day) was quite boring and monotonous. Unfortunately the skin lecturer had to record his lecture, but I found his topic probably the most interesting of the whole course. You get to look at different skin conditions and what happens in different degrees of burns (not for the faint of heart!).
  4. Blood and Immune (4 lectures) — This block of lectures were taken by the Dean of FMHS Professor John Fraser and talked about the makeup of blood and the different types of immunity. Oh boy, this was a doozy. I found the content itself quite interesting, but Professor Fraser unfortunately went into so much detail that I almost completely lost my will to study. Luckily, some of my friends who had taken the course in previous years said that all you needed was the course guide, and I’m glad I listened. The MCQs ended up being so basic and directly from the course guide that I’m pretty sure I got most of the questions in this section correct. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by content overload, feel free to skip going to his actual lectures and just read the course guide.
  5. Cellular Processes (4 lectures) — This block of lectures were taken by Professor Paul Donaldson and focused on a lot of the Level 2 concepts covered in biology. I didn’t find this section too bad and the way the lecturer went through the content was organised. He also answers a lot of questions on Piazza so make sure you use this effectively!
  6. Excitable Tissue: Neurons (4 lectures) — This block of lectures are by Professor Janusz Lipski and goes into how action potentials are generated in the body. At first, I wasn’t sure about the lecturer as he has quite a thick accent. However, he ended up being my favourite lecturer of the whole course. He was in depth, funny and very helpful. Most of the content you need is in the course guide and lecture slides if the actual lectures are hard to listen to and his questions were not too challenging (side note: you don’t even need to be able to calculate anything with the equations)
  7. Excitable Tissue: Muscle (4 lectures) — The last four lectures of the course are taken by Dr. Carolyn Barrett (who also takes a section in MEDSCI 142). She also runs an optional tutorial at the end of the semester during one of the lectures. As an extension to the previous module, this section touches on skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle. I found this module quite challenging and I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s because instead of remembering details, there’s a lot of questions on application which I wasn’t really prepared for, so make sure you understand the content at a deeper level!

Laboratories

There are 5 labs split into two parts: a 5 question online MCQ you complete before the lab and the actual practical lab where you fill in a sheet with short questions. I absolutely loved the labs, mostly because of the GTA we had. For the life of me I cannot remember his name, but he is Mexican, super nice, and explains concepts even better than the lecturers sometimes.

  1. Histology — This is a super simple lab just to get you acquainted with using a microscope. The MCQ from what I remember was just about the different types of the microscope which was all in the lab guide. For the actual lab, you will look at some rat tissue and identify different features of it. You will also need to be able to draw a scientific diagram using the instructions given in the Appendix. I ended up doing really well in this lab, and this is probably because of the amount of preparation I did before it. I’ll explain my study tips in the ‘How I Studied’ section.
  2. Embryology — If you’re good at arts and crafts, this is definitely the lab for you. In this one, you make a 3D model of an embryo out of clay. The MCQ was pretty nice, some of it just asked what colour clay you were supposed to use for different things! Don’t be fooled by the kindergarten appearance of this lab, though! I absolutely suck at anything art related so I was super super stressed the whole time. Luckily, I scraped an A+ in this lab and was super proud of myself hehe. I practised at home with some K Mart modelling clay (get the real one if you can afford it though!) and ended up taking my at-home embryo into the real lab so I could use it as a rough template. Also, ask your TAs for help because one of them absolutely saved me towards the end!
  3. Haemotology — This lab is completely online (due to the fact it was Easter weekend when most of us did it). For the MCQ, they tested on your understanding on units so make sure you brush up on these. All you do in it is go through the questions and count different blood cells. Just follow the course guide and know how to do the calculations and you’ll be absolutely fine.
  4. Osmolarity — This is the only lab where you actually do an experiment and collect data. It is also probably the most difficult lab as you need to be super duper precise, know how to process the data and work well with you lab partner. However, my partner and I had a really good time completing this task! You get to analyse samples of cow blood compared to other solutions which I found pretty cool. The TAs were also really helpful during this lab so make sure you ask them any questions you have!
  5. Muscle Function and Fatigue — This is a really nice way to end labs for BIOSCI 107. Most of it is just researching the role of different muscles in the body by doing exercise (yuck). The questions on the lab sheet also just ask you what you think is happening in each situation, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be 100% correct. Unfortunately, the MCQ for this lab was probably the hardest, just because it covers most of the content from the Excitable Tissue: Muscle section which you wouldn’t have done yet. Pre-read the content from that first lecture so you know what the quiz is asking you!

Online Feedback Activities

There are a number of activities that can be done to earn a free 10% towards the course! I think this is a great way to engage with learning, as well as helping boost your overall grade for BIOSCI 107. There are 12 different activities that can be done, and your best 10 contribute towards your final grade.

  1. Use Wiley Orion Plus — This is a super duper old website (tip — don’t use Safari for it!), but it complements the Tortora textbook very well. You just need to do a couple of questions of one objective to be able to gain the 1%. I would recommend using this for the first module as some of the questions from here turn up in the mid-semester test.
  2. Write and Comment on One Question on Peerwise Relevant to the First 3 Modules — This website is also quite old, but it’s a pretty simple task. First, you need to write a question relevant to the first three modules. I just wrote one on the different types of epithelial tissue. Then, you need to comment on another person’s question (just give them positive feedback). This is another way to earn a simple 1%, and some people used this resource to consolidate their learning when it came closer to exams.
  3. Quiz 1: Cells and Tissues — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs on Cells and Tissues. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  4. Quiz 2: Cell Structure and Function — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs on Cells Structure and Function. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  5. Quiz 3: Special Topics — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs altogether on the Special Topics. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  6. Mock Test — This is held on Canvas, and is similar to the test you will get when you sit it after the semester break. You have unlimited attempts on it, so use the first attempt as your actual trial run and make sure you fill in the gaps as the break goes along!
  7. Write and Comment on One Question on Peerwise Relevant to the Remaining Modules — This website is also quite old, but it’s a pretty simple task. First, you need to write a question relevant to the remaining modules. Then, you need to comment on another person’s question (just give them positive feedback). This is another way to earn a simple 1%, and some people used this resource to consolidate their learning when it came closer to exams.
  8. Quiz 4: Blood and Immune — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs on Blood and Immune. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  9. Quiz 5: Cellular Processes — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs on Cellular Processes. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  10. Quiz 6: Excitable Tissue: Neurons — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs on Excitable Tissue: Neurons. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  11. Quiz 7: Excitable Tissue: Muscle — For this quiz, you will answer 10 MCQs on Excitable Tissue: Muscle. Each question varies in difficutly, with the first few being very simple to the last ones being more like possible exam questions you might have. You get three attempts, so use the first one to test your own knowledge without any help, go back and review which ones you got wrong, then attempt it again with your notes available.
  12. Mock Exam — This is held on Canvas, and is similar to the exam you will get during the exam period. You have unlimited attempts on it, so use the first attempt as your actual trial run and make sure you fill in the gaps as the study break goes along!

Invigilated Assessments

In a COVID-19 world, the tests and exams for all core papers were unfortunately made in-person (while the rest of UoA got online exams smh). This wasn’t the only first for us. We were also allowed to bring an A4 double sided ‘cheat sheet’ which had never been done before. Depending on how you thought about it, it was both a blessing and a curse (I’ll explain later).

  1. Mid-Semester Test — This is probably the first ever University exam you’ll ever sit in your lifetime, and you should buckle up because it’s a rollercoaster. In this test you’ve got 70 MCQs to answer in 90 minutes. The test only covers the first three modules and the first two labs. You’ll also be able to bring in your cheat sheet to help you out through the exam. My advice on the cheat sheet will come later, but make sure you know all the content as well as you are able to before putting everything you want onto your summary sheet. Use flashcards, study with friends — whatever helps you best learn. Lab content usually only tests on theory, but in our year, it also got us to remember equations from the first lab (which you can easily put on your cheat sheet!). Also, be aware that the first module’s questions are often poorly worded and left many people stressed out and scratching their heads after the exam. Definitely read the questions carefully!
  2. Final Exam — Similar to the mid-semester test, questions are purely made up MCQ questions. You have 2 hours to answer 80 questions which are based on only the last four modules and the last three labs (nothing from the first test!). I think once you’ve gotten into the hang of filling out the dreaded teleforms, you get into the swing of exams. Because of my cheat sheet and the questions being pretty much standard, I felt way more comfortable in this exam than I did in the very first test. Go over lots of past exam papers as they tend to reuse similar questions each year.

How I Studied (and How I Should’ve Studied)

I don’t really think I studied efficiently for this course and this was for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was super overwhelmed already with the other two core courses
  2. I just didn’t enjoy the content as much as I hoped I would

This motivation only decreased when I did badly on the mid-semester test which ended up with me not getting the grade that I hoped for overall. But that’s okay, because I’m gonna tell you how I studied, and what I think I could’ve changed to do better.

At the start of the semester, I was quite tough on myself when it came to preparing for lectures. I spent the weekend trying to ‘prime’ all the course content in one sitting, which meant also reading the textbook religiously. With this, I would just highlight important points on both the lecture slides and the book so I don’t think I was actually engaging much with the content. I also found it quite hard to listen in lecture theatres (blame my ADHD) but I didn’t feel like I had enough time to just watch the recordings instead, so I forced myself to attend most of the lectures. I think instead of doing this, I should’ve tried to type up notes over the weekend, then fill in the blanks during the lecture. This way, I didn’t have to listen to the stuff I had already consolidated, but the stuff I was not sure of.

When it came to labs, I feel as though I did quite good overall (the embryology lab lowkey ruined it for me — thanks to my lack of art skills). What I did was during the weekend before I sat the MCQ quiz, I’d go over all of the course guide and fill out as much as I could with what I already knew. They usually write the questions they want you to answer during the lab in blue, so if I already knew what they were going to ask, it was easy to achieve in the actual lab. I would also get as much information as I could from my peers who were often quite helpful as to what to expect. Since you’re allowed to take whatever resources you want, feel free to print as many notes as you want. I often had stapled all my papers together and brought it in like a little book so I could flip through my notes while answering the lab assignment sheet. I also took my practice embryo into the embryo lab and used that to help me mould my assessed one which was a true life saver. The lab is actually a pretty easy 20% to gain if you revise correctly and know how to ask the tutors the right questions.

Our year was the first one to be able to bring a double-sided A4 cheat sheet. I didn’t really think too much of this at first. I thought I knew the content of the first three modules quite well and just added on stuff I thought I would forget. Unfortunately, I think this is what really let me down in the mid-semester test. The fact that the questions were so confusingly written definitely threw me off and made me lose confidence during it. If I had my summary sheet jam-packed with everything, I could’ve used it to refresh myself when I had mind blanks. I know it’s probably not recommended but PUT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ON YOUR CHEAT SHEET. You never know what you’re going to forget in a time-pressured situation with no way out. What I did in the final exam was write everything on a Google Doc, then split each module into a column each. I ended up using size 6 font for my writing just to fit everything in as well as diagrams which definitely helped me when I was super nervous during the final exam.

Going Psycho(logy)’s POV

Like I mentioned at the start, BIOSCI 107 was my least favourite paper overall for the year. I think the pressure really got to me as I thought I really wanted to go for a clinical programme. However, as the semester went on, I learnt how to adjust and figured out why my previous study techniques were not working for me. It was probably a bit too late at that point, but hey, at least I managed to work out what the issues were.

I think I went into this paper thinking that I was still going to love biology by the end of it, and I really just ended up disliking it to a depressing extent. I feel as though while some of the lectures and lecturers were interesting, any positivity was clouded by the fact that the content felt so trivial. Even worse was that the MCQs were written in such a way that they weren’t a reflection on people’s knowledge. I talk about the mid-semester test in particular because my year had the lowest average for it in a really long time (C+ vs. B+ in previous years). Most of that was due to the questions being written in such a way, that it was like you were solving a riddle, rather than applying concepts. I also think that because we were the first year to have a cheat sheet, we weren’t given accurate practice test materials that reflected the difficulty of what we would actually be given.

However, it’s not all negative! The course coordinator Suzanne Reid and the lab coordinator Monica Kam are probably the sweetest people ever. They really try to get to know their students where they can and support their needs. Professor Lipski was also just iconic and I ended up really enjoying the Blood and Immune and Skin lectures a lot.

So there you have it! My take on what BIOSCI 107 is really like. Since I didn’t do really well in this paper, I don’t think it’s my place to try help people content wise. However, I can definitely assist on study skills and how to prepare for labs if you email me at goingpsychology@gmail.com!

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy!

Going Psycho(logy) ^.^

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