Is Biology Hard? (Beginner Tips!)

Biology is one of the most popular science subjects around the world. You’ll need a good grounding in it if you hope to go on to most STEM careers, specifically those in health care.

So, Is Biology Hard?

Biology is one of the easier science subjects. Compared to physical sciences, those concerned with non-living things, it’s less math-heavy and more straightforward. Conceptualizing biology facts is easier. Its principles are also easily observable for beginners.

Despite that, especially for students who don’t have a lot of experience in the sciences, it’s not without its difficulties. For someone considering studying it for a degree, or an important exam for college entry, it isn’t always the easiest option!

We’ll get into the reasons why in this article. You’ll also learn:

  • Useful things to know before starting a biology course
  • The “hard” and “easy” parts of the subject
  • What to expect from a typical bio class
  • How you can best prepare as a beginner

As a med student who had to go back to high school later in life to take biology, I’m aware of what can make the subject seem both easy and hard.

Ready to learn more? Let’s go!

Interested in more discussion over “hard” or “easy” science-based subjects? Check out our beginner study guides here.

Useful Things To Know Before Beginning A Biology Course

Taking biology, no matter what level you’re at is always better when you’re a little prepared. Knowing what to expect from a biology class, the types of topics you’ll study and need to know about, etc., is very useful.

First things first, you do not need prerequisites to do well in biology. With the right resources (and instruction), I’m confident anyone can do well on a biology course. Provided they put in the time and effort.

But here’s what else I feel you should know before beginning biology:

  1. Biology can get fairly multi-disciplinary. If you have a background in other subjects like chemistry, physics and basic math it definitely can help!
  2. Biology is all about observation. The scientific method is at the core of the subject. You won’t be able to write essays based on opinion or ideas; biology calls for evidence and fact.
  3. Biology is fun. Seriously. It’s one of the few science subjects that goes in depth as to what we (and everything around us) are, how we work and what we do.

Unlike physics and chemistry which use formulas and math to underpin concepts and demonstrate understanding, biology is a lot more about using your eyes and describing what you see.

Sure, it can get somewhat numerical (especially when you dive into biostatistics) but, most of the time, it’s pretty uncomplicated.

If you go into biology with an open mind, enthusiasm and strong reason why, I’m convinced you’ll do well.

What To Expect From A Biology Class

Biology is taught at many different levels from diverse perspectives. There’s no such thing as a “typical” biochemistry class.

Some biology courses will have a lab and expect you to do experiments. Others can be purely theoretical and demonstrate biological principles to you with videos and text.

The best way to get a handle on what you can expect from your class is to do a little research beforehand.

I strongly recommend doing both these things:

  • Studying your course syllabus and looking at the list of topics and activities
  • Asking students who’ve taken the course before what their thoughts and feelings about it are

The best way to get ahead in biology is to prepare early. Getting specific tips and advice for your course is exactly how you do that.

Also, don’t worry if you get a bad or tricky professor. So much of biology can be learned on your own with awesome free materials (more on this later).

What Do You Learn In Biology?

Being a student of biology you’ll learn all about living organisms.

Basic biology class covers single-celled organisms, plants, animals and eventually humans.

Here’s what a typical course will cover:

  • Chemistry of life (enzymes and cellular components)
  • Cells and homeostasis (structures, function and regulation)
  • Energy for life (how living things use and create food etc.)
  • Genetics
  • Evolution and diversity
  • Ecology

Depending on where you study biology and what level you study it at, these things can differ (and be covered in more or less depth). What’s largely universal though (and true of any biology class) is that you’ll get better at asking questions.

You’ll also be better prepared to plan and run experiments, talk about and understand theories and use evidence as a way of reasoning and arguing your viewpoint.

All hugely important things if you eventually want a career in the sciences!

What’s Hard About Biology

Beginners to science subjects (and biology) could find the following things difficult:

  • Memorizing and remembering various steps in important processes. Particular in things like cellular respiration where different reactions take place.
  • New language. For people with little exposure to the subject, the new terminology can take a while to get used to and understand.
  • Connections. Seeing how all the related topics in biology interlink and relate to each other takes serious time. Don’t expect to remember it all the first time you see it.

What’s Easy About Biology

  • You don’t need much math.
  • Parts of it are very visual. If you do well learning from flashcards, images, and film, you’ll probably enjoy biology.
  • If you work on understanding first, everything else can be reasoned out. Also helps with memorization!
  • There are lots of cool tips and tricks you can apply to memorize steps and processes. Look into funny mnemonics for example.

Of course how “easy” or “hard” someone finds the subject will be entirely down to them. Everyone is different; with varying strengths, weaknesses, and experience.

Just know that biology can definitely be mastered with time, energy and application (even the hard parts).

How Much Time Will You Need To Successfully Pass Biology?

Biology can be pretty vast. You’ll want to dedicate at least an hour of extra work to it each day (outside of class time).

Coming back to topics you’ve already covered, and ensuring you understand and recall them, will help you save a ton of time later.

Of course, the exact number of hours you’ll need to do to pass your course will be dependent on your level of study (and the expectations of your school/professors, etc).

Just know that it’s not a class you can sleep on. It will pass you by if you make no effort to keep up!

What’s The Best Way To Prepare (And Make Biology Easier)?

One of the reasons biology is a little easier than many other subjects is that there’s a lot of great resources out there. Depending on your preferences and how you like to learn, there’s something for everyone.

It’s also very easy to find different resources that teach biology from lots of different angles and perspectives.

YouTube Channels

Some of my favorite biology-based YouTube channels (that are well worth spending some time on before your class starts) include:

  • Crash Course Biology: This 41 video playlist is a great intro to the subject. Has lots of cool animations, funny metaphors, and analogies and is surprisingly detailed.
  • Thenewboston (Bill Rabara): Bill’s 61 video playlist is another perfect beginner intro. His explanations are super clear and precise.

Websites

My personal favorite resource for learning biology (and one I used extensively in prep for med school) was Khan Academy’s biology library.

The video series here is extensive and thorough. I imagine it would cover 95% of biology courses!

Something else that makes it great is the quizzes and article summaries that accompany the video explainers. These help test and reinforce the key concepts, ensuring you take away what you really need to know.

Books

When it comes to studying biology through books, I’m all for fun resources rather than intimidating ones. That’s something I also think can help make biology seem less hard!

Barron’s AP Biology Premium

AP level biology is designed for intro college courses. But Barron’s organize and create their book courses so that almost anyone (except maybe really young children) can study biology well. The illustrations and explainers are super simple while the included practice tests are a great way to check your progress and spot areas of the subject you’re finding difficulties with.

The Biology Coloring Book

I’m generally not a huge advocate of using coloring to learn science but, if coupled with a solid primary resource (like those mentioned above), I do feel there’s a place for it. They can definitely help you get familiar with the subject matter first!

Flashcards

I’d really recommend using flashcards to help make learning biology easier. They’re a key part of active recall and evidence-based study. They’re also very visual and can help with breaking down those complicated biological processes.

Barron’s does another top job here. The 450 cards in this box can cut down your study time while still ensuring you have an amazing grasp of the subject.

Final Thoughts

Biology is probably one of the easier science subjects for people to get to grips with but gets difficult the more detailed you go.

University-level biology is no joke. You’ll be expected to apply and manipulate data to help you build experiments, as well as deliver clear and precise explanations to colleagues and professors.

Without a basic grounding in the subject, high-level biology can be very tough indeed.

Thankfully however, as hopefully I’ve helped to show, there are several things that can help learning bio easier.


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Related Questions

Is Biology Hard in High School?

Biology can be tough in high school for many students. It’s a class with a huge amount of content. With exams that aren’t always the most straightforward or simple.

You’ll have to prepare well and work hard to do well in biology in high school.

Is Biology Hard in University?

Biology can be very detailed at the college/university level. As mentioned before, many degree courses will expect you to publish research and demonstrate and prove you understand experimental investigation.

Is Biology Harder Than Math?

No, biology is not harder than math. Math can require complex problem solving and the application of formula – something not usually expected in a biology class.

Is Biology Harder Than Physics?

No, physics is harder than biology. This is because physics is more dependent on math and the application of formulas to understanding scientific laws. Biology can be understood more simply by observation, in many cases.