Surviving Life Sci: A Guide


When you tell people about being in U of T’s Life Sciences program you will no doubt receive a few raised eyebrows. The Life Sci program is no easy path to tread. As a Life Sci student, myself, I can tell you that this program is challenging, but it will push you to become a stronger and more resilient student.

I wrote up a guide to some of these fundamental courses to give incoming students a glimpse of what to expect. With thorough planning, practice, and dedication you will be able to achieve your goals and successfully win the duel between you and the dreadful Life Sci courses.

A picture of Biology notes.

Number 1 Tip: Always review notes after lecture!


             BIO 120/130: Biology was one of my most favourite science classes during first year! BIO120 will be daunting at first as it will most likely be your first time attending lecture with 1200 other students (!). The course focuses on evolutionary biology and also consists of an enjoyable lab section. There will be a lot of content to memorize, but don’t worry the concepts are straightforward and interesting enough to pay attention to. I found BIO130 a little more difficult than BIO120. It focuses on molecular bio—specifically the function and mechanisms of a cell. Like all biology classes, there will be seemingly endless concepts to memorize. A tip that worked for me was re-writing my notes, in my own words, after lecture to understand the content and then read these notes numerous times to help me memorize them.

               CHM 135/136. Chemistry courses at U of T are certainly not easy, and if a Life Sci student struggles in a course it’s most likely chemistry.  CHM 135 covers physical chemistry while CHM 136 narrows in on organic chemistry. Of the two I found CHM 135 easier because it requires much less memorization and more application of concepts and equations. For both courses, I read through the chapters before class and then did ALL the assigned problem sets no matter what, as this is the only way to get ample practice. Before tests and exams, doing practice tests is the best way to study. Check out U of T’s past exam repository. Also, some students don’t know that there is free peer-tutoring  organized by Victoria college held at the Chemistry Club (in Lash Miller)—the tutors have helped me with both understanding a problem or even looking over lab reports

               MAT135/136: I found these basic math courses quite like calculus classes I took during high school. I must say the content really is not that difficult, but the midterm and exam undeniably are! The best way to study for this course is, again, to practice, practice and practice some more! That is the only way you will thoroughly understand the concepts. I focused on practice tests when studying for exams as test questions are a bit different than practice questions. You won’t have to do  a lot of readings for calculus, but I found that looking over the relevant chapter before lecture helped me understand what was being taught and kept me engaged.

Some people will claim that all Life Sci professors design their courses to set you up for failure. However, I disagree. All first-year students in this program will have to take the basic foundation courses such as BIO120/130, CHM135/136, MAT136/137 and some will even take Physics. These courses are challenging, no doubt, but I believe U of T students have a lot of resources, inside and outside the classroom, that will help them succeed.