Review: AA+ Biology Study Cards


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Jul 5, 2008
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Well, having just given a test to my Intro Biology students, I was curious as to what biology apps there may be for the iPhone. AA+ Biology Study Cards is supposed to help you study for biology, so I was curious about it.

The app claims to have over 450 study questions for various topics in biology. The questions are sorted based on biology topic (circulation, evolution, digestion, ecology, etc). The questions are supposed to highlight biology terms and concepts.

So how does it stack up? Well, it has it's good points and bad points.

First, I was happy to see that they simply aren't asking a multiple choice question. Instead, each "card" presents you with a concept, name, topic, or word that you need to identify and define. By tapping the screen, you flip the "card" and get the answer. For example, one card simply has ""Ecology" written on it. On the reverse side, it says "The study of living things in relation to each other and their non-living environment".

In many cases, the cards asks for a specific task. "Name the classification scheme from most general to most specific", for example.

One of my biggest concerns, however, there are no real questions that ask you to apply the information. You are simply being told to memorize various terms or concepts - never actually applying those terms or concepts to an unknown. With the cell division card, for example, you are asked about the various stages of cell division. However, you aren't asked to identify a cell based on a description of the stage. As trivial as this sounds, I have found going from the concept to applying the concept is a leap that is difficult for many students.

In addition, there are no images or visual aides. In some cases, a visual aid would be usesel. But in many cases, having a picture of something would really help a lot with students who are trying to learn the concepts.

There are a total of 493 question, covering 18 "topics". However, some of the topics have the same name without specifying how they might be different from each other. "Kingdom: Plantae" is listed three times in the topics.

There is a review mode, but it seems kind of useless. All it seems to do is go to the topic you were last one, and simply repeats the cards in the same order. In order to be truly useful, you would need to randomize these questions, and mix up the topics somewhat.

Lastly, the topics themselves seem to I tried finding questions on evolutionary processes, for example (natural selection) but it was no where to be found - at least not in genetics or in evolution. In addition, some questions seem oddly placed - there was a question about the cell cycle in the genetics topic, rather than in the cell topic.

All in all, this app seems to be a hastilly made attempt to give students a poor excuse for a study guide.

One nice feature is that you can "remove" cards that you have gotten correct, so you don't have to worry about them anymore. This is nice, and you can reinsert those cards if needed.

Pros: Covers some basic biology concepts

Cons: Review mode is lacking, missing many questions, "card" designed is limited

All in all, for students who want to review some basic topics in biology, this might be a useful app. But for students who are studying for an exam, it is going to be hit and miss (mostly miss) if the material is included here. In addition, the reviewing method is less than helpful, basically simply repeating the review mode. THere are other "exam buster" sets out there, but if they are similar to this one I would generally advise people to stay away. At $4.99, I would want a lot more than this app is offering in a study guide. Two out of five stars.

Rating scale:

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.

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