50 Important Facts You Probably Forgot Between 5th Grade and College

by Staff Writers

There are a lot of fun-filled and educational years between grade school and heading off to college, providing ample opportunity to forget some of the most basic lessons you learned as a child. Here are some facts and tips that will help you refresh your memory and bring back some of that important information that can help you boost your trivia knowledge or even perform better in your college studies.


These facts will remind you of proper grammar, punctuation and structure.

  1. Is it the "i" or the "e" first? This is a spelling question that troubles even the best spellers out there from time to time. The old rule "i before e except after c" will help you sometimes, but not in all cases. Some important addendums should include "or when sounded like a, like neighbor and weigh" and the rule should be dropped altogether when -c sounds like -sh, like in species.
  2. How is a paper organized? Being able to organize an essay, research project or story is an essential part to doing well in any area of academics. While there are, of course, many subtleties, a paper should start with an introductory paragraph containing a thesis–the most important part of any essay. After this, each paragraph should have a main idea followed by information that expands on and explains these ideas. At the end, work should be tied up with a conclusion paragraph. It sounds basic, but many students let their writing become sloppier as they go along or never develop these strong fundamentals in the first place.
  3. Which is the subject and which is the object? If you don't remember which part of the sentence is which, you're not alone. In most basic terms, you can remember that the subject is the part of the sentence that is doing something, while the object is the thing that is having something done to it. This can be helpful to know when learning a language besides English, as well.
  4. What is a pronoun? Most of us know what a noun is, but do you recall what a pronoun is? Pronouns are the words that take the place of nouns in a sentence including I, she, he it, you, we and they. Using these correctly may get a bit trickier.
  5. What is a homonym, antonym and a synonym. A homonym is a group of words that appear to be the same but actually have different meanings or pronunciations. An antonym refers to a word that is the opposite in meaning from another word. A synonym is a word that means the same or similar as another word.
  6. What is the correct way to use commas? Commas aren't alone in often being used incorrectly. Semi-colons, hyphens and colons are frequently used incorrectly as well. If you find it hard to remember to use these elements of speech correctly, reference a guide like this until you can commit it to memory.
  7. What's the difference between its and it's? Find yourself often mixing these two up? You're certainly not alone but there's an easy way to remember which is the right word for the situation. Simply remind yourself that "it's" is a contraction of the words "it is." If the expanded form of those words doesn't make sense in your sentence, then you know to use "its" rather than "it's".
  8. How can you tell if a sentence is too long or too short? Sentences can either be a run-on or a fragment. You can determine if your sentence is a run-on by simply turning it into a yes or no question. If it makes sense, you're doing ok. If not, you need to add some kind of conjunction or separate it into two sentences. A fragment on the other hand is simply an incomplete sentence that doesn't make sense on it's own. You can usually fix these by adding them back onto the main sentence to which they refer.
  9. What are a verse, stanza and paragraph? If you can't answer this question, it might be a good idea to refresh your memory on how writing is organized. In most cases, a verse is a single line of poetry, though more loosely it is a series of words arranged metrically. A stanza is a group of these verses, usually composed of four or more that work together in a poem or a song. A paragraph, on the other hand, is a division within a written work that focuses on a particular idea found in prose rather than poetic works.
  10. What things need to be capitalized? While you're probably aware that things like names, titles and other proper nouns need to be capitalized, are you aware of what parts of a book title should be capitalized or whether or not to capitalize the names of the seasons? Here you'll find information on just about everything you should or shouldn't put into caps.

Social Studies

At a loss when it comes to recalling basic social studies and history information? These facts will help you remember.

  1. What are the state capitals? Unless you use this information regularly, it's easy to forget what the capital of far flung states are. It can be good to know these kinds of things, however, so use this online table to review. If you get ambitious, learn the capitals of other countries as well.
  2. What are longitude and latitude? Do you remember which is which? Longitudinal lines are those that go around the globe vertically (you can remember them as being long like hair) and latitudinal lines are those that go around horizontally like the equator. These lines allow every place on earth to be specified using just three coordinates and aid in navigation.
  3. What factors led to the Revolutionary War? Taxation without representation is a phrase you should remember from your elementary education days. Taxes imposed on the colonies by the British on goods like sugar and documents enraged the public who felt that if they were gong to be taxed they should at least have some kind of representation in the British Parliament. These factors, among many much more complex issues, led the early American people to revolt against British rule.
  4. How are laws made? Not sure how the regulations we have came to be? The process takes a little explaining so you can read about it here or watch the classic Schoolhouse Rocks video of how a bill gets made into a law.
  5. What are the branches of the government and what do they do? The government is composed of three branches: the legislative, the judicial and the executive. The legislative branch is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. These individuals are responsible for debating, proposing and signing bills into law. The judicial branch refers to the court system, headed up by the Supreme Court. This branch decides how to apply the laws, whether or not they are constitutional and how they should be interpreted. Finally, the executive branch is composed of the president, vice president, cabinet members and various other supporting institutions. This branch carries out laws, suggests new ones and runs national defense and foreign policies.
  6. What is Manifest Destiny? This term, coined in the 19th century, refers to the belief that Americans were destined, perhaps even divinely so, to expand across the continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. This term was used to justify the harsh, and often violent, means implemented in an effort to bring the rest of North America under US control.
  7. What are the major amendments to the Constitution? The first ten amendments to the Constitution are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. These include the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to trial, and many more basic freedoms we often take for granted. Other important amendments include the 13th which abolished slavery, the 15th which gave non-whites the right to vote, the 19th giving women the right to vote, the 22nd limiting the president to two terms, and the 18th and 21st prohibiting (and then allowing) the sale and consumption of alcohol.
  8. What were the 13 original colonies? The 13 colonies were Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
  9. What are the names of the Great Lakes? The Great Lakes are composed of five large bodies of water: Erie, Huron, Michigan, Superior and Ontario, containing a whopping 5 percent of the world's fresh water.
  10. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? While there were several contributors to this piece of writing, the primary author was Thomas Jefferson, using the statement to declare that the 13 colonies were no longer under the rule of the British Empire.


Even if you're not heading into a science field in college, these facts will kick start your memory when it comes to understanding the world around you.

  1. Why do the seasons change? If you ask most people, they'll say it has something to do with the Earth's distance from the sun. However, this is actually not why the seasons occur. The real reason is that the Earth spins on a tilted axis, causing different parts of the Earth to point towards the sun at different times of the year. This allows more sun to reach these areas at a more direct angle, causing the warmer and cooler temperatures that we experience as the seasons.
  2. What's the difference between mitosis and meiosis? Mitosis it is the basic way that cells of all kinds reproduce, creating two cells from one that are identical copies of the original parent cell. Meiosis on the other hand, is what happens in gamete or sex cells, producing cells with half the number of chromosomes as the parent cell and creating four cells from the original one.
  3. What the heck do mitochondria do? You may have forgotten the parts of the cell, but the mitochondria is an important component, providing your cells with the energy they need to do what a cell needs to do, often being referred to as the powerhouse of the cell.
  4. How are animal and plant cells different? Animal and plant cells are alike in many ways but have some key differences that allow them to create such a diverse group of organisms. One difference is the lack of a thick cell wall in animal cells. Plants need this cell wall to keep from bursting. Perhaps the biggest difference between plant and animal cells is their source of energy. Plants gather light from the sun and convert it to energy through photosynthesis, while animal cells use sugars and other substances that they consume to power themselves. Additionally, plant and animal cells differ in the size, shape and number of their vacuoles, and plant cells tend to have a set shape while animal cells can differ greatly.
  5. What are the phases of the moon? The moon starts off at the new moon where no light is visible. From there it grows through the waxing crescent, first quarter, and waxing gibbous into a full moon. After a full moon, the light dwindles through the waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent back to the new moon.
  6. What are the types of clouds? While there are many subdivisions of clouds, the main types are: cumulus (the puffy, fluffy clouds); stratus (horizontal, layered clouds); and cirrus (wispy, feathery clouds). Add the word "nimbus" onto any of these to denote a cloud that produces rain, hail or snow.
  7. What is the order of the planets? While many of us learned that there are nine planets, today there are only eight, as Pluto is no longer included. The remaining eight comprise of: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  8. How does weather work? Weather is a complex thing, but something that students begin learning about in school from an early age. Watch the animation found on this site to learn why weather changes or stays the same. You can also refresh your memory on the water cycle here.
  9. How do we know the Earth's crust isn't solid? While the ground you're standing on might seem solid, any fifth grader can tell you that it's simply an arrangement of plates making up the outer crust. We can see and feel these plates move through earthquakes and can look back in history to find that the continents themselves have moved around over millions of years.
  10. How does gravity work? While there are two different interpretations of gravity (Einstein's and Newton's), we'll stick with the basics here. Gravity is the natural tendency for objects with mass to attract one another. In our case, this object is Earth, which, in being much larger than us, pulls us to the ground and keeps us firmly earth bound.
  11. What's osmosis? As a kid you probably hoped you could learn through this process rather than doing your homework, but you may have long since forgotten the meaning. Osmosis is the process by which water is diffused into a cell body through a semi-permeable membrane, moving water from an area of high saturation to one of low saturation, much like a sponge picking up a spill or water seeping into a basement.
  12. How do reflexes work? A reflex is an involuntary reaction that your body has in response to a stimulus, like pulling your hand away from a hot surface. Reflexes are controlled by the spinal cord, which takes over, sending a message to your muscle via the nerves that tells it to react. Reflexes can include things like coughing, breathing and sneezing as well.
  13. What is the scapula? The scapula is the scientific name for the shoulder blade, one of 206 bones in the human body.
  14. What are the steps of the scientific method? If you want to figure something out using science, you'd follow these steps of the scientific method: ask a question, do research, form a hypothesis, test your hypothesis with an experiment, analyze your data and draw a conclusion, and finally, report your results.
  15. Who laid out the Laws of Motion? The Laws of Motion (regarding force, inertia and other basics of physics) were laid out by Sir Isaac Newton in 1687 and form the foundation of classical mechanics.
  16. What are the parts of an atom? There are three components to an atom: the protons (positively charged particles); the neutrons (particles with no charge); and numerous electrons (the negatively charged particles).


Make sure math is still fresh in your mind by going over these grade school facts.

  1. How to determine the volume, area and circumference of a shape. Here you'll find the basic formulae needed to solve these problems–good things to know even if you don't calculate them daily.
  2. How many feet are in a mile? American students have it rough using measurements that are hard to remember because they're so oddly numbered. There are 12 inches in a foot, three feet in a yard, 1760 yards in a mile. That means there's a whopping 5280 feet to a mile.
  3. What are the different types of numbers? There are several different groups numbers can fall into. Natural numbers (the counting numbers), whole numbers (add a zero to the natural numbers), and integers (this group throws negatives into the mix as well). Additionally, there are rational numbers (integers with the addition of fractions) and irrational (numbers that can't be represented as fractions like pi and some square roots). Of course, there are other groups as well, but these are the basics.
  4. What is a prime number? In math-speak, a prime number is a number that has two integer factors, one and itself. More plainly speaking, it's a number that can't be divided evenly by any number other than one and itself. Some examples of prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11, though the list goes on and on.
  5. Just what is the order of operations? This order can be remembered as PEMDAS: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. This order will allow you to get the correct answer when working with complex equations.
  6. What's a mean, median, mode and range? The mean is the average of a group of numbers, the median is the middle value in a list of numbers put in numerical order, the mode is the most commonly occurring number and the range is the difference between the largest and smallest values in the list.
  7. What are the types of triangles? Triangles can be put into several categories: right (having one right angle); equilateral (all angles are 60 degrees); isosceles (having two equal angles and two equal sides); scalene (having no sides the same); acute (all angles are less than 90 degrees); and obtuse (the triangle has one angle larger than 90 degrees).
  8. What happens when you multiply two negatives? Negative numbers can get tricky. When you multiply two of them, you should end up with a positive number. Additionally, when you subtract a negative number from any other number the negative number is treated as an addition of a positive one.
  9. Can you divide by zero? Hopefully you remembered you cannot divide by zero. Any attempt to divide by zero, even to divide zero by zero, results in an undefined result that isn't much use to anyone.

The Arts

Here you'll find the basics for music and the arts.

  1. What are the notes on the scale? The basic notes on a scale are C, D, E, F, G, A and B in that order, though there are sharps, flats and other variations to these notes.
  2. What are the types of notes? Chances are good that you used these notes in a childhood music class, but you may have forgotten them, unless you still play an instrument. The basic types of notes are whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth which you can see in this picture. Each type of note tells you how many of it will appear in each measure.
  3. What is the style of art Picasso is best known for? Picasso worked his way through a variety of artistic styles in his decades of production but is perhaps best known for his work with Cubism. Cubism distorts space and forms, leaving works that often have recognizable elements that have been twisted and fractured.
  4. What is the difference between high and bas-relief? These represent different levels of relief. High relief art stands out from its surface, often having elements that are not attached at all. Bas relief on the other hand, is an extremely low relief, barely standing out on the surface.
  5. What are complementary colors? The basic colors on the color wheel are red, blue, yellow, purple, orange and green. Of these colors, the complementary ones are those that opposite to one another–blue and orange, red and green and yellow and purple. When two complementary colors are mixed they create a neutral color like gray or black.