Succeeding in A-Level Biology is, unfortunately, not as straightforward as it may seem. Unlike many other subjects, simply learning the material is not enough, as the questions appear to instead focus on testing your application of this material in seemingly abstract situations.
However, there are ways to improve your chances of success. In this blog I will give you my three top tips for A-Level Biology revision!
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It is not uncommon to read an A-Level Biology question and have no idea what the question is referring to. It may seem only vaguely related to something you’ve learnt about. Panicking is the worst thing you can do in this situation, as it will stop you from thinking clearly and answering the question. A-Level questions have to test things from the specification – therefore if you have learnt everything in the specification, you should know enough to answer the question.
Firstly, try to link the question to a specific topic. This will help you go some way in figuring out how to answer it. Secondly, you must think outside the box. I know this sounds horribly cliché, but it is something you can practice and develop. Try to get into the examiner’s head (points two and three below will help you to do this) in order to apply relevant information to the question you are answering.
Mark schemes are gold dust. Seriously. Read them, memorise them, read them again, regurgitate them. They are your secret passage to success! Not only do mark schemes contain the answers, but they contain variations of answers, as well as exact wordings that examiners are looking for.
If you write something which is word-for-word what is in front of them on the mark scheme, then they will have no choice but to give you full marks. Don’t give them any excuse to doubt your answer!
Furthermore, there may be an essay component to your Biology exam. Make sure you practice planning and writing these essays, particularly under timed conditions. If you are writing essays for your own revision and not as part of classwork, your teacher may still be happy to read and assess them – it is important to ask about this, as getting feedback will be the most beneficial for your learning.
3. “Further reading” sections of your textbook often contain question material!
Remember those little boxes at the end of each chapter? The ones you can skip over because they’re “optional”? I can’t tell you the number of times that topics in those sections came up on exam questions! Read them and try to understand them.
What they usually contain is the application of the topic covered, in a seemingly abstract and bizarre context (does that remind you of anything?) Sometimes, the exact same concept will be repeated in an exam question, and if you’ve seen it before, then you definitely have a head start. Even if the questions in the exam are not exactly the same, seeing your topics covered in different contexts will help to teach you how to apply the concepts yourself.