How to revise for A Level Biology
Are you taking biology A-Level? Back in the day biology was one of my five A Level subjects. I ended up getting and A in it and there were some pretty specific things that I did to earn myself that A. As part of my series of subject-specific revision posts I’m sharing with you how to revise for A Level biology.
How to Revise for A Level Biology
Do the work
Biology (like geography) is a very content heavy subject. There’s a lot to understand and a lot to remember. What makes it harder, is that many of the concepts in biology aren’t quite as logical as the ones in chemistry or physics. Therefore, it’s really important to hang-on in there right from the beginning of your course and do the work.
To make sure you’re doing the work, make yourself a weekly routine (and stick to it).
Make sure you understand
It’s so much easier to remember things that you understand. I’ve tried in the past to memorise things that I just didn’t get (the different formulae in trigonometry springs to mind) and it’s painful and virtually impossible. So, your first step is to make sure you understand.
If you don’t understand what you need to know from your teacher’s explanation then try other resources.
I raided the school library for A Level biology text books that complimented my course and became heavily reliant on them. These days there are also loads of online resources that you can turn to. If you really can’t do it by yourself, maybe you need a private tutor (but I’m pretty sure that you can do it!).
Break your revision down into bite-sized pieces
The way I did this was with index cards. I would always write the piece of terminology (e.g. mitochondria) or name of the process on one side of the card and then the defintion, steps in the process or explanation on the other. I’d end up with literally hundreds of cards but each one had a bite-sized piece of information on it that was easy to handle.
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Do past papers
Just before I started my A Level biology my school’s biology department had a disastrous set of A Level results. I don’t think anyone got above a D. The head of department, and all the teachers, were determined not to let this happen again. They switched to a new exam board and right from the get-go they drilled us all in past exam papers.
This was when I first truly learned to think like an examiner. We would go through the mark schemes exhaustively in class. I would see why the answer that I’d written, which I’d thought was right, was actually wrong because it wasn’t phrased in the way that the examiner needed to see it. My two years studying biology were really a masterclass in exam technique. I got an A at the end of the two years – as did 25% of the students who took the subject at the same time as me. That was an incredible turn-around for the department.
So, how do you learn to think like an examiner? You do power hours. The crux with power hours isn’t just to do the past papers. It’s to mark your work yourself. If you don’t mark your work and learn to see it through the eyes of examiner your grades will stagnate or improve slowly. However, if you always mark your work and then repeat it, trying to do it better, your marks will rapidly improve.
I hope this insight into how I studied my way to success in A Level biology has helped you. It really doesn’t take anything magical – you just need to get on and do the work and make it happen.
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Over to you
How do you revise for biology? What revision techniques work for you? What questions have you got about revising for biology? Leave them in the comments below.