A level Biology is full of detailed content and can be quite overwhelming. It may seem like the subject requires good memory and that’s the only skill you need, but this is not the case. It is important to understand how the examining works in order to achieve the top marks.
Firstly, for all exam boards, they want to test you in all areas, not just how much you can remember from a textbook. This means you will need to get to grips with the mathematical areas, practical elements and most importantly, you need to be able to take what you have learnt and apply it to the question you are asked. But let’s go into each bit in more detail.
In every exam paper you sit, there will be maths questions, you should check with your specification to see what you will need to know, and whether you need to memorise any equations. All mathematical questions will be set in a biological context, if something you need to know is not in your textbook or revision guide (which sometimes happens) then video tutorials are a helpful way to get a full understanding. It is useful to think about what you are actually doing in the question, as this may tell you if your answer is wrong. For example, if you are trying to work out the actual size of a microorganism, and your answer turns out to be 400cm, it is pretty evident your answer is wrong as what microorganism do you know of that is that size? If you really struggle with the mathematical element of biology, do not worry, practicing it is the best way forward as questions from previous years tend to be quite similar. If you feel confident about your understanding, perhaps look for harder questions, or questions from a different exam board. Look out for areas where you can easily make mistakes, for example, checking you are using the correct units for the calculation.
Doing practical experiments may not count towards your final grade directly, but it is highly important and covers a large percentage of marks. You not only need to understand what you are doing, but how to do it in a way which produces reliable data. The best way to remember a practical is for you to do it yourself. It is crucial for the test to be valid, therefore our control, dependent and independent variables are important to know. It is also very useful to learn potential risks, areas which could cause uncertainty and should know the ways to make sure the results are reliable. If you are faced with a new experiment you have not seen before, don’t panic, think of what you know already. This is where application comes in, you must use the knowledge you already have, and think what is relevant to the question you are faced with. You will not be asked any questions that is beyond what is studied at A level.
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