A Level biology is notorious for being content-heavy, but unfortunately that isn’t the only aspect of it that people struggle with. Thankfully, there are revision tips for even the toughest parts of your biology course so that you can conquer anything that the exam board throw at you!
1. The content
Let’s start with the common one; content. There is mountains of content that you need to remember for A Level biology, including everything from the names of molecules to whole biological processes to the specific names of body parts. At first this may seem like a mammoth task but our main tip for handling it is to condense it. A3 summary sheets are a good way to summarise an entire topic so you can see the key information that you need to know, rather than the extra things that your teacher may have thrown into the lessons. To really condense the information, we would suggest that you use the specification as a guide of the things that you are expected to know by the exam board so that you know which bits to get rid of.
2. Exam technique
Exam technique is another big problem with A Level biology. It is a wordy course and some exam boards don’t have multiple choice questions (AQA actually have an essay as part of one exam) so it is key that you nail your exam technique. What I’ve found is that it’s always better to be specific; whenever you say ‘it’ ask yourself if you could replace it with the biological term you are talking about. I’ve lost simple marks because I’ve perfectly described a process but we have forgotten to name it, and these are the marks that will quickly add up if there are a lot of long answer questions.
3. Complicated processes which need to be learned
There are also a lot of complicated processes to learn. Topics like the immune system typically involve a lot of processes and it is easy to get these confused or miss out steps. Our suggestion for this would be to write the stages on flashcards and then try to order them, which should help you to learn the order of the steps. Diagrams can also come in handy when learning processes so you can see the changes between steps or the journey taken by a molecule. When looking at processes it’s important to look at how the stages link together and the functions of things involved with the process (such as the spindle fibres in mitosis).
4. You can't predict what will be on the exam
It is also almost impossible to predict what will be on the exam. Unfortunately they don’t typically ask questions in topics like at GCSE and often you are expected to bring together knowledge from various topics for one question. This may be difficult as first as you need to think about what the question is actually asking you about, but the best way around it is to link things together as you go. Sometimes this is easy (such as enzymes and protein structure) but sometimes it takes a little bit more thinking (like diffusion and the structure of the lungs). Being able to do this means that you are more prepared for the exam questions that they could throw at you.
Overall, biology is mainly about learning the information. If you can learn the specifics about a topic in detail then you can start to apply it to exam questions which will allow you to develop your exam technique. You will never lose marks for being specific in a biology exam and even if it takes a little longer to write your answers it’s better than losing silly marks.