How to Revise A-Level Biology
Preparing for any kind of exam can be a little daunting, but with our tips, you can effectively revise for A-Level biology ahead of your exam. With a plan in place for how you’ll study, you’ll be able to identify areas of your knowledge that need work, while highlighting your strengths. This will solidify your understanding of the subject and grow your confidence.
It’s important when doing any exam preparation that you familiarise yourself with mark schemes, question styles and time management, so you can improve your exam performance on the day. Here’s how to revise for biology A-Level so you can pass the test with great scores and smash your syllabus.
Top tips for revising A-Level biology
There’s a lot of content to cover if you’re studying A-Level biology, and it’ll take all of your skills in English, maths, and science to get great exam marks. Here are some top tips that’ll help you to conquer your biology exam.
1. Know your exam board specification
This may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Make sure you’re familiar with the biology specification for the exam board your paper is with. Make sure everything in this specification is covered in your revision schedule, as this will highlight the areas you will need to know to pass highly in the exam.
Take a highlighter and go through the schedule, highlighting in one colour areas that are your strengths (in green), and areas where you’re not so strong (in red). These red subjects need to be prioritised when you revise.
2. Revise each chapter and make summaries
Everyone has a different way of approaching revision, but for A-Level biology, it helps to go through each chapter in turn and make a synopsis. Make sure this synopsis also ties in with what the examiners will want to see from you, and what you will get good marks for (you’ll find this out by looking through past papers).
Make diagrams and use sticky notes to link concepts with information and ideas, as you’ll need to demonstrate how these areas link to one another.
3. Past papers are your friend
You’ll get an idea of what the real exam will be like by doing past papers. This is because exam boards tend to repeat the same questions and topics, which will give you a good indication of what to expect, and what examiners will be looking for when you write your answers on exam day.
You should be able to see a theme in common topics that feature often. When doing biology past papers, use your revision notes and refer to these when assessing your answers. If you got a question wrong, check to see if you understood the question properly. If you have problems understanding a subject, go back to your textbooks.
Knowing where you went wrong will help you to tackle a similar kind of question again and get the answer right next time. Also remember when marking your answers to past exam papers that marking is very specific. Don’t just tick that something is right if you feel it’s probably right. Mark yourself in line with exam standards to check that your knowledge is correct, or you’ll end up writing incorrect answers in the exam.
4. Practice writing long, essay-style answers
To get good marks in biology, you need good writing skills too. Write your essay-style answers under timed conditions, to get better at writing quickly, yet methodically. Ensure your writing showcases your knowledge, and always back a statement up with examples and reasons that demonstrate why the statement is true.
For a good score, you’ll need to write detailed paragraphs with the facts spot-on, so work on your understanding of factual information when you revise and make sure you know the content very thoroughly. Writing vague answers that are light on detail will get you lower marks. Get another person to test your knowledge of in-depth subject areas, to make sure you can recall information quickly and easily. This will help you get the highest mark possible.
5. Take regular breaks
A-Level biology is a very detailed and information-heavy subject. Make sure to take regular breaks, eat healthily, and take regular exercise to let your brain have a much-needed rest between study sessions.
While it can be tempting to whizz through a lot of past papers quickly, if you are feeling tired or burned out, you won’t hold on to the information as easily, and may even get some subject matter confused. Take time for your mental health, get lots of sleep and keep your stress levels under control by doing breathing techniques or activities that calm you.
Revision methods for A-Level biology
There are many revision methods that are well suited to a topic like biology. The main thing is to break information down into digestible pieces that are easy to understand and remember. This should help you to streamline your revision processes and aid recall on exam day.
Create a study plan
Because there’s a lot of content to cover through A-Level biology, (around eight main topics and 10 subsections), making a study plan to break things up is the best way to cover all the content you need to revise. Create a plan that defines the topics you need to know, the amount of time you can devote to them, and when you’ll study them.
You can use something like a wall planner or spreadsheet, and tick things off as you study them. This will keep your studies focused and ensure you cover everything you need for the exam.
If you aren’t used to working independently and motivating yourself, breaking down the revision that you need to do for each subject, and putting aside a date or time for that revision, is the best way to stay on track. Give yourself a reward when you get things done. This way, you won’t be accidentally going over the same topics, and will know exactly what you’re doing when you get to your desk.
Make prompt cards
There’s only so much content you can learn in one go, and a great way to remember subjects with vast volumes of material (like biology), is to create prompt cards. You can do this with paper, sticky notes, or mind maps.
By creating prompt cards and going over what is written on them repeatedly (taking frequent breaks in-between repetitions), you can increase your long-term recall. This method of revision is based on how the brain works, and how we as humans create memories.
Once you create a prompt card, you’ll need to repeat it every day, then every four days, then every seven days, until the information stays in your mind. This helps you to remember lots of information in a short amount of time. You can create prompt cards for each topic by summarising key points into a few bullets and revising them regularly.
You can also do this with mind maps, creating a mind map of each main topic with several sub-sections linked to that topic. You’ll also need a great general knowledge of biology, including where you’ll likely score good marks. You can then remember these key points more easily.
Work with a tutor
Another option is to get additional support from a tutor during your studies. Even if you’re an A* student, you can always improve and a tutor can help to drive your learning, test your abilities, and assess where you might be in terms of grades.
If there’s a certain grade you want to reach for further study like university, a tutor can be a big help as they have a comprehensive yet detailed understanding of the subject, and can explain any areas you’re unsure of. You can also work with them to fine-tune your exam and revision techniques.