How to Revise for A-Level Biology – Proven A* Strategy
Worried about how you are going to get through that chunky A-Level Biology textbook?
I don’t blame you. The average Biology textbook contains 329,000 words – that’s a lot of content! Side by side, my bio books dwarfed all the rest of them and I shuddered at the thought of learning all that information.
Thankfully, I found a way to get through it and secure an A* last year. By combining my experience with other’s who also achieved top grades in AQA, OCR, Eduqas, CIE and CCEA exams; I created this step by step guide that will show you how to revise for Biology A-Level.
This subject contains no abstract concepts or methods, you just need a way to understand and learn the information as efficiently as possible without getting bored.
After you figure out how much work you should do a day and what learning resources to use, you can then start executing your revision strategy.
Calculate when to start revising Biology and how many hours to work each day for A-level
This will depend on the:
- Number of subjects you are doing
- Amount of information you need to learn
- How many days are left between now and the exam
- How much self-study you’ve completed so far
Enter your subjects into Yojana and it will show you how much you need to do each day to finish on time and secure your grades.
Find out what learning resources to revise from
From adaptive learning platforms powered by artificial intelligence to good old revision guides you can order off Amazon, there are lots of options! We believe you should only have 1 or 2 core learning resources per subject, ideally one that covers the entire syllabus.
Based on our research, these are the learning resources we think you should use:
Choose a Learning Technique That is Backed by Science
There are some subjects that you can secure an A or A* in purely through self-study. Luckily, Biology is one of them! There is a very simple study-technique you can use to achieve this. We call it the scribble technique.
– Amazon reviewer
Let’s say it’s day 1 of your revision schedule and your daily page target is 6. You could revise a few pages from multiple textbooks, but you decide to revise all 6 pages from your Biology primary learning resource (PLR).
You open page 1, what do you do?
STEP 1 – Actively read through the first topic.
Put your coloured pencils and highlighters away. All you should have on the table is your learning resource, a pen and a pad.
Most students glaze over pages without putting effort into understanding what is being said.
Don’t do this!
After you finish reading the topic, ask yourself:
‘What the hell did I just read?”
Take a moment to explain the information back to yourself, either out loud or in your head. If you can’t do this, re-read the topic again and have another go.
If you still have nothing, get up, splash your face with water, come back and try again.
The key to getting top grades is to push yourself through tiredness, boredom and laziness to reach a state of ‘flow’. This is when you become so absorbed in the process of learning that you lose track of time. Top students have their own tricks and hacks of getting back into ‘flow’ after falling out.
If it’s your first time reading the content, it should take you approximately 7 minutes to complete this first step.
STEP 2 – Close the book and scribble down everything you can remember.
Focus on speed and accuracy. Scribble down everything you can remember from the topic you just read.
Don’t try to recite the textbook word-for-word. As you are putting pen to paper, it should feel like you are explaining the content back to yourself in your own words. Pretend that you are explaining it to a 10-year-old child.
What if you get stuck? It’s an inevitable and crucial part of the learning process. If you are struggling to remember information…
Give yourself some time for your thoughts to assemble and facts to pop back in to your consciousness. ‘Aha’ moments are called ‘perceptual insights’ by scientists and they are proven to help you remember information. Effective learning is about creating these ‘aha’ moments after challenging yourself to remember facts.
This step should take no longer than 5 minutes. After you have fully exhausted your memory bank, re-open the page again.
STEP 3 – Check what you forgot or got wrong
Read through the topic again and take a mental note of what you forgot or got wrong.
This step should take no longer than 2 minutes.
STEP 4 – Close the book again and scribble down what you missed
Repeat step 2, only this time, scribble down everything you missed out the first-time round.
This step should take no longer than 2 minutes.
Then move on to the next topic:
Complete all relevant end of topic questions
Whenever you encounter an end of topic test, do it! Then check your answers at the back of the book.
After you work through the whole textbook in this way, move on to past papers.
Complete all relevant past paper questions
Here’s where you move your mark up from a B to an A or A*. As a study by Elevate Education shows, there is a strong correlation between the number of past papers questions completed and top grades.
For the first few past papers you attempt, work through them slowly and check your answers with the mark scheme. Don’t just tick and cross what you get right and wrong. Re-attempt the questions you get wrong and try to remember the wording used in the mark scheme.
Complete the last 3 past papers under timed conditions, just as if you were in the actual exam. As a rule of thumb, the average mark across these 3 papers will be a good indication of what you’ll get in the final exam.
That’s it! In summary…
- Use the scribble technique to learn all the relevant content in your learning resources
- Attempt and complete all the relevant non-past paper questions
- Attempt and complete all relevant past paper questions
I used this exact approach to achieve an average mark of 92% across all my Biology A-Level exams.
Top Biology Revision Tips From Students Who Scored an A* in 2019 Exams
- Mark schemes are very specific. When marking practice questions do not just tick and score. Right down correct wording of mark scheme and learn these.
- Learn conversions and practice micrograms to cm. There will always be a magnification calculation like this.
- Labelling micrographs almost always comes up. For example, when studying the liver do not disregard the pictures. Study them, google them, familiarise yourself with how to spot the central vein etc.
- Practice drawing out the processes for respiration and photosynthesis with the relevant coenzymes. These can be easy to confuse.
- Module 5 action potentials and excretion are difficult topics that are likely to come up. Learn these well.
- Know the difference between the uses and processes of DNA sequencing vs. DNA profiling.
If you’re confused about anything we’ve said or want more help, drop us a question in the comments below (we usually respond back within an hour).
Want to nail your exams?
Yojana shows you when, what and how to achieve top grades in each of your subjects. Just fill in this form to get started.
Want to nail your exams?
Yojana shows you when, what and how to achieve top grades in each of your subjects. Just fill in this form to get started.
Hi , been doing this method for a few chapters. but it all stays in my short term memory. How can i ensure it tranfers to long term because by the time the exam comes i have forgotten most of the content which is done by scribble technique
Hi, I am aware that doing as many past paper questions as possible is a really effective strategy, however it is actually obtaining the questions to do in the first place that I am struggling with: where can I find loads of past paper A-Level questions?
Hi Isabella, Physics & Maths Tutor is great. Also, check the archived past papers on your exam boards website.
I recently received my year 12 mock for biology and to say it went badly would be an understatement. I received a D (one mark off of a C but that is irrelevant as I still scored a D). I really need an A in this subject and I was just wondering if you think it’s possible. Please be completely realistic. I will not be sitting my real exams until the Summer of 2022, however I have a test in September that I need to get at least a B in. Would you also be able to advise me the best way to revise biology to secure a grade B in my upcoming September exam as I only have around 8ish weeks,
P.S; Your website, tips etc are amazing. Thank you for creating this, it was exactly what I needed. So glad I stumbled across it.
You’ve picked a good subject to get a D in. That’s because, of all the subjects out there, we see the most drastic improvements over the shortest periods of time in Biology. We would say it’s the easiest subject to get an A-A* in if you follow our process. Our main advice would be to do everything in your power to hit your daily/weekly page target over the remaining months in the summer and beyond. If you are unable to motivate yourself to do this, get someone outside the immediate family to hold your accountable and test you daily
Im really struggling with a-level biology iv done the scribble down technique and i feel that I understand and now the content.However Im struggling with the past papers. I can’t seem to understand how to answer the question and im struggling with learning the mark scheme. is there any advise for this as I can’t seem to get my grades up. Any advise would be much appreciated.
Hi Sadeeqa. Well done for using the Scribble Technique to learn your Biology textbook – you’re half way there. The next step will be to systematically work through past papers – work through them slowly and don’t time yourself at this stage. Reattempt the questions you get wrong and hop back into the textbook to fill any knowledge gaps. By continuously following this process, you’ll break through your current plateau and start seeing your marks improve.
Recently I didn’t do to well in my end of year 12 Biology exam (AQA) (69%), in fact the whole year didn’t do too well so we’ve been given a second chance to prove ourselves with another full exam in 4 weeks. Do you think that getting a tutor will really help and be worth the money, or am I better off using the scribble technique to relearn everything and do lots and lots of past paper questions?
Also I tried Yojana and there isn’t an option to put AS Biology, it just says Biology so I’m not sure if the page count is valid.
Thank you very much!
With 4 weeks left, you should take a ‘question lead’ approach to revision. Book a free session with us here and we’ll take a look at your situation – https://www.academicunderdogs.com/tutoring/
I have my end of year 12 exams in around 40 days. I usually make notes running up to the exam and when the exams are near, I plan to use the scribble technique. Do you think this is a good idea? Or should I forget about making notes and use the scribble technique from now
Hi James. At A-Level, you should never summarise your textbooks into your own set of notes. It’s a waste of time. Revise directly from your exam board verified textbooks using the Scribble Technique.
Can i use this technique in order to revise old content and also how often should i go back to old content?
Learning old content or new – this is the only technique you should use if you want to remember what you read. How often should you go over old content? This depends on how much time you have left before exams and the total number of pages you have left to cover. As a rule of thumb, if you use the Scribble Technique to learn all the content for a subject and complete all non-past paper questions. Skimming through the content one more time to fill the gaps in your knowledge and completing all past papers should get you an A. This is generally true, but of course obvious exceptions can and do occur.
Hi. I am currently doing A level Biology and I seem to be having problems with application questions. What do I need to do?
A common problem Sabireen. You can learn the entire textbook, then the moment you attempt a past paper questions, your mind goes blank! My advice – be stubborn. Very often you will read a question, strike a blank then think of faint ideas of how you can answer the question. Get those ideas down on paper. Write down everything you can remember around the topic that the question is testing you on – it can kick start other memories and breakthroughs. Still stuck? Get up, splash your face, come back and try again. Still nothing? Check the answers and move on.
Hi, I’m currently doing a level biology. Other than a few gaps in my knowledge, which I can rectify using these fab techniques, Is there anyway you would suggest in how to answer questions? No matter how many I do, I can’t seem to hit the mark points, or even remember the answers for ones I’ve done multiple times. I think I know what the question is asking, but then I’m wrong in the end…
Hi Sumayyah. After learning your exam board verified textbooks front to back using the Scribble Technique, you will be half way on your journey to an A*. To improve exam technique, you should find every available non-past paper and past paper question and attempt them. Take your time answering them – no need to time yourself at this stage. Then mark them yourself and pay close attention to the mark scheme. Over time, your exam technique and marks will improve.
Hello! I’m currently an IGCSE student who already finished all the IGCSE biology syllabus (and can get around A*), so I want to self-start A-Level biology beforehand. If I had finished IGCSE biology from scratch to A* in around 2 months, approximately how long would it took for me to finish A-Level biology? What kind of methods should I use? Your answer is very much appreciated.
Hi Flora. Well done for completing your iGCSE syllabus and you’ve got the right idea by moving faster than your school. Take a look at our Key Ideas. If Biology is the only subject you are self-studying, you can cover the entire syllabus in 6 weeks (13 pages a day for 45 days). It will take an additional 3 weeks to complete past papers and skim through the content again to fill in knowledge gaps. So, you can be A* ready in 9 weeks. If you are self-studying alongside school and other subjects, it may take you up to 18 weeks. What method should you use? The Scribble Technique – exactly how its outlined above.
Hi. I want to ask if I’ll be able to score an A* in Biology in the May/June 2021 examinations if I start my preparation at this time. Should I start by making notes?
We advise all our students to not make notes for Biology. This adds an additional step that won’t help you remember the content and wastes time. Most textbooks cover the syllabus remarkably well. Why bother paraphrasing the textbook when you can learn directly from it using the Scribble Technique.
Thanks for sharing the information. It was extremely useful. My question is what the best way to revise or what to do 3 days before an exam? After you’ve completed the relevant topics for the exam. And how long should you spend on each AS subject a week? I do 3 a levels.
3 days before an exam you should be focusing most of your time on practice questions and a little time skimming through your textbooks filling in knowledge gaps. To calculate how much work you should be doing per week, work backwards from the total number of pages you need to cover and the time you have left before your first exam. Yojana can calculate this for you.
Hi i am currently doing my AS levels and just got done with my internal exams , i took biology AQA , English literature AQA and travel and tourism AQA . I worked really hard before my exams and was positive that i am getting the marks i deserved but when i received my marks i was devastated they were all in the C range , my question is i’d really like to know where i am going wrong because i genuinely thought i was on the right track and i would love to change that before sitting my AS levels .
Thank you !
You seem to be, by our definition, the a-typical Academic Underdog. Someone who is ambitious and wants to succeed, but hasn’t yet found the right tools and adopted the correct mindset to secure top grades. I was in the same boat as you during A-levels and, fortunately, the penny dropped after year 12 results day. I retook all my exams and turned DDDU into straight As.
What caused this mindset shift? It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause because many changes occurred at the same time, but here’s a list of the events that I think helped improve my grades (ranked in order of effectiveness):
1. Mentor – not too long after results day, I came in contact with a graduate who inspired and scared me into ‘fixing myself’. Instead of lecturing me to ‘work hard’ and ‘start early’ he logically explained why it was important to do so. He also gave me a glimpse into the future and shared examples of various people in his friend circle, and how the lives of those who nailed their exams seemed to be better than those that didn’t. This blew my mind! Our Supported Self-Study programme was designed to replicate this type of mentorship and help students like you perform better.
2. Bad grades – failing my first year in itself was in itself motivational. The sting of those bad grades combined with the inspiration from my mentor created the perfect conditions for change.
3. Written down plan – from year 9 to 12 I never really bothered to figure out how to learn properly. That changed after results day. I read books on memory and learning, discovered the Scribble Technique and spoke to successful students from the year above. This all went into a written plan which I continuously referred back to throughout the year. My book How to ACE Your A-Levels is essentially a detailed/updated version of this plan.
4. Experiments – I was so annoyed at myself for failing, that I set extreme targets like ‘learn the entire Biology textbook using the Scribble Technique’ in a month then do a past paper. These were essentially experiments to see if I was actually smart enough to get As-A*s and also to test my study techniques. When I could see the methods working and my marks improving, the little voice in my head that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough became much quieter. I started fantasising about good grades instead of fearing bad grades, and the rest was history.
Hi, Is getting an A star in 4 months possible? I have the vision to becoming a doctor so I would like to do IAL biology from scratch to help me gain an edge to get in med school. Never learn the subject before.
If Biology is the only subject you’re revising for, then yes it is possible to get an A-A* in 4 months. We helped one of our tutees do this recently. She joined our Supported Self-Study Programme 6 weeks before her Biology A-level exam. As suggested by Yojana, she revised her textbook at a rate of 21 pages a day using the Scribble Technique. We called her at the end of each day to test her knowledge. She was done by week 4, completed all the past papers by week 6 and secured an A*.
To do what she did, you need to use the Scribble Technique properly and not glaze over the page without trying to understand the information. When we asked her to explain the information she learnt back to us at the end of each day, she nailed almost every single bullet point. This takes practice and coaching from an expert tutor or academic coach.
Hi, I’m currently in year 12 doing biology, chemistry and psychology at a level. I was wondering if you thought it would be worth making flashcards (paper or digital) for biology considering how content-heavy the course is, I’m aiming for As and A* so I don’t want to waste time doing something that might be ineffective especially since the course is very fast-paced. Thank you 🙂
I strongly recommend not using flash cards or summarising your textbooks into notes. It’s highly time consuming and won’t help you achieve an A or A*. Whenever you revise, you should have a pen, pad and your recommended learning resource. That’s it!
Use the Scribble Technique to learn the content in your textbooks and attempt all the practice questions at the end of each topic.
Lets say i have already learnt the content before and just need a refresher would you say this method still applies?
Yes – assume that you have to learn the whole subject from scratch. Then use…
1. Yojana to identify the best learning resource and calculate your daily page target.
2. The Scribble Technique to learn each page.
3. After you’ve finished the textbook, work through all the relevant past papers slowly and mark the short answer questions yourself. Get a teacher/tutor or us to mark your long answer/essay questions.
If you’re struggling to hit your daily page target, seek help! Don’t wait for the problem to fix itself.
How do I make sure I finish my page target everyday with homework and work set by my school?
This is a great question! You’ll have to squeeze the pages into the nooks and crannies of each day. For example, by reading a few pages of your textbook on the bus back home, you can familiarise yourself with the content. Therefore, at home, you won’t need to spend as long trying to understand the information.
Will I be able to actually be able to retain this information for when I’m in university for example? Thank you!
The core concepts – yes. Details – no.
I just wanted to know where exactly and how I would scribble down things. Would it be neat for me to reuse later or just messy notes? Also, for scribbling things i missed would i use a fresh piece of paper or the same one i used previously.
Many thanks, any real life examples or an explanation would be helpful if possible.
The Scribble Technique should be used to learn directly from your learning resources quickly. Usually, students are scribbling out the information so quickly that their writing is ineligible. You don’t need to keep these notes to review later. You could technically use the same piece of paper multiple times.
Hi, I am struggling to use Yojana, I can’t scroll down to see the rest of the page. What should I do?
Please click this link
I start my A Levels in 2 weeks and I want to make sure I can get on top of my work as soon as possible onceI start as i know people struggle with the large amounts at first. (I am taking Biology + 2 other a levels with an EPQ) What revision methods would you recommend for a year 12 which are effective? (I am aiming for straight A’s)
My advice is to prioritise self-study and use school/teachers as learning aids. Not the other way around. Create a study strategy that outlines what learning resources to revise from and calculate your daily page target. Work through these pages in your evenings and weekends.
i have 54 days left for my final grade 11 exam. i take a total of six subjects. How many hours should i study a day if i want to achieve an A* in biology?
Use Yojana to calculate this.
I will be taking my mock exams in September and they will be very crucial as it will heavily influence our prediction grades for UCAS. The Yojana application seems very useful and I will try that after I write this message, however I was wondering how I could stand out and definitely achieve an A star in A Level Biology, Chemistry and Psychology as many other people will do this. Also, as I am currently averaging Grade C/D,I was wondering if you could give me specific advice to improve to a Grade A/A* as I believe most people in my class have already achieved a grade the top end grades,so I would REALLY appreciate your help. Also, I have just about 2 months of no school to accomplish this, so your advice would REALLY help. Thank you, it would mean the world to me!!!!!
Hi Aleah. As you rightly insinuated, revising for a few hours a day during the summer months can give you a huge edge. This is because you have full control over your time. Teachers aren’t piling on homework and you don’t have spend hours dozing off in lessons. During my A-levels, I turned DDDU to straights As, and achieved this because of the work I did during:
1. The summer months
3. Free periods
5. Holiday periods
Have a read of How to ACE Your A-Levels then head over to Yojana again (we’ve updated the software) to generate your personalised study strategy. Yojana will tell you how many pages you need to cover a day. Attempt to hit this page target for 10 consecutive days. If you succeed, there is a good chance you can build a productive study routine that lasts the whole year. If you struggle, reach out to us and we can help.
How can this help an A’level student who is studying in Uganda
These learning techniques can be used by anyone. Scientists broadly agree that retrieval practice is the most effective way to prepare for exams – the Scribble Technique is a memory game that incorporates retrieval practice. Have a go!
How long should I revise for biology if i do 4 AS levels and the exams are currently cancelled for all subjects???
How long should i spend revising a sub chapter for example topic 2.2.3 etc.
How long should you revise for Biology AS levels? This depends on the amount of content you need to cover for all your subjects and the amount of time you have left before your final exams. Enter your subjects into Yojana and it will generate a report showing you…
1. What you should revise
2. How much you need to do a day and…
3. How to approach each subject
Just to add – even though the cancellation of 2020 exams due to COVID-19 has caused a lot of distress and uncertainty, it has opened up a unique opportunity to year 12 students like you. Effective self-study is far more effective that schooling. Use your time at home to execute the strategy Yojana creates for you and you’ll improve your chances of achieving top grades.
I hope that helps.
Hi!! I’m struggling to hit my daily target, I’m trying to understand the topic but my mind just blanks out after reading the textbook, so I keep having to check the textbook again and again. I also get tired quite easily too…
Also a quick question if you don’t mind, when I have to write out what I remember, can I just blurt out what is in my head or do I have to make a sentence?
Any advice/motivation would be much appreciated!
Hi Nelia. A-level Biology textbooks are chunky and most students peak a few times while using the Scribble Technique – which is fine! What is your current page target?
When writing out what you remember, you don’t need to write out full sentences and can scribble/blurt everything out (hence why it’s called the Scribble Technique.