How to Revise for A-Level Biology – Proven A* Strategy

by | Jan 8, 2020 | A-Level | 2 comments

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 64,139 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:

  1.  Number of subjects you are doing
  2. Amount of information you need to learn
  3. How many days are left between now and the exam
  4. 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:

AQA - Biology

Edexcel - Biology

OCR - Biology A

OCR - Biology B (Advancing Biology)

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…

Be stubborn

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…

  1. Use the scribble technique to learn all the relevant content in your learning resources
  2. Attempt and complete all the relevant non-past paper questions
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  1. Learn conversions and practice micrograms to cm. There will always be a magnification calculation like this.
  1. 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.
  1. Practice drawing out the processes for respiration and photosynthesis with the relevant coenzymes. These can be easy to confuse.
  1. Module 5 action potentials and excretion are difficult topics that are likely to come up. Learn these well.
  1. Know the difference between the uses and processes of DNA sequencing vs. DNA profiling.

Need help?

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.

Doing GCSEs/iGCSEs? Click here to add more subjects

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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.

Doing GCSEs/iGCSEs? Click here to add more subjects

We love GDPR and GDRP loves us. Click here to read our privacy policy

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