Personally, I found GCSE Biology a struggle however with focused revision I managed to pass with a grade 9. I found human biology the most difficult in particular DNA as it was a complex topic which required a lot of thought.
The topics I found easier were plant biology and the brain because if you learnt the key facts you could usually score full marks in these questions. Another reason I found Biology difficult was for the simple fact that it was a double lesson and I really struggled to remain focused for this length of time!
One of my top tips for revision is to learn how you learn! I am a linguistic learner meaning I learn through writing things down but everyone has their own learning style so I strongly encourage you to find yours.
Finding a healthy work life balance is also important, I wanted to get good grades but I couldn't afford to sacrifice my mental or physical health just to achieve. I also took art gcse which requires a lot of time and this made fitting in revision even more difficult as I always had a lot of art course work to do. As I enjoyed art I used my revision breaks to complete coursework as it relaxed my brain allowing me to absorb all the information I had just revised.
Here’s the syllabus of the Biology exam board I took.
By the way, I used The Exam Coach’s Online Exam Preparation Bootcamp to help me through my GCSE year. Now more than ever, students need all the help they can get, and this audio course would be my number one recommendation for you this year. You can also apply a 80% discount if you use the code: BOOTCAMP at the checkout after reading my post (available for a limited time only).
GCSE Biology Classwork
During year 10 my approach to classwork was lazy and I didn't really care about learning the information and thus only achieved a grade 5 in my exam. This low grade made me reset my mind for year 11 and I returned with a more positive approach and listened to every piece of advice I was given. One way I found to keep my brain in gear was keeping my notes well presented as this motivated me to stay focused throughout the lesson. While this worked for me others found it less helpful as they get absorbed in the presentation of their work and stop focussing on what it’s about. Therefore, try this tip: make sure that you still know what your writing down instead of just caring about making it look ‘pretty’.
In year 11 I asked my teacher a lot of questions during class to try and understand every topic. Some may think that it's embarrassing however my view was that I wouldn't talk to most of the people in that classroom in 5 years time so who cares! However if you do feel self conscious and feel you are asking stupid questions then see your teacher after class in private.
Something else that helped me was reviewing my notes from each class each night. This works with all your subjects not just biology. This was helpful as I was reminded of what I learned. The Exam Coach has also made a video on this technique, it’s called spaced repetition.
GCSE Biology Revision
To achieve my grade 9 I used a host of revision techniques such as flash cards, making notes, watching videos and getting others to quiz me on topics. While it may seem like a lot of work to make flashcards they are effective if used correctly (remember to test yourself), so the time spent will be worth it in the long run.
The way I made my flashcards was by looking at the question box in the corner of the page in my textbook and writing these onto flash cards and putting the answers on the back. If your textbooks don't include this feature you could use the Quizlet website provides a lot of flashcards and could give you ideas of what to write on yours or you could use the online flashcards on their website to save you some work.
I also made revision notes which were extremely helpful as they allowed me to go into more detail than flashcards, the details are key to achieving the highest grades.
The topics I had to work the hardest on where the DNA and genes topics. I did this by watching YouTube videos here are a few suggestions:
Both channels are perfect for all your sciences and they contain videos on every aspect of the syllabus. All you need to do to find a video on the topic your having difficulty understanding is search the topic name along with GCSE and the subject the topic belongs to. These videos are great if you're an auditory learner or kinesthetic learner as you can listen and watch what is happening. If you are a linguistic learner like me then you could take notes on these videos. Watching videos like these can really help the information sink in.
Past papers are another great way of revising. For this I printed out past GCSE papers and mark schemes, had a go at them, and marked them myself. This gave me an honest idea of where I was at in my revision and what I needed to focus on. The website Revision World is a great resource to find these papers.
From this I saw that I was scoring full marks on the one and two mark questions but my 6 mark answers were not so great as I was failing to provide enough detail to get all the marks. So I took a look at my revision again and revisited the exam papers I had already done. It was this process of constant review and repetition which eventually helped me begin scoring the highest marks.
The GCSE Biology Exam
All the revision I mentioned above needs a lot of motivation and doing the right things consistently! This is where The Exam Coach can help out. I’d highly recommend you use the WhatsApp Service to help keep you on track throughout the year and exam season.
Coming up to the exam time I was extremely anxious (as were most of my friends). Our whole school career had led up to this, while teachers don’t advise cramming I fully believe that going over the key notes just before the exam really helped me in some of the longer answers. In exams, I tend to over stress and under estimate how much I understand. On the day of the exam I ate a good breakfast and had a good sleep the night before to be sure I was ready as staying up late to revise doesn’t work for me. Listening to some WhatsApp voice notes from The Exam Coach during your exams definitely helps settle you down and focus on getting the basics right.
My technique for working through the exam was working through the questions I found easiest first. Once I have worked through the questions that are easiestI go back and spend more time on the more difficult ones and really think about them. Once I have completed everything I possibly can I go back and check for silly errors - there are always some! Suffice to say, I was shocked at the amount of silly mistakes I had made and I’m glad I checked through and corrected them.
After all my stress the exam went fine and I think adrenaline probably served me a few extra marks! After my initial panic at struggling with a lot of the first questions I was happy to receive a grade 9, this reminded me of a quote from Matilda:
“The distance the shot put goes depends upon the effort you put into it.” - Miss Trunchbull
Although this quote is said by the villain in the story, I do think it’s true, especially when applied to exam preparation!
GCSE Biology - Pro Tips
Don’t panic, everyone has weaknesses but with focused revision you can work through them
Create a clear and balanced exam timetable that you will be motivated to use daily. Here’s a good post called ‘How To Make A Revision Timetable’ by The Exam Coach.
Use past papers to figure out what you currently know and what you need to revise
Watch videos to help you revise and mix your revision methods up a bit
Get motivation and tips on how to revise and prepare consistently and effectively with The Exam Coach
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