How to pass A-Level Biology

by Anita Naik

A-level Biology was the third most popular A-level in 2020, and it looks to remain in this year's top five. Its popularity is down to several factors, including the fact it can lead to a wealth of degrees in STEM, Environmental Science, Forensic Science, Physiotherapy, and Sports Science, to name but a few. Like all Science A-levels, there is, however, a large amount of content on the Biology specification and passing takes organisation and long term revision. Here's what you need to know.

Revise after every class

Numerous factors make Biology A-level hard, but the biggest by far is the sheer amount of content to work through. To combat this, what helps is to consolidate the workload as you learn.

Right from the beginning of Year 12, get used to writing revision notes after every single lesson. This helps you in two ways. Firstly making notes per lesson manages the workload for revision nearer to your exams. This technique forces you to see A-level revision as an ongoing process, which then helps with recall and memory.

Practice active recall on all your notes

Active recall involves retrieving information from memory by testing yourself on the material you have been working on. It's a retrieval process that will stimulate your mind to locate a piece of information and remember it. For example, after making notes on proteins post-class, ask yourself, 'What are the 5 main functions of proteins?'

You can use flashcards for active recall or a tool like Quizlet but ensure you work on this technique to strengthen your knowledge and memory after every lesson.

Work on your data analysis skills

The mathematical element of A-level Biology has increased. Still, if you have done the higher tier maths GCSE, you will be fine as long as you practice evaluating data and understanding critical analysis.

This means regularly working through data example questions from your textbooks and trying your hand at data questions from past A-level Biology papers. This practice will help fine-tune your critical analysis skills and your understanding of what's being asked in data questions.

Stay organised

Staying organised is a big one with A-levels that have a considerable amount of content like Biology. It pays to have a structure and filing system right from the start; otherwise, you will lose critical information or have too much work to do at the end of the year.

Have a folder per topic or module for your notes, class handouts and class notes that enables you to go over them quickly. Or a large arch level file with dividers for each topic with each term.

Work on your memorisation and productivity techniques

Flashcards, diagrams, quizzes and more can all help with the amount of theory you have to remember in this subject. Opt for the techniques that best help you retain the information you need—for instance, flow diagrams for processes, flashcards for terms and quizzes for active recall.

If you are having trouble being productive with the workload, try The Pomodoro technique - revise for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break. Every four Pomodoro's take a 30-minute break.

25-minute work sprints are the core of this method, and the idea is that you are breaking down complex topics into smaller, actionable steps that are easier to revise and remember.

Make use of A-level Biology resources

There are some brilliant A-level resources available to help you revise, fine-tune your knowledge and learn more. Make sure you incorporate them into your study schedule. The Khan Academy has a very comprehensive Biology library that covers a wealth of material.

A-Level Biology has comprehensive revision material for all A-level specifications with mind maps, quizzes and PowerPoint lessons and free sample notes.

Finally, consider working with a Biology Tutor who can help with all of the above as well as exam technique and the data part of the exam.