So, it’s time to start revising for GCSE biology. But where do you begin? Trying to organise two years-worth of notes into a coherent plan can be a challenge. To help you get started with your GCSE biology revision, we’ve put together some practical tips to steer you in the right direction.
The first thing to consider before you start revising is what you’ll need to know for the exam. Knowing what topics you’ll be asked questions on can help you condense your revision into the essential areas. The GCSE biology exam is broken down into eight key topics:
The exam consists of two test papers that last 1 hour 45 minutes each. The first test paper asks questions on the first four topics in the syllabus and the second paper focuses on the last four topics. There are 100 marks available in each paper.
Once you’ve condensed your study notes down into the eight topics above, you can start planning what to study and when. The easiest way to organise your biology revision is to use a revision timetable.
All you really need is a spreadsheet, a diary, or a wall planner where you can mark out the weeks until your exam. Once you know how many weeks you have, decide which days you’ll dedicate to biology revision. Mark them out on your schedule and specify what topics you’ll study on particular days.
As your revision gets underway, mark off each complete day on your schedule so you can see how you’re progressing. Seeing those days being marked off on your calendar can provide you with the motivation to keep going.
Remember to include practice test papers alongside your topic revision. We suggest that you introduce GCSE biology practice tests into your studying from the very start, so you can identify any weak areas and dedicate more time to those types of questions.
One of the most effective ways to maintain your motivation for revising is to use several different approaches. The more variety you have in your revision, the more you’ll enjoy the process and the more information you’ll retain for the exam. Here are our top revision techniques:
Beat the Clock – Using biology practice tests, give yourself a time limit for specific questions. Set a timer and aim to answer the question as quickly as you can, while aiming for maximum points. This technique is particularly good for improving time management skills and getting used to answering questions under pressure.
Mind Mapping – If you’re a visual learner, you might find mind mapping a useful way to remember important formulas, facts and equations. Start with a central topic and write out all the important information that you need to know. Try doing it from memory first, and then consult your notes to fill in any gaps.
Cue Cards – Write out any formulas or keywords that you struggle to remember or explain on to A5 cards. Place them around your bedroom or elsewhere in the house and use them as visual prompts to verbally explain them. This spontaneous approach can help you think on your feet in the exam.
Student as Teacher – They say if you want to learn something, teach it. Ask a friend or family member to choose a topic from your revision notes and ask you a question. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sample exam question, even a general question about a process or formula will get your brain working. Explaining your answer will help boost your confidence going into the exam, as you’ll realise you know more than you think.
For some more useful revision techniques, watch how this student achieved A’s in her GCSE exams:
Command words are specific directions that indicate the type of answer you should give. Although it might seem obvious, understanding what’s being asked of you is essential to focusing your answer and attaining all available marks. In GCSE biology, some of the most common command words include:
Describe – Requires you to give an account of what is happening. For example, a ‘describe’ question could require you to outline a process, or write a sequence of events.
State – This command word requires you to write a statement, i.e. factual information. Typically, these types of questions require you to write a single word or sentence and rely on your retained knowledge.
Explain – An ‘explain’ command word requires you to provide details of why something happens. These are typically multi-step questions that require you to present your answer logically.
Compare and contrast – These command words require you to explore what’s similar and what’s different between two processes, ideas etc. These questions can be tricky and students often lose marks for failing to complete both parts.
Using practice tests is one of the most effective ways to revise for GCSE biology. Not only do they help familiarise you with the layout of the test papers, but they get you used to answering the types of questions you’ll be presented with in the exam.
At Exam Papers Plus, we publish GCSE biology revision packs that cover all eight topics in the syllabus. As part of the process of creating our packs, we thoroughly analysed examiners’ reports from previous years to ensure that our questions cover all possible topics.
To fully prepare you for the biology exam, we’ve also included some of the most challenging questions you’re likely to come across. We’ve gathered information on the types of questions that students usually struggle with the most and included them in our packs to prepare you for every eventuality.
Our packs can help boost your confidence in the lead up to exam day. Knowing that we’ve covered every question type will give you peace of mind that you’re fully prepared.
All of our GCSE packs are written and developed by former GCSE physics examiners and markers. They focus on the key skills that you’ll need to do well in higher tier GCSE exams.
We’d highly recommend the following resources to help with your GCSE biology revision:
All of our packs are available immediately after download.
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