How to study for IB Biology HL? Use these tips to get you up to a Level 7 in SL/HL Biology.
Learning new material:
- Make good notes. Due to the amount of content needed for the IB Biology Exam, it is important to have a go-to source of any information that could come up. I made detailed notes from the textbook and the syllabus for each topic and then condensed them down into flashcards. Making your own notes, whether handwritten or typed, is the perfect way to do this. However, if you don’t have the time to make your own notes, you can use mine: here.
- Make flashcards for vocabulary and key terms. IB Biology is very content heavy and there are many terms that you need to learn and be able to define. Making flashcards is a great way to consolidate this knowledge and it is easy to review them later on. These flashcards can either be classic paper flashcards or digitally in an app such as Quizlet or StudyBlue. I have made flashcards for all IB Biology topics. I also found this quiz to test your knowledge.
- Make mind maps, flowcharts and draw diagrams for the various processes. Presenting information in a way that you can understand is the best way to learn in IB Biology.
- Mind maps are great for
- Flowcharts are perfect for any process with defined stages or a sequence of events. Examples include: DNA Replication, DNA Translation, DNA Transcription, Stages of PCR, Electron Transport Chains etc.
- Drawing diagrams is arguably the most effective way of studying for biology. Much of the content found in the course can be simplified down to a diagram.
- Use a whiteboard for the ‘draw’ questions. There are about 30 different ‘draw’ syllabus points that the examiners could ask you about and these are easy marks to pick up. There’s no need for any artistic skills and knowing how to draw an animal cell or the Carbon Cycle could gain you anywhere between 2 and 6 marks. I have created a list of all the things you need to be able to draw (with diagrams) here.
- If you struggle with remembering names of various molecules or organisms or structures, try breaking down complex word into their roots. For example:
Hydrolysis: water + splitting
- Make sure that you understand the information from the previous lesson before attending the next one. The information will pile up and soon enough there will be so much to learn, you will have to effectively self teach yourself the new information, which takes a lot more time and effort. The key here is the word ‘understand‘. There is no point in being able to memorise the facts if you cannot apply them to a question in the exam.
- Read over your notes from time to time. Whenever you have a free moment, skim through your notes to make them as familiar as possible to you. For example, if you are eating breakfast along, lay your notes out in front of you instead of checking on your social media. This will overcome the curve of forgetting:
- Follow your syllabus/specification point by point. Here is a link to it if you don’t know how to find it.
- Paper 1: Multiple Choice Paper
- Paper 2: Structured short and long answer questionsShort answer questions
- Long, free-response questions are those that you must answer on separate lined paper in the back of the exam (in the style of an essay). Practice doing these under timed conditions, for example set yourself 20 minutes to do the whole questions (with part (a), (b) and (c))
- Paper 3: Practical and data questions + Option TopicIf possible, choose an option topic you are interested in or that you find easy.
- Practice the data questions as much as possible. There’s no real way to ‘study’ for these questions, so doing many of them will and checking your answers against the mark scheme is the best way to ace them in the exam.
- Internal Assessment. This counts for 20% of your grade, so do it well! A post all about writing a 20/20 IA is coming soon.
- Know your command words. It is crucial to know the difference between describe and evaluate. Here is a great summary of the command terms.
Links for revision sites:
- Notes by spec point (incomplete)
- Presentations: Chris Pane (amazing)
- Presentation: Stephen Taylor
Best textbooks and revision guides:
- Have good notes
- Use flashcards for keywords, diagrams and condensed notes
- Understand the structure of the exam and how to prepare for each paper
- Use a good textbook
Contact me if you have any questions: