Biology is one of the more popular fields of science offered to students at leaving cert level, and justifiably so given the fascinating topics which students are given the opportunity to delve into throughout the two-year program.
Biology is a subject which builds on some core topics which student will be familiar with from the predecessor junior cert course while introducing new facets of the subject resulting in the engaging syllabus which students are so fond of.
Students will pick up some invaluable skills through learning about the study of life as well as developing some core competencies necessary both in life and career progression. This is a versatile subject that can kickstart a career path in engineering, science, biotechnology, biomedical science as well as the food & beverage industry.
The potential and opportunity which surfaces for students who study biology is something that continues to grow exponentially as the industry follows an upward trajectory. For students who may be unsure as to which subjects they would like to study for the leaving cert, this is certainly a promising option for consideration.
It is important that students studying the subject are aware that the associated learnings of the biology course extend far beyond the exam. Ultimately, the course will serve to provide students with a productive portfolio of learnings through its material for those who wish to continue their studies in the subject after graduating from secondary school, as well as those who merely wish to achieve a high grade in the exam.
The combination of both learnings and skills which students develop in the process of completing the biology course is often applicable across other career paths outside of science as well as in everyday life.
Students will also have the opportunity to employ these learnings within the science lab on a multitude of occasions throughout the course. This is an opportunity often welcomed by students which enables them to collaborate either as a class or in pairs in applying the respective material in a series of experiments which are thereafter written up for submission as part of the leaving cert biology curriculum.
The leaving cert biology course engages students in the material through a multitude of modes of learning such as class discussion, book learning, and within the lab. In this article, I will provide a series of key tips and a guide for students revising the leaving cert biology syllabus as well as some best practice exam tactics.
Where should I start my study?
The main tip that I can give to leaving cert students who are beginning their preparations for the final biology exam is not to fixate on taking shortcuts and spending unnecessary money on additional resources. In order for value to be realised in these supplementary resources, students must first acquire a comprehensive understanding of the course material.
It's quite simple, it is important to start with the basics and build on this knowledge by implementing additional resources. Students often fall into the trap of spending hundreds of euros on grinds courses and online subscriptions before consulting the most crucial resource, your biology textbook.
It is important that students read through their leaving cert textbooks and test their knowledge by completing the set of questions that accompanies the respective chapter. This will ensure that the student has a sense of the chapter’s material while allowing them to pinpoint their weaknesses and better target their learning going forward.
The leaving cert textbook is a reliable source that includes all examinable aspects of the curriculum. I recommend that student begin their study by reading through the content found within their school textbook.
What else can I do to help my learning?
Building on this, students may find value in keeping a hardback for their leaving cert biology notes. This is a great way to revise the content which would have been introduced when reading over the content. This exercise is beneficial for numerous reasons, Firstly, writing out the notes helps students to remember the material.
The hardback will become a useful source of information, particularly in the build-up to the exam, and will likely save students a copious amount of time when revising.
Lastly the act of condensing chapters down to 3-5 pages of notes means that students will need to be selective in the material which they choose to include, therefore familiarising themselves with the most essential pieces of information from each chapter.
Another tip that I would give to leaving cert biology students is to revise and consult the notes which you have created continuously throughout the year. While you may feel confident in your understanding of a given section of the course, as you continue to explore new areas of the course you will likely see a decline across sections that you have covered in the past.
It is imperative that as you progress through the course as a class, that you revisit this material individually. This will help out in the long run and reduce the amount of work that you leave for yourself in the latter part of the program.
How should I approach the final exam?
A common trap which students tend to fall into year after year is to focus solely on preparing the leaving cert biology material without familiarising themselves with the exam format or conditions. Considering the amount of work that is associated with the course, it is important that you put yourself in the best position to showcase the work that you have done over the two years.
An understanding of the marking breakdown for each of the three sections that feature on the biology paper will give students a sense of where they should allocate their time in order to maximise their result under exam conditions. I would advise students to practice working through leaving cert biology solutions under exam conditions in order to put any nerves to rest on the big day.
In section A of the paper, students should spend no more than 30 minutes answering their selected short questions. Often this is a section where students may save some valuable minutes for completing the remainder of the paper. In order to keep on top of your time, if there is a question that you do not immediately know the answer to, move on and avoid spending too much time trying to figure out the answer.
Timekeeping is perhaps one of the most important considerations for students outside of their revision of the course material. Allowing 10 minutes at the end of the exam to quickly read over your paper will ensure that you do not put yourself under any unnecessary pressure when finishing the exam, while proving student with the opportunity to answer any questions which they may have left blank.
For section B, students are required to answer any two questions, similarly, students should spend approximately 30 minutes in this section. This section will examine the students’ knowledge of experiments which they have covered over the two years with some short questions on its accompanying material.
Here students should avoid rushing their diagrams and ensure that they are neatly labelled to avoid being marked down by the examiner.
Lastly, provided that the first two sections have been completed in the suggested time, There will be a remaining two hours in the exam to complete any of the four questions within the section. Each of the questions in this section carries 15 marks and should take about the same amount of time to complete. In this paper, you will be marked on your best questions if you answer more than the required amount.
I would discourage students from answering additional questions unless they are not confident in the questions which they have already completed. It is often important to consider the mark-to-minute ratio of the paper, answering additional questions when it is not necessary to do so would inherently mean that you are not optimally using your time in the exam hall.
Where to find a tutor?
Particularly in situations where time is constrained such as throughout leaving cert preparations, where students are juggling their revision with multiple other subjects, a tutor can be an invaluable resource to coach you through your exam training and understanding how to study for biology.
This method of study is often positively perceived by students as it allows them to learn through a one-to-one setting in a way that best suits their style of learning.
Superprof is a community that consisted of millions of tutors from around the world and there is certainly no shortage of tutors to help with your biology exam preparations.
The service provides students with a degree of flexibility in how they approach their learning for the subject, allowing students to select whether they would like to learn from the comfort of their home, the home of the tutor, or on a remote basis via webcam.
The first lesson is often available free of charge, giving the student the opportunity to try out the service before making any purchase decisions.
Once students have developed a comprehensive understanding of the leaving cert biology syllabus from their school textbook and their own notebook, this is perhaps the most effective resource for students to employ within their exam preparations at leaving cert biology ordinary level and higher level.