Leaving cert biology is certainly one of the more extensive courses available to students. The thickness of its prescribed textbook often intimidates students, who soon realise the sheer volume of material which the leaving cert biology syllabus is comprised of. With just two academic years to cover the material, it is imperative for students to prepare as efficiently as possible for the final exam in order to maximise their potential result in the subject.
Often for students the dreaded June examinations come around much faster than expected and therefore it is important to stay on top of your preparations, working not just hard, but smart.
There are certain techniques that students can adopt throughout the course to ensure they put themselves in the best position possible to achieve their potential in the subject. Many of these approaches are no secret and have been tried and tested by high-achieving students for many years. The problem many students face is they never actually learn how to study for leaving cert biology.
Considering the length of the course and its associated workload, students should consider the allocated time for the examination which is just 3 hours.
While students may have a strong grasp of the material, it is equally, if not more important to convey this to the examiner within this tight time period. Students often spend months studying chapters and writing out essays only to run out of time in the leaving cert exam.
For this reason, I recommend students allocate sufficient time, particularly in the prior months to exam preparation. This entails familiarising yourself with the course structure, you will find that each year the exam follows the same structure, differentiated by the topics which show up in each section.
An understanding of the course structure and knowledge of past exams often enable students to better focus their learnings, providing them with a more exam-focused understanding of the respective leaving cert biology topics.
How should I prepare for the exam?
Furthermore, in relation to exam preparation, I also recommend students timing themselves completing exam questions. Surprisingly this is an area students struggle with quite a lot. Each year countless students hand up their papers and exit the exam hall before the end of the examination period. Similarly, other students can be seen racing to get as much information down onto their answer sheets as possible before the papers are collected.
Unfortunately, many students fall short and hand up their answer booklets with sections unanswered which will therefore be omitted from the marking in their final grade. Having completed the leaving cert biology course myself and achieved a grade of what is now equivalent to a H2 in today's system, I understand both of these situations to stem from mismanagement of time.
Instead, students could easily avoid putting themselves under unnecessary pressure in what is already an extremely strenuous week, by preparing for the exam under identical conditions beforehand so that they can put their nerves at ease by under familiar conditions on the day.
It is important that students put themselves in the best possible position for success in their leaving cert biology exam after their two years preparing for the assessment. In order to do just this, I have a multitude of techniques that I personally employed when preparing for my exam some years ago.
Each year the leaving cert biology course allocated 20% of its marks to the Coursework B experiment write-ups. This is a log of all the experiments that students are expected to have completed over the two-year course. Considering the amount of time available to students to prepare this experiment portfolio, I advise students to allocate sufficient time to preparing their experiment write-ups from the beginning of 5th year.
It is also important that students maximise their grade in the experiment write-ups so that they are setting themselves up for success when entering the final exam. In order to do this, I recommend students to do something which my biology teacher told me ‘avoid giving the examiner reasons to mark you down'.
So what exactly does this mean? It is always best to invision yourself as an examiner who has just opened your experiment write-ups. First of all, how does it look? Would you be happy with how it is presented? Are your diagrams clearly labeled and coloured and is your handwriting neat and descriptive? These are all important considerations to relay in your mind when preparing your write-ups in order to achieve the highest possible mark.
What resources can I use?
There is a multitude of resources available to students preparing for the leaving cert biology course. Perhaps the most essential, and often the least relied upon amongst students is the examination papers. Personally, I am a big advocate for the use of examination papers within the preparation for leaving cert biology ordinary level and higher level.
While the short questions found throughout the textbook are engaging and often surface a comprehensive understanding of the material, much of the material is not examined in this fashion in the final exam.
Incorporating examination papers as a primary resource within your preparations will give students a more realistic understanding of how questions will be presented to them on the day, as well as an idea of what they can expect to see appear in certain sections.
After all, the exam papers are a catalog of what has appeared in past years and are perhaps the best indicator of what could come up in future. Spending a few days going through past exam papers, particularly the previous 5-8 years can provide students with a finer scope as to where to focus subsequent preparations. As mentioned, this is a course with a significant amount of material, so it is important that’s students work smart as well as hard in order to achieve their potential.
Before spending money on crash courses and revision books in order to gain a competitive edge in your preparations, it is important to consult the material that you already have at your deposal. Your own handwritten notes can prove to be an extremely beneficial source for studying in the month leading up to your exam.
For this reason, I recommend students to place a particular focus and care when writing out their leaving cert biology notes. This is a personalised resource that can be extremely effective particularly in the weeks prior to the leaving cert exam. Condensing chapters into two or three pages allows students to extract the most essential information from each topic and can save a substantial amount of time when revising content.
There are plenty of additional resources and tips available to students to help take some of that weight off their shoulders and unlock their full academic potential. Some useful resources for the leaving cert biology course that are available to you when preparing for the final leaving cert Biology exam are revision books such as ‘Less Stress, More Success’ and ‘Revise Wise’, as well as online recourses such as Studyclix.ie and Sparknotes.com.
Using these resources to prepare for your exams can prove extremely beneficial though should not be used as a substitute for the course textbook and exam papers, but rather as a means of supplementing your learning.
Find a Biology tutor with Superprof
Superprof is a community that is comprised of millions of tutors around the world. There is certainly no shortage of biology tutors available to Irish students who wish to maximise their grades in the subject. Having a mentor to advise you in your preparations can prove extremely beneficial for students.
After all, you don’t get a choice in what leaving cert teacher you have for the two years, having the option to select your preferred tutor after availing of a free trial session allows students to select a tutor which works best with their preferred style of learning.
The service provides students with a degree of flexibility in how they learn. Students are given the opportunity to learn through both ‘in person’ and ‘remote’ options, either in the home of the student or tutor or via webcam. Students may also select their tutors on the basis of their qualifications to best suit their particular needs in the leaving cert subject.
Alternatively, students can select their tutor based on their respective rates to best suit their budget. The hourly rate of tutoring varies from about €8 right up to €30, with some tutors offering a reduced rate for 5 or 10-hour packages.
The majority of Irish biology tutors offer their first lesson for free, giving leaving cert students the opportunity to try out the service before making any commitments. Having an additional mentor to work through leaving cert biology solutions with is perhaps one of the more effective methods for preparing for that final exam.
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