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OCR Biology A2 :)

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    Hi there,

    basically I got 3 UMS below an A at AS so I was really hoping for an A overall and to boost up my grade at A2, but I can't get the hang of answering the questions. I always lose marks because I know what I want to say, I just can't word it. I look at the mark schemes and I understand all the stufff, but then obviously when there are different questions in the exam, I still can't answer the questions in the right way to get the marks.

    Has anyone got any advice?
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    (Original post by banana-milkshake)
    Hi there,

    basically I got 3 UMS below an A at AS so I was really hoping for an A overall and to boost up my grade at A2, but I can't get the hang of answering the questions. I always lose marks because I know what I want to say, I just can't word it. I look at the mark schemes and I understand all the stufff, but then obviously when there are different questions in the exam, I still can't answer the questions in the right way to get the marks.

    Has anyone got any advice?
    I usually annotate the information I'm given i.e. highlight key words that I think are important before I even read the question. If they give you a long introductory paragraph most of it will just be there to fill space, make sure you know what the key points are. Never start answering the question until you understand the info given, can relate it to something you have studied/revised and can link it to the question given. The examiner will try and trick you on purpose.
    How did you do at F214?
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    (Original post by The Illuminati)
    I usually annotate the information I'm given i.e. highlight key words that I think are important before I even read the question. If they give you a long introductory paragraph most of it will just be there to fill space, make sure you know what the key points are. Never start answering the question until you understand the info given, can relate it to something you have studied/revised and can link it to the question given. The examiner will try and trick you on purpose.
    How did you do at F214?
    Thanks for the advice

    I got a C at F214 I'm retaking it this summer, and although I feel like when I do it again in the summer I'll know much more detail, I'm still worried I'll trip up on questions that they don't expect me to know i.e. the suggest questions.

    I don't know if you did the paper in January, but the one on the respirometer threw me, and the last question on nerves threw me which was the fill in the gap question. Its those ones that really frustrate me because with the nerves one I could explain all about transmission, but the question was kind of vague and the concept (in my opinion) wasn't a really huge topic on the spec and so I felt a bit confused. Although loads of the recall ones like on the pregnancy testing I liked, and I thought I did ok. I've got my paper recalled so I look through it in more detail where I went wrong, but I think I just find it so frustrating how often the grade boundaries and so close, and I seem to be going downhill since AS, which I'm presuming might be down to the change in style of questions at A2.
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    Yeah I did do that paper. I got an A in that paper but I only think it was because of my annotations. The suggest questions are the worst as I always end up thinking ‘how the hell would I know this’ but its usually either common sense or something you’ve already learnt.

    The paper was strange the last page was really similar to the first 2 pages of the June 2011 F214 paper.

    PM me if you need any help, it must be really frustrating to have to do 2 bio exams in the same exam period. I feel your pain, Im doing the same for chemistry ☹
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    I'm in the exact same position, i need an A for university but am really struggling because of the explain and suggest questions - i've been advised to quickly put 3 or 4 bullet points as this is much clearer to the examiners, and really answers the question directly, rather than waffling.
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    (Original post by jme18)
    I'm in the exact same position, i need an A for university but am really struggling because of the explain and suggest questions - i've been advised to quickly put 3 or 4 bullet points as this is much clearer to the examiners, and really answers the question directly, rather than waffling.
    I try to use bullet points as thats what our school have encouraged us - but I still find it hard. I think in the end I just put down loads of extra stuff or even extra bullet points 'just to be safe'. Its just now I'm doing the F215 past papers, I'm realising how much harder it really is. I think I've just got to try and be more patient and think before I answer the question, but its the timings I get worried about when I spend to much time thinking about it first!
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    (Original post by The Illuminati)
    Yeah I did do that paper. I got an A in that paper but I only think it was because of my annotations. The suggest questions are the worst as I always end up thinking ‘how the hell would I know this’ but its usually either common sense or something you’ve already learnt.

    The paper was strange the last page was really similar to the first 2 pages of the June 2011 F214 paper.

    PM me if you need any help, it must be really frustrating to have to do 2 bio exams in the same exam period. I feel your pain, Im doing the same for chemistry ☹
    Thanks - Last year we did both exams in summer, because our school doesn't like January exams, but this time around I think I've kind of underestimated F215, and its now I'm looking at it/ doing practise questions and getting a bit nervous.

    How do you find timings in the exam? I get worried that if I spend too long thinking about the question first, I'll run out of time at the end. But, I might try and use the habit a lot more when doing practise questions so I can get into the habit of it, and so I feel more calm doing it in exams.
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    (Original post by banana-milkshake)
    Thanks - Last year we did both exams in summer, because our school doesn't like January exams, but this time around I think I've kind of underestimated F215, and its now I'm looking at it/ doing practise questions and getting a bit nervous.

    How do you find timings in the exam? I get worried that if I spend too long thinking about the question first, I'll run out of time at the end. But, I might try and use the habit a lot more when doing practise questions so I can get into the habit of it, and so I feel more calm doing it in exams.
    I speed through the paper first and answer all the questions that I know I can get with minimal thinking just to collect marks i.e. questions like what to alpha cells secrete. This takes me 10-15 minutes depending on how many of these type there are and how many marks they are worth.I then go onto the harder questions i.e. experiment ones or essay type ones. The essay ones I have usually prepared beforehand so if it's nothing too leftfield I can answer it in a decent amount of time. I answer them in a hybrid built point/ written out way so that I can still be clear without taking up a lot of time. I usually will write the key words I think they will be looking for before I being writing e.g. if the question states something about the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule I would immediately write somewhere the words: efferent, afferent, hydrostatic pressure, ultrafiltration, podocytes, finger-like projections just to save thinking time.
    I find that writing in full sentences leads to waffling, which leads to confusing myself so even when I know the answer, what I've written doesn't show that,

    all this usually leaves me with plenty of time to go over the dreaded suggest question and experiment questions. I like to have at least 20 minutes to check every little part at the end just in case. If I'm not happy with an answer I at least have this time to think about any changes I would like to make to it.

    I wouldn't underestimate F215, it's the final chance to get the grade you want, I'm putting all my focus on it because I'll be so angry if I don't get the grade I want
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    that sounds like a good technique- I might try and get some more past papers and try this at home under timed conditions and see if it works for me. I usually end up going into the paper and doing it all as I go along, occasionally missing questions to go back to at the end, but often I get paranoid incase I'll miss a question out by doing it this way, or if I'll end up not giving myself enough time at the end, but I guess the only way I'll know is if I practise on past paper questions.

    The key word idea also might be good- I might try and see if for each topic I can have a set of key words aswell.

    Thank you for your help I'll have a go at the techniques in the next few weeks and see how they go
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    The Illuminati's technique is quite good, not much different from mine. I always left the questions on topics that I wasn't interested in until the end too, such as ecology and plants. I didn't revise much on those topics so tried to pick up as many marks as possible in the other areas.

    I never got into the whole bullet pointing, most of my answers, especially for the longer questions were quite long, but that was just my writing style, it does work for some people however, as long as you are still clear with your answers and include all the relevant key-words that are gonna earn you the marks.

    Another thing I would do, especially on questions over 1 mark would be to count in my head each valid mark worthy point I had written, then try and add another one or two valid points just to cover my ass, as usually the mark schemes have more marks on them than you can actually get in the questions.

    Before moving on from a question I would just quickly read the question again, making sure I had answered it properly.

    I never really had much time at the end to check over my answers, because I did spent quite a lot of time writing detailed answers, especially for the essay type questions, and then for those more challenging questions quite a bit of time thinking before answering.

    That's just what worked for me. Using that approach I ended up getting 100% UMS in all 4 modules. Biology A level is about 70% exam technique. There were people in school who spent a lot more time revising and probably had more knowledge than me, and who had read around the subject material, but missed out on A*s and As because of poor exam technique.
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    (Original post by persov)
    There were people in school who spent a lot more time revising and probably had more knowledge than me, and who had read around the subject material, but missed out on A*s and As because of poor exam technique.

    ^^exactly my problem in Chemistry

    Well done on 100% UMS in Biology though. :congrats: I'm really impressed. What do you study now?
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    Going to be studying Geology next year. Did Medicine last year but really didn't like it.

    My problem in Chemistry was not knowing the material enough lol.

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Updated: April 13, 2012
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