How can I actually get a good grade at a-level biology AQA???

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blabla1184
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#1
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#1
Like I've been getting D's and C's at the beginning but wasn't too harsh on myself since I've heard of A-level stories being trajectory and stuff, and I've improved and getting B's now but I want to be getting A's and A*'s
I get it, content, right.
Ok if I fix my knowledge on that, it's actually just answering the questions
and yeah I know I should do past paper questions but like some of the answers are just so weird? like of course it makes sense but you would never think to answer like that in the first place, and every exam we have, its always those weird questions
and the math questions are weird too, like I'm doing fine in a-level maths and the maths in biology I can do, it's more like 'what do they even want from me?'
the application questions need actual thinking skills, not just regurgitating knowledge, and this is a key skill that I need to apply to other areas of my life so I can't just use a 'hack' (I have been told many times that I am academic smart but have no street smarts lmao, ouchhhhjkjk)
I hope I'm not being silly because I'm actually dumb no joke, and I need to just be smart for this exam

only 2 people get the A's and A*s, first girl got A's more recently but be getting B's and A's all year round, this girl is actually just smart, good memory, able to think and stuff (and I don't think she's one of those people that just said she didn't revise, like there and there she does, but here and her friend study together, and her friend be getting C's no private tutor either so no help) the other girl has been getting A*s from the begining and when asking her for advice she was very nice and honest and told me stuff like active recall and past paper q's, I've asked another outside of school who already achieved like the top 80-90% in their exam and they said the same thing which I know is true but I'm just a dumb person

but I still think I should be able to achieve those grades?? I don't really feel like I'm academically smart, I'm the last one in the class who actually understands whats going on, I just study my socks off to ensure I can catch up and get the grades, so I don't really believe things like, some people 'just' cant reach those grades (in like normal circumstances pls noone take offense)
and hence any specific advice that can help me?
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CaptainDuckie
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#2
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#2
A* student here.

Biology is notoriously known for ridiculously specific Mark schemes. Don’t worry. After analysing your weak points:

Carry on doing past papers, but instead of just leaving them forever, turn the question into a flashcard and retrieve the points to the marks again and again until you’re hitting all points. If you were to see a variation of the same question, you’ll be sorted. (Also if it’s like a 4 marker, then put 6 points if you can but make sure it doesn’t contradict your other points.)

You could spend time doing the mathsy side of biology, you could get the workbook for it, and honestly just practice.

As for the application questions, you need to get good at following the specification points. If you learn everything in there, nothing in the exam will be new to you. And it tells you specifically if it’s something you need to spend some time actually understanding instead of memorising. Or if it doesn’t then doing a lot of past papers should quickly pick out topics you need to understand in depth.
Last edited by CaptainDuckie; 1 month ago
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A Rolling Stone
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#3
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#3
(Original post by blabla1184)
Like I've been getting D's and C's at the beginning but wasn't too harsh on myself since I've heard of A-level stories being trajectory and stuff, and I've improved and getting B's now but I want to be getting A's and A*'s
I get it, content, right.
Ok if I fix my knowledge on that, it's actually just answering the questions
and yeah I know I should do past paper questions but like some of the answers are just so weird? like of course it makes sense but you would never think to answer like that in the first place, and every exam we have, its always those weird questions
and the math questions are weird too, like I'm doing fine in a-level maths and the maths in biology I can do, it's more like 'what do they even want from me?'
the application questions need actual thinking skills, not just regurgitating knowledge, and this is a key skill that I need to apply to other areas of my life so I can't just use a 'hack' (I have been told many times that I am academic smart but have no street smarts lmao, ouchhhhjkjk)
I hope I'm not being silly because I'm actually dumb no joke, and I need to just be smart for this exam

only 2 people get the A's and A*s, first girl got A's more recently but be getting B's and A's all year round, this girl is actually just smart, good memory, able to think and stuff (and I don't think she's one of those people that just said she didn't revise, like there and there she does, but here and her friend study together, and her friend be getting C's no private tutor either so no help) the other girl has been getting A*s from the begining and when asking her for advice she was very nice and honest and told me stuff like active recall and past paper q's, I've asked another outside of school who already achieved like the top 80-90% in their exam and they said the same thing which I know is true but I'm just a dumb person

but I still think I should be able to achieve those grades?? I don't really feel like I'm academically smart, I'm the last one in the class who actually understands whats going on, I just study my socks off to ensure I can catch up and get the grades, so I don't really believe things like, some people 'just' cant reach those grades (in like normal circumstances pls noone take offense)
and hence any specific advice that can help me?
i used a particular method to get 98% in my AQA biology a level back in the day when i used to get Cs and Ds. call it the "+1 method". every September your teachers will tell you "what we taught you last year was a lie" because the truth in biology is more complicated. well if you pre-empt that, then having the deeper knowledge will make the 'simpler' version required for your exams seem... simple. you can get this from researching the topics in more advanced textbooks just 1 level higher than required. the same applies to reading around the topic, by reading around you will understand the context for what you are trying to learn rather than just the thing itself

also, always look up the internet such as wikipedia for semantic context . eg. if you have to remember a Latin name look up the actual meaning in Latin, as a clue to its function
Last edited by A Rolling Stone; 1 month ago
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A Rolling Stone
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#4
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#4
(Original post by CaptainDuckie)
A* student here.

Biology is notoriously known for ridiculously specific Mark schemes. Don’t worry. After analysing your weak points:

Carry on doing past papers, but instead of just leaving them forever, turn the question into a flashcard and retrieve the points to the marks again and again until you’re hitting all points. If you were to see a variation of the same question, you’ll be sorted.

You could spend time doing the mathsy side of biology, you could get the workbook for it, and honestly just practice.

As for the application questions, you need to get good at following the specification points. If you learn everything in there, nothing in the exam will be new to you. And it tells you specifically if it’s something you need to spend some time actually understanding instead of memorising. Or if it doesn’t then doing a lot of past papers should quickly pick out topics you need to understand in depth.
"understanding instead of memorising" is the key. technically you do entirely need to memorise the facts, but its just about getting out of the mental intention of 'memorising' and going in with an attitude of actually understanding and then you'll memorise by virtue of that
Last edited by A Rolling Stone; 1 month ago
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CaptainDuckie
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#5
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#5
(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
"understanding instead of memorising" is the key. technically you do entirely need to memorise the facts, but its just about getting out of the 'mental intention' of 'memorising' and going in with an attitude of actually understanding and then you'll memorise by virtue of that

I agree.

I also agree with your other advice. Wikipedia is good to get an in-depth understanding of something, but I would only say the caveat of it would be it can easily be edited and sometimes some of the things in there are actually wrong.

So I wouldn’t go too in depth, rather just beyond the scope of the specification slightly. Nothing wrong with that.
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Scotney
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#6
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#6
I would also go on youtube and look at videos on exam technique.There is a rhythm to answering questions.You need to look at points allocated to questions and make those amount of points.Be careful to restrict these points to A2 knowledge not what you did at gcse.Also read the wording of questions carefully.There is nothing in those questions that is there for nothing.
Same goes for synoptic essays.You have to weight questions fairly equally with first facts about how something works eg an enzyme within the body then give equal waiting to what happens if the enzyme is not present.You also need tolink each point back to question.
Honestly dedicate a weekend to watching purely technique videos.It will transform your marks.Make notes and then practice, practice,practice
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blabla1184
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#7
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#7
Thank you for the analysis of my weak points!

This will definitely come in handy due to its specifics, thanks!!

(Original post by CaptainDuckie)
A* student here.

Biology is notoriously known for ridiculously specific Mark schemes. Don’t worry. After analysing your weak points:

Carry on doing past papers, but instead of just leaving them forever, turn the question into a flashcard and retrieve the points to the marks again and again until you’re hitting all points. If you were to see a variation of the same question, you’ll be sorted. (Also if it’s like a 4 marker, then put 6 points if you can but make sure it doesn’t contradict your other points.)

You could spend time doing the mathsy side of biology, you could get the workbook for it, and honestly just practice.

As for the application questions, you need to get good at following the specification points. If you learn everything in there, nothing in the exam will be new to you. And it tells you specifically if it’s something you need to spend some time actually understanding instead of memorising. Or if it doesn’t then doing a lot of past papers should quickly pick out topics you need to understand in depth.
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blabla1184
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#8
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#8
(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
i used a particular method to get 98% in my AQA biology a level back in the day when i used to get Cs and Ds. call it the "+1 method". every September your teachers will tell you "what we taught you last year was a lie" because the truth in biology is more complicated. well if you pre-empt that, then having the deeper knowledge will make the 'simpler' version required for your exams seem... simple. you can get this from researching the topics in more advanced textbooks just 1 level higher than required. the same applies to reading around the topic, by reading around you will understand the context for what you are trying to learn rather than just the thing itself

also, always look up the internet such as wikipedia for semantic context . eg. if you have to remember a Latin name look up the actual meaning in Latin, as a clue to its function
This makes a lot of sense, I used to do this a lot for Biology in GCSE and got the top marks and haven't been doing this for A-levels
I'll aim to put this into practice

Just one concern:
when it comes to the mark scheme for some questions (like assue these are just 6 mark content questions) would you usually write everything you know or follow the mark scheme for this

like putting aside revising content, when you were doing exam questions, how did you benefit from this? like any tips, once you've learnt the higher level, do you reduce your knowledge do the mark scheme after?
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blabla1184
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#9
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#9
(Original post by CaptainDuckie)
A* student here.

Biology is notoriously known for ridiculously specific Mark schemes. Don’t worry. After analysing your weak points:

Carry on doing past papers, but instead of just leaving them forever, turn the question into a flashcard and retrieve the points to the marks again and again until you’re hitting all points. If you were to see a variation of the same question, you’ll be sorted. (Also if it’s like a 4 marker, then put 6 points if you can but make sure it doesn’t contradict your other points.)

You could spend time doing the mathsy side of biology, you could get the workbook for it, and honestly just practice.

As for the application questions, you need to get good at following the specification points. If you learn everything in there, nothing in the exam will be new to you. And it tells you specifically if it’s something you need to spend some time actually understanding instead of memorising. Or if it doesn’t then doing a lot of past papers should quickly pick out topics you need to understand in depth.
May I ask?
how do you prevent yourself from a dozen flashcards?
I'm doing my flashcards online and I've literally got over 1000 (and this is just year 1 and some year 2) I've tried to reduce them, most of them are content (I've also tried to reduce these as I used to have loads of mini questions when I can just have it all on one flashcard or like a 6 marker), and some are those questions, though I've deleted some of those, due to too many cards and I didn't read this post and didn't know how to utilise them

Is the number I have normal?
how can I make those 'exam question' cards so that I may be able to utilise them and what type of exam questions are you referring to to put on them (application? content? etc.)
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blabla1184
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#10
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#10
(Original post by Scotney)
I would also go on youtube and look at videos on exam technique.There is a rhythm to answering questions.You need to look at points allocated to questions and make those amount of points.Be careful to restrict these points to A2 knowledge not what you did at gcse.Also read the wording of questions carefully.There is nothing in those questions that is there for nothing.
Same goes for synoptic essays.You have to weight questions fairly equally with first facts about how something works eg an enzyme within the body then give equal waiting to what happens if the enzyme is not present.You also need tolink each point back to question.
Honestly dedicate a weekend to watching purely technique videos.It will transform your marks.Make notes and then practice, practice,practice
Aah thanks!! This gave me a kind of routine to put this into practice, thanks!!
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CaptainDuckie
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#11
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#11
(Original post by blabla1184)
May I ask?
how do you prevent yourself from a dozen flashcards?
I'm doing my flashcards online and I've literally got over 1000 (and this is just year 1 and some year 2) I've tried to reduce them, most of them are content (I've also tried to reduce these as I used to have loads of mini questions when I can just have it all on one flashcard or like a 6 marker), and some are those questions, though I've deleted some of those, due to too many cards and I didn't read this post and didn't know how to utilise them

Is the number I have normal?
how can I make those 'exam question' cards so that I may be able to utilise them and what type of exam questions are you referring to to put on them (application? content? etc.)

To prevent myself from making a lot of flashcards, I normally just - instead of writing one sentence answers - try to recall the whole concept all at once.

It’s a bit like blurting but instead of you recalling the whole topic, you blurt one section of the topic. So if it was like “recall the structures and functions of the brain?” - on the back I would list all 5 structures; each with their functions. So cerebrum for memory, Language... then cerebellum for movement and posture etc.

You should have no more than 15-25 flashcards for one whole topic/module.

For the exam question, I normally would just screenshot it from the past paper, and when it comes to the answer, I would screenshot the mark scheme and put it on my flashcard. This can be done with both application and content questions. Then I’d recall this same past paper question in like a flashcard format, hitting all the points again and again until I fully absorb it.

A beautiful example would be the stages of mitosis, or process of transcription/translation
Last edited by CaptainDuckie; 1 month ago
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