5 Tips in studying and getting A* in IGCSE Biology
#1. Know your SYLLABUS!
The good thing about CIE is that it provides clear and well defined guidelines for the learning outcome. It allows you to know what you should memorize and focus for when you study. This is important so that you don’t spend too much time dwelling on subtopics that involves a lot of terminology and probably won’t even come out in the exam. Differentiate what are the things that you “need to know” from those that are “good to know”. The “need to know” are listed in the syllabus and should be focused on during your revision. Don’t spend too much of your precious time on the “good to know” which are the extra information in your textbook that are not listed in the syllabus. You may download the IGCSE Biology 2016-2018 syllabus here.
#2. Understand the terminology
The most crucial thing in biology is the terminology and keywords. Imagine when the question asks about the definition of growth and a student answers “The increase in mass of organism”. This grants 0 marks. WHY?? It should be “The permanent increase in dry mass of organism”. By adding these two words, it gives a different meaning and 2 marks are awarded.
#3. Grasping the correct concept
I often hear students complaining that they understand biology but the knowledge is not well translated in the exam. So it is best to be actively involved in discussions such as having group study with your friends or asking questions during the lesson whenever you have any doubts. Use your own language to rephrase the concept to your teacher to make sure that you are on the right track. If you are good, explain to your friends – the more you talk about it, the better you comprehend it. Some people may think that group study or having tuition classes with friends are distracting. I beg to differ. I once had a class of students who are close friends and the interaction was fantastic as there was no qualm of shame or distress when they were asking questions, making the learning process fun and easy.
#4. Organize your notes
None of my students enjoy reading textbooks. I’ll admit that it is lengthy and does not come in handy when you want to sit for exams. Some of the information is for your extra knowledge and are hardly encountered in the exam. When you are free, refer to the syllabus and read the textbook. Identify the important things and make your own study notes. Make it as concise and as colourful as possible (that’s what I do and what you will find in my notes). The following is a snapshot of my notes, where the key points are coloured to allow quick glance before you enter the exam hall. For biology, a lot of drawings are involved. Try drawing your own diagram, putting labels on them – it enhances your memory!
#5. Do past year papers
This is one of the very crucial steps to prepare you before the exam. By doing past year paper, you will realise what are your mistakes and weak links and you can try to improve from that. You will also realise that some of the questions are very similar with only a different way of asking it. Check the marking scheme and pay extra attention to the keywords that award you the mark. Please note that there is a major change in syllabus from year 2016 onwards so there are some subtopics that could not be found in the past year series. This also means a greater tendency of them coming out in the exam!
All the best!